Help! My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Anymore and Says She Needs ‘Space’

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I’ve been married for nine years and have two children. This past month, my wife told me that she no longer loves me and she needs space. I was diagnosed with depression a year ago and she says the episode changed me and I am no longer the person she married. She now wants time to “find herself” and to try and “discover her love” again.

Since letting me know about how she feels, she has become very distant and spends most of her time reading books or giving her attention to friends. She also refuses to talk about the situation; she says that just makes things worse and will push her further away. She says she will chat to me when she is ready.

I’m really not sure what to do. I feel completely unloved and stuck in a situation where I’m with someone who doesn’t want to be with me. While I’m trying to be supportive to her, it also hurts to know I’m with someone who doesn’t love me anymore. I still love her deeply. —Feeling Unloved

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Dear Feeling,

How very painful it must have been to hear your wife say those words to you. It is not unusual for feelings to ebb and flow over the course of a relationship, but hearing a partner say they no longer love you is hurtful. On the one hand, it sounds like your wife wants to “discover” her love again—meaning she has not closed the door on the possibility your love can be rekindled. She may be on a journey of her own and may need time and space to get there. However, it is difficult to rediscover love in a vacuum. It sounds as if you feel as if you are in the dark about what your wife wants or needs and what a reasonable timeline might be, which is a frustrating and scary place to be.

It also sounds as if you feel her withdrawing from you and your relationship, which also can be painful. You may be ready to engage, but she is not. When you experienced your depression, I wonder if you experienced a similar need to withdraw from the relationship. Is there anything in your experience of the past year that can help you understand what she is experiencing?

No matter the path you choose, it will require both of you to engage in conversations about how to move through this process, particularly as parents of young children. The way the two of you communicate and navigate this uncertain time will have an impact on how you are able to parent together.

While she may not be ready to talk about the situation, it is reasonable to ask for some parameters. You can’t rush another’s process, but you can discuss a timeline for check-ins. This doesn’t mean requiring big answers of one another, but there needs to be a way for the two of you to share information so you both can make good decisions. One of those decisions may be to not stay “stuck” in a situation where you feel unloved. Your relationship needs to work for the two of you, and if your needs are not being met, and especially if you are feeling more and more hurt and isolated, it’s fair to consider whether staying in the relationship makes sense for you.

There is much to sort out for each of you individually and both of you together. My recommendation would be for each of you to work with an individual counselor to clarify your needs and what you are able to offer one another, and, if your wife is willing, to work with a couples counselor who can help the two of you decide how to be in relationship together.

I have known couples who needed to take a break from one another in order to find ways to reconnect. For some, that meant separating for a time while working in counseling together. Others found ways to do so without physically separating, but by establishing clear guidelines for how to be together during a transitional time. No matter the path you choose, it will require both of you to engage in conversations about how to move through this process, particularly as parents of young children. The way the two of you communicate and navigate this uncertain time will have an impact on how you are able to parent together. Finding ways to parent effectively together may provide opportunities to reconnect as a team and rediscover one another as partners. Opening lines of communication without pressuring one another to have answers is an important step to take, and one that may need the support of a professional.

Best of luck,

Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
  • 4 comments
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  • Camille

    Camille

    August 25th, 2017 at 2:24 PM

    I had to read this very closely to make sure that this was not my husband responding!
    We have just decided that the both of us need a break from one another for a while, not because anything disastrous happened, but rather because life has started to feel so mundane and boring that I think that we have both found ourselves asking isn’t there anything more to be gotten from marriage?
    I would like to think that there is, that he and I together just have not unlocked the secret to finding those things yet.
    I am hopeful that some time away from each other will make the heart grow a little fonder, a little wistful for the past and hopefully we can recapture in some way that which we feel has been lost.

  • Kevin

    Kevin

    August 26th, 2017 at 5:11 PM

    Anyone told me that I would give them their space and not look back

  • jeremie

    jeremie

    August 28th, 2017 at 7:52 AM

    I guess I could deal with it and give her space as long as I wasn’t given any reason to think that there was another guy in the picture.
    But once I started to think that way, it would probably be all over.
    I am willing to give anyone time to figure things out, but come on, not at the expense of looking like a fool in the process.

  • Danielle

    Danielle

    August 29th, 2017 at 3:19 PM

    Dude just because she needs some space doesn’t mean that the love is gone.

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