“When I found out my husband cheated after 15 years of marriage it completely crushed me. It wasn’t just that he had slept with another woman; it was that I didn’t understand how he could say he loved me on one hand and completely betray me on the other. I thought if you loved someone you didn’t do things like that.
So I was left with this question: Does he still love me?
It took me years to figure out the answer.”
Does this woman’s struggle sound familiar to you? Do you wonder how your spouse could cheat on you if he truly loved you? Are you left with the sinking feeling that maybe your spouse doesn’t love you anymore and that your marriage is on the verge of collapse as a result of the lost love?
If so, you aren’t alone.
The question of whether or not your spouse is still in love with you is quite difficult to address. To be completely honest with you, there is only one person who can give you a real answer to that question, and that’s your spouse. The degree to which you believe this response is a reflection of the level of trust and honesty in your marriage.
However, in this article, I plan to give you some insight that may help reduce your anxiety and offer you some guidance about how to think about this question.
Cheating Doesn’t Mean He Doesn’t Love You
Let me start by stating something that may not be completely obvious to you at this moment: Just because your spouse cheated, it doesn’t automatically mean he or she has fallen out of love with you.
I know it is very difficult to reconcile the idea that someone who loves you can completely betray you. It would seem that if your spouse truly loved you, he or she would not have cheated.
In some cases, the cheating spouse seems to be in love with the spouse, and in other cases, he or she is not. Observation does not always fit with what the cheating spouse says.
Sometimes the cheating spouse says there are reasons for going outside the relationship that have to do with the marriage, and sometimes the cheater will try to make it seem as if it had nothing to do with what was happening inside the marriage.
Regardless of the conscious or unconscious motivation, cheating was a decision.
There is no “excuse” for being unfaithful in a marriage, and no “reason” that can justify the action. As such, the choice to have an affair reflects, at minimum, a character leak in your spouse. He or she has a breach of integrity, and this is the real reason the affair happened.
This is all to say that having an affair and loving your spouse aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s possible that your spouse still loves you despite that fact that he or she cheated on you.
Now that we have established the possibility that your spouse still loves you, let’s look at the probability.
A Diamond That’s Been Trashed
In my long years as a relationship writer I have noticed something incredibly interesting about love. The love that was put together when you first got married can endure an extraordinary amount of change and suffering. In almost all of the couples who come in to see me, the love they started with is still there. It’s just been buried.
Love is like a diamond. In your case, it’s like a diamond that’s been trashed. The love you share with your spouse may be covered in the mud and grime of miscommunications. It may be buried in the hurt of emotional outbursts or years of silence. It may be disgustingly filthy with the hideousness of a horrific affair.
But in the end, it’s still a diamond.
You can pick up this diamond, clean off the filth, and you still have a beautiful gem. Your love endures.
That may be true of the feelings your spouse has for you as well, even if he or she doesn’t currently recognize it. This is definitely not universal; it doesn’t fit for all couples or all people. There are those out there who truly fall out of love. But in my experience, of the people who come to me, these cases are rare.
What happens instead is that the love gets buried. People get confused. They lose their way.
But just because they are lost, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have fallen out of love with you.
In fact, your spouse may not be fully aware of the depth of his feelings himself. Over the course of this traumatic time you may hear things like:
. “I love you, but I am no longer in love with you anymore.”
. “I never really loved you. I just married you out of a sense of obligation.”
. “I was afraid you would fall apart if I told you how I really felt.”
Even statements like these don’t necessarily mean your spouse has fallen out of love with you. They are more an indication of the poor state of your relationship than they are a meaningful measure of your spouse’s love. However, your spouse may have so much resentment and hurt that he or she is not willing to consider anything but leaving.
So where do you go from here?
Take a Magic Pill
The question to ask when you think you’ve lost the loving feelings is this:
If I could give you a magic pill that would make you suddenly fall deeply in love with your partner again, would you take it?
If your spouse has said something like, “I love you, but I am no longer in love with you” he or she needs to ponder the answer to this question. It wouldn’t hurt for you to ponder the answer to this question as well.
If the response is “yes I would take the pill,” it means somewhere your spouse still has feelings for you. You (and/or your spouse) want to rebuild your relationship, you just don’t know how to do it.
This is actually good news. The main thing you need to heal your marriage is a deep desire and a strong commitment to repair the relationship. Learning how to do it comes by acquiring a set of skills that can be taught to you.
If the answer is “no I wouldn’t take the pill,” then the prognosis is much worse. Your spouse may truly have fallen out of love with you, or he may be so lost that he can’t or won’t access the loving feelings he still has.
In some cases it takes a dramatic event of some kind to uncover these feelings again. I have seen people who don’t wake up and realize that love is still there until the marriage is falling completely into ruin. Divorce papers may be ready to be signed, the loving/injured spouse may be packing up and walking out, and only then does the cheating/out-of-love partner realize how he or she truly feels.
It’s also possible that the person never wakes from this slumber of lost love or moves on to a different relationship and uses that new relationship as a fun distraction to get away from thinking or feeling about your marriage.
In any event, if your spouse would refuse the magic pill, things are looking pretty bad. Depending on how committed the person is to leaving the relationship, this may be the end. It’s still possible to save your marriage on your own but doing so is less probable. You may even need to employ the assistance of a therapist experienced in poor prognosis marriages.
If the love is indeed lost (and keep in mind that the cases where I have seen this happen are in the minority), you should prepare for the possibility that you may not be able to save your marriage.
When people say love is the foundation of a good marriage, they are right. Without love, you can’t have much of a marriage and you probably don’t want to be in a loveless relationship anyway.
However, if your spouse would take the magic pill (and you would too), it means he or she still loves you despite the fact of the affair and you have a chance to save your marriage.
In the meantime, let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage.
What did your spouse do that made you feel like he or she didn’t love you anymore?
Have the two of you had a discussion about this issue? What was the outcome?
Do you feel your love is a “diamond that’s been trashed”?
What would it take to clean this diamond up and make it shine again?
Post your comment to this blog.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,
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