I am a 39-year-old woman. I have been married to my husband for 20 years and have been with him for 22 years. I have one daughter she is 20 years old. I love the outdoors and enjoy gardening. I enjoy walks on the beach and quiet time alone. I have 3 cats and 2 dogs. I have just recently moved to Florida, but lived in Massachusetts all my life.
I am so confused these days. Like I said above, I have been with my husband all my life. He is an excellent worker, provider, and a wonderful father. However, recently I have felt as though I don't feel the same love towards him. For example, walking on the beach when he holds my hand, there is no "love feelings" - no thrill. Even during lovemaking, I feel as though it is just sex. I love him, but sometimes I feel like I just want to be with another man. I don't mean it sexually at all. Just the feeling of knowing that I am wanted. I have talked with him about my feelings and all he tells me is if I am not happy with him, I should move on! Do you have any advice?
My dear, I can almost hear it in your voice, 'Surely, there must be more to life than this?' You look at TV shows, magazines, or maybe read romance novels, and the message is continuously there. They tell you what Love is. They tell you that Happiness is all important, we have a right to it, it's a feeling within our hearts that we must have. Paula, it's all a lie. There are millions of people like you who seek a mirage because everything around us tells us that it is true. Love is not a feeling, an emotion, but a commitment. It's not 'chemistry' but action. It's what you do, not what you feel.
There probably was a volcano of romantic love within your heart when you met your husband. But that is meant to be no more than the trigger for the long, slow, comfortable bonding that takes place over the years. And, reading between the lines, you do have that. You actually possess all the features of an excellent marriage. Only, you are looking for something else, something that's an illusion. Suppose that from today on, your husband started to do all the things a new boyfriend might, like court you. He takes you out to expensive places, brings you flowers every day, phones you three times a day when he is not with you. You might be the envy of your friends, but that money would be better spent on useful things. You'd probably feel suffocated by all the attention. You'd probably start to think that he is feeling guilty about something (is he having an affair?). And even if none of those scenarios should be true, after six months or a year of this attention, it will just become routine. It will recede into the background, just the way things are, and you could well end up as unhappy as you are now.
Your husband is wrong. Human relationships are not like cars and other possessions. Trading them in for the new model solves nothing, merely causes unhappiness for everyone concerned. You don't need to change your partner or your marriage, only your expectations, and your attitudes towards each other. Here is another way of looking at it: Suppose your husband and you now split up, and you find the absolutely perfect guy. He sweeps you off your feet, he thrills you with a touch, everything is perfect. Well, how perfect will it all be in 20 years time? I can tell you: It will feel exactly as you feel now.
Certain needs of yours are currently not being met in the marriage. You can do one of two things about each need: examine it to see if it is realistic or not. If not, let it go. If yes, make changes in your lives so these needs are met. One exercise that has helped many people in your situation, and might help you, is for the two of you to sit down and write out four lists:
- All the good things you are getting from the marriage, including things like being the mother of your daughter, memories of your honeymoon, security, your husband's friendship, etc.
- The corresponding list of good things for him.
- All the things you'd like to have but are missing. As I said, these need to be examined to see whether you are wishing for the moon.
- Again, the same for him.
Then you can work together to see how you can satisfy his unmet needs, and he yours. Each of you will then be concentrating on making the OTHER ONE happy. And that is the secret of happiness: giving rather than demanding.
Have a good life,