This blog is for men who say the words “I love you but I’m not in love with you,” and their wives or ex-wives who have heard those heart-stopping, soul-crushing words from their husband.

ARRRGH! There it is again, that infuriating, devastating phrase…”I love you but I’m not in love with you.” If I hear that phrase again, I think I’ll throw up! (Note: I am not a professional therapist. A traditional therapist would probably take a much more measured response to this problem!) 

In my midlife divorce recovery work, women often tell me that “he loves me, but he’s not in love with me.” Or they tell me he said “I love you but not like that.” Like that?! 

These husbands often said these words to their wife before telling her he needs a divorce. Or they use another equally offensive phrase…“I need to find myself.” They usually know exactly where they are, and it’s either emotionally or physically with another woman! 

It’s like men think that the phrase “I love you, but not in love with you” or “I love you, but not like that” will make their wife or their soon-to-be ex wife feel better. It doesn’t. It just makes the guy who said it look somewhere between patronizing and pathetic. 

HEY GUYS!! If you have uttered any variation of the words to your life partner, “I love you but I’m not in love with you,” you should be embarrassed and ashamed. Those words don’t even make sense (unless of course they are said by a man who somehow thinks saying that phrase will make them look better to the woman he is getting ready, as one RADiCAL woman said, “to ‘dump!’”

Love is a verb. Love is not something like a big hole you fall into or crawl out of. 

Think about it. What is a guy really trying to convey when he says, “Honey, I love you, but I’m just not ‘in’ love with you anymore?” 

“What?” “What do you mean?” we ask. “Are you saying ‘I want to have sex with or go on vacations with or sneak around with someone else’?” Guys who use these inane, hurtful phrases are actually saying to their wife, “When things are hard or challenging or maybe not as spicy as I want, I’ll jump ship so I can be with someone else who has already fallen into the hole of love with me.”

Seriously, what is a wife supposed to do with that phrase? Are we supposed to say, “Thanks so much. I’m so glad you still love me, but go ahead … go have some fun with your assistant who is in your hole of love with you.” ? 

Maybe we try saying, “Well, what will it take for you to be ‘in’ love with me, again?” 

Women have told me different things they have tried to re-start the flame of desire. 

  • “I wrote him heart-felt letters.”
  • “I sent him sexy messages inviting him to secret afternoon delights with innocent X-rated things planned.”
  • “I focused on us.”
  • “I tried to make sure I dressed up a little more every day because I worked from home.”
  • “I lost weight.”

One woman said, “I tried everything I could think of. But I guess he wasn’t ‘in’ love with me like he was ‘in’ love with his girlfriend.”

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Why Do Men Say It?

They Want A Divorce

An article in Psychology Today several years back described the ten words, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” as the sentence that has ended more marriages than any other sentence. The author, Vikki Stark, MSW, MFT, said once those words were uttered by either party, there was little hope of fixing things. I disagree. I believe passionate love can be rekindled if both partners want their relationship to be great again. I do agree with the writer that repair is almost impossible if the husband has another relationship in the full teenager-like “can’t live without her” mode!

In midlife, especially, we definitely need to attend to our primary relationship. We have to prioritize time together. Sometimes, not purposely, but by default, we get everything we need to get done in an “ordinary” busy day and then fall exhausted into bed at night. Both husband and wife need to keep that flame of excitement and fun and adventure in their relationship. It’s not just the wife’s job. And really, if the husband spent as much energy and money and time wooing his wife instead of his wooing his girlfriend, maybe the spark would still burn brightly in their marriage.

Again, here is some advice for any man who is thinking of using that phrase to break the divorce news to your wife. DON’T DO IT! It makes you look weak and cowardly. If you want a divorce, have the guts to come out and just say, “I want a divorce.”! Don’t embarrass yourself and think you’re doing your wife a favor by telling her you still love her. In my opinion, you don’t really love her if you say those stupid words especially after all hope of repair is gone from your heart.

Love is as love does. Love is a verb. No, you do not love a person if you are willing to break her heart, destroy a family and betray all of your promises to her without giving her a chance to fix the things you feel are missing from your relationship. That is not love! It is a heart-hurting, gut-wrenching insult especially after years of a good marriage! Maybe she was worried about her middle aged body or the fact that you seemed to think she was boring or was not as trendy and fit and carefree as your girlfriend is. 

Women in midlife find it hard to compete with someone 20 or 25 years younger with few obligations and a new toolkit of sexual toys and positions and ready for adventure with an older guy paying for everything. It’s a perfect storm, he feels needed and vital and rejuvenated. She feels cared for and doted on and admired. The wife in the equation is sometimes just the odd-woman out. The law of the jungle type thing.

They’re Afraid To Say What They Really Feel

I’ve read in an article in popular culture media somewhere that men are just trying to protect their wife they “love but are not in love with.” They know they are going to break her heart, but they are trying to look loving and caring as they do it. 

And yes, men are cowards when they say the words, “I love you but I’m not in love with you.” (Maybe if I say that phrase enough it will be like overcoming the disgust people feel about snakes…keep relating with snakes and pretty soon you don’t recoil when you see them. I’m not there yet on the ‘not in love’ phrase yet, but maybe after a few more hundred times I hear it, I will be. (sigh) 

Yes, our husbands are often afraid to say what they really feel. If they had been saying what they really felt all along in the relationship, maybe they wouldn’t have to lie like this at the end. And they wouldn’t be leaving without giving us any say in the matter and after they have already been playing around with another woman they obviously are “in” love with.

They Love Someone Else (Or Think They Do)

By the time a man says, “I love you but I’m not in love with you,” they are usually already way down the road with the new woman they are infatuated with! I always wonder how long it’s going to take before they tell the new woman they love her but aren’t really “in” love with her anymore either. 

After that phrase is uttered, many women start blaming themselves. Women say, “I can’t believe I didn’t see the signs that he no longer loves me. Maybe I should have done this or not done that. Maybe I let work and kids and living a busy midlife get in the way of being more attentive.” 

I repeat, any man who says those words is not demonstrating love. He is demonstrating cowardice and resignation. He is demonstrating selfishness. He is showing he doesn’t know what real love is.

If you are facing divorce because your husband is involved with another woman he is “in love” with (sigh), we can help. Sign up for our FREE Divorce Recovery Crash Course and get started figuring out your own path forward.

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