Writing a Letter Won’t Convince Him to Stay, and Your Life Won’t Be Better if He Does

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crumpled paper
(Image/Recycle Nation)

My heart was in the right place, but I think maybe I got it wrong when I tried to write a generic letter in response to the question: “What should I write in my letter to my husband to make him stay?”

It’s not a particularly popular blog post, but it gets read a lot because people frequently type variations of that question into Google.

The combination of fear and sadness we feel when our spouses shake the foundation of our lives with comments like “I don’t know if I love you anymore,” or when they actually pack bags and leave, is a feeling hard to describe.

Abandonment hurts, even when you deserve it, because at the time you’re feeling it, you probably haven’t figured out how much them wanting to leave makes sense.

I can’t fathom how it must feel to people like children, or to excellent spouses and parents who don’t deserve it at all.

So, a bunch of people are reading this silly letter I wrote every day, and one of two things are happening:

  1. Readers are dismissing it because it’s probably a little bit bullshit to many people, or
  2. They’re ACTUALLY sending some version of that letter to their partners, and it probably comes off inauthentic as hell, because unless someone thinks and feels exactly the same as I did in January 2015, sharing a letter written by the Then-Me WOULD be inauthentic.

And this is important: Fake, inauthentic shit never works for long.

‘But, Matt! I Really Don’t Want My Husband to Leave! What Should I Do?!’

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of publishing a Q&A with author Mark Manson the day of his second book launch.

In that post, my final question to him kind of, sort of tackled WHY a stranger could never write any sort of meaningful letter that would convince a husband intent on divorce that he should change his mind.

Here’s that exchange:

Matt: The No. 1 question I get is: “How can I get my husband to understand what you’ve written here? He never listens to me any time I say anything he perceives as critical.” I care about helping others, and I believe husbands actively listening to their wives (hearing her, I mean; not following her directives) would dramatically improve relationships/marriage. What advice would you give women on how to communicate concerns or dissatisfaction in ways men are more likely to truly listen to?

Mark: Questions like this are hard because they’re so person-dependent. It’s hard to say with certainty without knowing the couple. After all, maybe there’s something in the wife’s communication style that is preventing him from hearing her. Maybe the husband has some deep insecurity that is causing him to avoid dealing with the issue. It could be a million things.

But in general, the short answer, is that whenever someone in a relationship has problems with their partner, it always needs to be communicated in such a way that responsibility or blame for each person’s emotions are not shifted to the other. For instance, many people naturally approach their partner by saying something like, “You don’t care about me and make me feel horrible because all you want to do is X.” Because this is said in such a way that puts all of the responsibility on the partner, they will naturally become defensive or seek a way to avoid dealing with it. After all, I can’t control how my wife feels 24/7!

A much better way to communicate it is something like, “When you do X, it often causes me to think/feel badly because I feel unloved. Maybe that’s my own insecurity, but is there something we can do to make it better?” In this example, the person approaching their partner with the problem is owning their responsibility for their own feelings and reactions, and are looking to find some solution. There’s no blame or guilt-tripping going on. This is far more likely to be successful.

Then again, a lot of men are raised and socialized to be emotionally shut down and distant from pretty much everyone (but especially women), so it can be a much more long-term issue that may actually have little to do with the wife herself.

Idealism is Often Irrelevant in Real Life

Never lose yourself to keep someone else.

I have issues with idealism. Many of my beliefs, life philosophies and political opinions are rooted in an Ideal World.

I have a habit of forming my strong beliefs based on The Way Things Should Be (which yes, is subjective). I sometimes describe common marriage scenarios that I believe most people can relate to, and sometimes I frame them as Husbands Often Do This, and Wives Often Do That. The Mars/Venus stuff. Sometimes people get offended by that.

I do it because I believe it’s pragmatic. Because EVEN IF things ideally shouldn’t be described in terms of gender differences, I believe in Real Life, explaining it that way allows MOST people to relate to it. I think it’s likely the most-helpful way to explain relationship conflict to the regular guys and couples out there like me trying to keep their families together.

The IDEAL way would be to promote gender equality across the board, because it’s something I believe strongly in. Without all of the people who protested my word choices and story framing, I would have never come to believe what a powerful force I believe Accidental Sexism to be in the destruction of modern male-female relationships.

Ideally, you could write a letter to a husband saying all of the “right” things about why the couple is always having the same fight, and why it’s HIGHLY ILLOGICAL to leave a marriage over most common relationship problems to go be with someone else because hedonic adaptation GUARANTEES many or all of the same relationship problems will crop up with them too.

But the world is not ideal. Not even close.

I have no idea what kind of men these women are with. While I will never advocate divorce, I think it’s safe to say that at least some percentage of women are married to men they SHOULD NOT be married to.

In real life, people are broken.

I don’t want to write letters that might convince a dangerous someone to stay, or that might reinforce feelings of inadequacy within a wife desperately craving her husband’s approval.

Listen up, ladies: You might be messing a few things up, just like every other human in world history, but you don’t need to sacrifice your identity to appease some guy intent on abandoning you or your family without cause.

Either: A. You’re an obviously horrible spouse, and a very healthy, intelligent person is wisely moving on, or B. You’re experiencing the injustice of a man refusing to fulfill the vow he made to you.

And in either case, my personal goal is not to write some crap letter that can’t possibly mean much to guys on the brink of ending their marriages.

My personal goal is to encourage you to look at the mirror and not see the distorted image your broken insides trick your mind into seeing, but the human being—the most wondrous and miraculous thing the world has ever seen—who possesses the freedom and capability to wake up every day and choose to be whoever you want to be.

No one gets to decide who you are. But people will try.

And it doesn’t matter that you and I have never met for me to know this about you:

You’re already tall enough.

It takes a long time to see it. Like some dusty old antique or oil painting, it isn’t always obvious to us how much something’s worth.

But once you figure it out, you get to start feeling proud of it. You get to appreciate and value it. It gives you balance. Strength. Courage.

When you have those, you don’t plead with other people to choose you. Because YOU get to choose yourself.

People who don’t choose you back aren’t welcome in your life anyway.

So, “What should I write in my letter to my husband to make him stay?”

Maybe instead of writing that letter, you can begin the work of loving yourself as much as you deserve.

Get that part right and I’m pretty sure the rest takes care of itself.

43 thoughts on “Writing a Letter Won’t Convince Him to Stay, and Your Life Won’t Be Better if He Does”

  1. Interesting post Matt, and you touch on a few things here I believe strongly in.

    You say:

    “My personal goal is to encourage you to look at the mirror and not see the distorted image your broken insides trick your mind into seeing, but the human being—the most wondrous and miraculous thing the world has ever seen—who possesses the freedom and capability to wake up every day and choose to be whoever you want to be.”

    I think facing the mirror is at once the most difficult yet most important any of us can ever do. My approach is a bit different.

    I encourage everyone to look in the mirror and see that “yes, I am broken. But you know what, that’s alright. Because we are all broken in some capacity. And when I understand *how* I am broken and accept that part of myself, THEN (and only then) do I have the power to change, and become the person I want to be.”

    To me, that’s powerful, powerful stuff. Accepting yourself – at every stage of your own personal growth. Knowing that even if you never get to where you want to be, where you are TODAY is always good enough.

    I think doing this allows us to own our own part in things – but only our part. And not blaming ourselves for things beyond our control.

    It’s really hard to do though. It’s so much easier to get hurt, to blame, and to point fingers (either externally or inwardly). To think “I’m only reacting this way because YOU did X”, or “I wouldn’t do this if YOU didn’t do Y”. Or to think “this is only happening because I’m such a failure”.

    Both approaches are awful, because really at the end of the day the only thing we have control over is ourselves. Our thoughts, our emotions, and our reactions.

    1. Okay, fine. So I skipped all the important steps with the mirror thing.

      That’s why you’re here to bat cleanup and score all the runs! (Go Tribe.)

      I certainly concur with everything you just spelled out, and I expected everyone to psychicly and/or intuitively and/or inherently understand it without explaining it as well as you.

      (Not really. I just commit oversights from time to time.)

      Thank you for providing context and clarity to the most important point I was trying to make.

      Which, in the end is: We’re enough.

      Most of the bad stuff is rooted in one or more people not believing that about themselves, or about their partners, and/or not treating them or themselves as such.

      From there, only bad things can happen.

      The simple and profound power of not just kind-of believing, but KNOWING you are enough and worthy of love, changes the whole world for the person finally figuring it out.

      It’s a big-ass deal. Thank you very much.

    2. Drew,

      I’ve never posted on here before, but I’m an avid reader of Matt’s blog (hi, Matt). Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been in a similar situation as the one you’re facing now, from what I’ve read, and I’m so, so sorry. I know how it feels to have your world crash around you when you learn some things you never thought (or hoped) were possible. It’s so powerful it can literally take the breath out of you. Just know you’re not alone. And even if it feels like your world is ending, it won’t feel that way forever. I promise.

      If it feels safer to correspond with someone “safe”, someone totally removed from your life and everyone in it, please feel free to get in touch. I know I would’ve given anything to talk to someone who had felt a fraction of what I was feeling back when my husband left last year.

      You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. What Mark said about there being “something in the wife’s communication style that’s preventing him from hearing her” is spot on. I had an encounter with this a couple weeks ago.
    My ex husband and I are in (court ordered) communication counseling. (It’s a super fun time!)
    The therapist was suggesting we strip our email communications down to the bare minimum information that needs to be transmitted. I was frustrated because that’s what I thought I had been doing. I told her this saying “Look, what it is when and why.”as I pulled up an email on my phone to show her. The therapist stopped me and said that even the why might be too much, that that could be a trigger for him. That while I’m saying “this or that because X, Y, & Z”he’s thinking “Great another tirad” or whatever and not even hearing (or in this case seeing) what I’m trying to communicate. With just one sentence giveing a brief why to the what, I’m triggering our cycle of disfunctional communication.

    I’m probably not explaining this very well because it’s late and I’m typing on my shitty phone but having that pointed out to me was eye opening. I mean, in theory I knew what was happening but realizing that such a small thing might be blocking effective communication really made me stop and think.
    Also maybe the wife wanting her husband to hear what she’s saying Should have someone else write that letter. Maybe her message being said differently would make all the difference. Or maybe someone should come up with spousal communication decoder rings. 🙂

  3. This is such a great piece! I was one of those many ladies that wrote to you, not asking you to write a letter, or what do I say to make him stay questions, I was just one of those ladies that was like … wow … someone gets it, how can I get my husband to “get it,” and you had some really insightful and encouraging words that really helped me out. This post itself also totally makes sense, being inauthentic with anything never turns out well, and I don’t think people should use someone else’s letter as everyone’s relationship is different, even though the problems may be the same, the people involved are different and so are the histories. But I tend to agree with the above … sometimes we need communication decoder rings because sometimes even when you take out all the feelings and strip it down to the basics, the message doesn’t translate, and those sometimes tend to be the important times. I also thought your thought about the … “need to sacrifice your identity to appease some guy intent on abandoning you or your family without cause …” yes! I agree! Sometimes people (both men and women) are blinded by their feelings of love or hurt that they don’t realize that they are sacrificing their core to appease someone who doesn’t even like or want them at their core. I think that’s a great point to make when talking about relationships. I was lucky enough to have learned that in my 20s and have that lesson stick. You make some very good points I hope will help someone out.

    1. I’m relieved your note didn’t go unresponded to as hundreds of others have, and I’m glad to learn you found my response useful.

      The idea of personal boundaries and alignment has become ultra-important to me.

      The problem isost of us are nowhere near ready to understand it when we are young and dating.

      We wait until our relationships are hard, learn we don’t have alignment and haven’t enforced boundaries, and then you’re stuck trying to find Band-Aids and workarounds with someone you conclude: “I wouldn’t have married them if I’d known then what I know now.”

      I think learning how to enforce boundaries and to courageously be our truest, most authentic selves no matter how much that means the person we’re dating will leave us or prove to be someone we won’t marry, is among the top factors in improving the state of marriage.

      Fewer marriages. But mostly really good ones.

      Fair trade, I think.

  4. You rocked it again Matt. Thanks for making me cry at work dude. Seriously – “You are already enough” This is a lesson I need to like tattoo on my arm so I can read it every day.

  5. An interesting concept; a woman writing a letter to her soon-to-be-ex-husband (henceforth STBXH) trying to persuade him to stay and not divorce her.

    The problem, of course, is that the reason that each STBXH is leaving is different – ARE different, because certainly there’s more than one reason – from any other. STBXH may not even want to acknowledge the reasons, or maybe he can’t even articulate them. Perhaps he wants sex or intimacy and she does not – or, equally probably, SHE wants sex and HE doesn’t. Perhaps one of them have cheated; she cheated and he’s divorcing her in anger, or he has and is separating in shame. Perhaps they have differing views on money; one is frugal, while the other is a spendthrift. Money and sex are the two biggest obstacles to marital happiness. Perhaps he doesn’t like her friends, or she doesn’t like his and she’s gotten on his case about it. Perhaps they’ve argued over politics; the last few years have broken up a LOT of friendships, and some marriages.

    Perhaps they have differing opinions on how to raise the children, or whether to have children, or this is a blended family and one partner or the other doesn’t like the step-kid’s behavior.

    The point being, of course, that you could write a dozen such letters – you could write an encyclopedia’s worth of letters. And you STILL wouldn’t have covered all the possibilities.

  6. Hey there,

    during the shit show of comments in the last post, someone made a comment about how this has grown to be a community. And how for many people here this community has been a place where someone can go and finally feel like someone is hearing them, listening to them and validating them.

    I’ll admit, that’s kind of been me too. I try not to say much about myself, other than providing my thoughts on topics that I’m interested in. But some of you know that my wife checked out on me 4 years ago, and she’s never really come back. I’ve struggled with it at times, trying to balance my belief in marriage and commitment with my frustration with what has devolved into largely loveless/touchless marriage. I believe in love, marriage, and honestly in myself. I’ve remained convinced that we could get back to a great place, if we just “did the right things”. It’s been frustrating because I’m tried – I’ve seriously tried. But she just hasn’t really seemed engaged at all, she hasn’t seemed to want “us”. The family, and kids, sure. But not the relationship. Communication has been poor due to avoidance on her end, but I always knew that about her and accepted it. So the past few years I’ve believed that “our” issues largely stemmed from some issues on her end. Not saying I’m blameless, but it does feel like I’ve largely been doing the right things – and nothing has been working.

    Well, today I found out I may have a lot more in common with many of the readers than I expected. My day started with an anonymous email from someone who has been “seeing things from the sidelines” the past few years, and felt I had a right to know the truth. I guess I don’t really “know” anything, but with some of the details given everything has kind of fallen into place, pieces fitting together like a puzzle I have been refusing to see.

    I’m at a loss. I’m hurt, stunned (yet not at the same time). I’ve called her out on it and everythign is being denied right now, but my heart tells me this is real.

    So, yeah – back to community. I don’t know why I’m writing this but at the moment I’m breaking inside and I have no one to tell. I don’t want to say anything to family/friends until I know more, but at the same time I need an outlet. And I guess you guys are it. All I can say is, damn.

    1. Oh Drew

      I’m glad you felt you could share here. What a fucking awful situation. I’m so sorry this is happening to you!

      (I can’t know exactly what has happened of course, but my mind is making some assumptions, that I know may very well be wrong. I won’t ask for details since you didn’t choose to share those, but do feel free (on my account anyway) to share more *if* you want)

      Part of me is hoping that there’s been some misunderstanding, or some other thing is going on.

      Virtual hug to you!

    2. This was hard to read, Drew.

      I know the moment you speak of, even if the pieces and parts and circumstances look a little different.

      It’s what broke me.

      You’ve been a gift to me and this place. And that you’ve been strong and courageous for FOUR years during the most excruciating time of your life, demonstrated and advocated kindness, love, communication, etc., even when it hasn’t rewarded you in the way you wanted it to is nothing less than heroic.

      We’re just dots on a screen, you and I. But your dots fucking matter to me.

      No clue what I can do. Maybe nothing. Probably nothing. But if you think of anything, I hope you’ll reach out and let me know.

      Keep being you, please. No matter what.

      Because being you WILL pay you back. You’re one of the good ones.

      Anyway. I’m around.

      We’re around.

    3. Hi, Drew. I’m sorry to hear it, but if it helps any, you’re not alone. I’ve read dozens of recent accounts on a number of blogs recounting similar occurrences. A number of “touchless” marriages – sometimes known as “Dead Bedrooms” – are loving in a platonic way. She’s just not that into you. Sometimes she loves you like a brother – but for your wife, that’s a BAD thing.

      Sometimes she’s having issues that she refuses to address – sometimes refuses to recognize or acknowledge. When that happens, there isn’t ANYTHING you can do; she has all the power, all the ability to act.

      This may be a classic example of “two lovely people who were NOT meant for each other”. At some point, you have to choose to suffer in silence, or free each other to find a better life apart.

      And sometimes life sucks. Sorry.

    4. I’m terribly sorry, Drew. Many good thoughts as you navigate this new information. Take care.

    5. Hi all, thanks for the kind words and thoughts. As Matt mentioned, we are all just little dots on a screen to each other, but at the same time it is appreciated. Until I know where things are going, I really have no one to turn to.

      It’s been a difficult past 24 hours. My wife is denying everything, but my anonymous emailer has provided enough information that her story is starting to unravel. I suspect even if I had photos she would deny them, and claim they were a photoshop job – but that’s avoidance for you.

      I’m struggling with my own words – an affair is really just a symptom of a larger issue. But when you are facing that precipice, it’s really fucking hard to separate yourself from the fact that your partner has consciously chosen to have sex with someone else.

      I’m not sure where I’m going from here. Divorce I suspect. As I’m not sure she has the capacity to deal with the actual issues. And, recognizing that the wound is still fresh I’m not sure I want to. But man, with the gap in our income levels and the length of the marriage I’m going to be SOOOO screwed. Still, you can always rebuild “things”. And I know I would hope to one day have the type of relationship I know is possible.

      Part of this is definitely on me, years of focusing too much on being parents and not enough on being a couple. Thing is, that was both of us. And she’s the one who made the choices she has made.

      Oddly I feel at peace. Broken, but whole if that makes any sense. When she first walked out 4 years ago I was a mess, I shook, cried, couldn’t eat, sleep or focus.

      Now? I’m hurt, but more disappointed. I’ve put my heart and soul into my marriage the past few years, and did absolutely everything I could to keep my family together. I kept telling myself, in the long run what are a few hard years? We’ve been together almost 20, and could potentially have 20-30 more ahead of us. This could just a bump in the road. Sure, maybe a pretty big one – but time provides perspective. For four years I continued to choose “us”, even when it wasn’t easy. But it looks like she is continuing to choose “her”. I’m not really sure what happened – I have some theories, but I will never truly know. Even still, I think down the road I can honestly look my children in the eye and tell them “daddy did his very best”. I don’t think she’ll be able to say that, but that will be her cross to bear.

      One request – a few of you have messaged me your support on my blog. And although it IS greatly appreciated, I have some friends and family who read my blog so I would prefer nothing goes on there right now. If anyone does want to reach me in a manner other than here, my email address is [email protected].

      1. There really aren’t words.

        I just know giving your best these past few years is going to pay so many dividends in the form of self-respect, and being able to sleep at night, and to avoid any temptation to give into guilt and shame.

        Cynical people like to say that doing the hard, sacrificial thing ISN’T worth it.

        They’ll learn the hard way at the end of their runs how mistaken they were about that.

        You don’t even need the dust settle to walk tall. Which means, once it does, you’ll be ready for anything.

        Like I said. Always around, man. This matters.

        1. Hey Matt, that’s why I’m not scared. Truly, I believe in me. In the choices I’ve made, and the way I’ve lived.

          My blog talks about a lot of the things you do, but I also talk a lot about accountability, responsibility, integrity. These are things that really mean something to me.

          Right now part of me wishes she had just walked 4 years ago, so this would all be over by now and I would have to go though the pain and loss again.

          But at the same time I’ve grown so damned much the past four years. Maybe she hasn’t seen it, but I know it’s there, and it’s real.

          Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be alright.

      2. That’s positively vicious; cutting you off for four years AND having an affair. It wasn’t that she didn’t want sex; she just didn’t want sex with her husband I’m guessing there’s no reconciliation possible after that.

        I recommend a good divorce lawyer and some scorched earth tactics; maybe even a private detective to have her followed for a week. Home security cameras and “nanny cams” are cheap and widely available even on Amazon. Perhaps drop a pen voice recorder in her purse for a week? Perhaps an email to everybody in her address book?

        Or, if you’re a lot more open-minded, let her stay and keep her lover, and demand an open marriage. Probably not your style, huh?

        Or, just disappear. Take the cash from all the accounts, leave your ring and cell phone on the table, and drive away.

        Whatever you choose to do, I wish you only the best after this terrible discovery.

        1. Hey Ken, I guess you haven’t really followed me in the comments. Neither open marriage or scorched earth are really my thing. Retaliatory actions are normally done out of hurt and anger, and as such they are pointless.

          There’s a line from a song from the 90’s:

          And when it’s my time
          To throw the next stone
          I’ll call you beautiful
          If I call at all

          That’s more me. I’m sad, disappointed. But this is still the mother of my kids. And wherever things go from here they still need her in their lives.

          As I said in an earlier comment, I feel I can look them in the eye and tell them I did my best. If I took a scorched earth or retaliation approach, I couldn’t say that.

          And regarding open marriage, I really don’t get that. I mean, I like sex as much as the next guy, but Sex as part of a relationship has meaning, and is a special thing (well, in theory. I haven’t exactly known in recent years). I don’t know, different approaches for different people I suppose.

          1. Drew, you’re kinder than I would have been. I’m sure you’ll make the right decisions for you and your children.

      3. I’m way behind on blog-reading, but man, I feel ya. I think this is one of life’s biggest gut-punches.

        It was great for weight loss, but notsomuch anything else. Just throwing out more support, because this is a club that would prefer to have fewer members.

        1. Yeah, a week and a half in and I’m already down 7 lbs. Not that I want to, but I just don’t have any appetite. And sleep? Geez. I don’t sleep a ton, but I usually get a solid 7 hrs. I think I’ve been averaging about 4-4 1/2, with a few days that are closer to 2. Not a lot of fun.

          But whatever, you do what you can. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going, each and every day. It will get better – I know that. It’ll just take time.

    6. I feel for you man.
      Im happy you found this cimmunity….much healthier than some others
      As a word of caution…dont go crazy with someone on the sidelines saying things. Everyone has different perspectives and agendas.

  7. Drew,

    I am so very sorry this painful trial has found you. We are all stunned and regretful when bad things happen to good people.

    I hope you know how much the “tribe” values you. You have been a consistent, caring and wise presence here. I hope your heart, mind, spirit and soul heals quickly and completely so that you can find peace and love again.

    Take very good care of yourself. I am certain there are many prayers out there– sent by people who know and love you– that ask that your journey be guided by angels. That is also my wish for you.

  8. StartingOver@45

    “Broken, but whole if that makes any sense”…

    Drew, it makes perfect sense. I am so very sorry that you are going through this. From the responses from others in here, I would venture to say that you are very cared for and respected in this community.

    Many prayers for you today & in the days ahead.

  9. After reading this, and following the link to the post where you wrote the letter, I have to say that such a letter is something I’ve considered writing lately. I read the first few lines of that letter, and was bawling instantly because those are words I want to say to him. They are exactly how I feel.
    Honestly, it’s like I could have written that letter, with the exception of a few things, and I really want to ask my husband to read it. But you say in this post that it probably won’t help and that I’d be better off without him anyway. Basically.
    How does one just give up on a commitment? I don’t take commitment or my vows lightly, but it seems my husband does.
    I want to do everything in MY power to save our marriage, and I DO still believe it can be saved and is worth saving, but I’m at a loss. I know he loves me. He just has a really bad case of the Greener Grass syndrome. He’s a huge what-iffer. Not to mention we both turned 40 in March, so we have that whole mid-life thing going on. We’ve also been together for 7 years, and married 5 (as of this weekend. The 29th is our anniversary.) so we’re in that 6-7 year period where most divorces happen. It’s all just too cliched for me.
    I think we can make it through this shitty phase and come out better on the other side. I just don’t know how to convince him of that.

    1. Oops. Posted too soon. I wasn’t quite finished.
      I was about to ask if you really believe that writing this sort of letter is pointless and not really worth it. My husband is more sensitive than me in a lot of ways, and I want to believe such a letter might get through to him. But I don’t fully trust my instincts when it comes to him anymore, so I’m conflicted.
      I suppose writing it couldn’t hurt. I suppose sharing your post with him couldn’t hurt either, but maybe it could. *shrug*
      I’m just not sure. And like the letter says, I am afraid.

      1. “I was about to ask if you really believe that writing this sort of letter is pointless and not really worth it. My husband is more sensitive than me in a lot of ways, and I want to believe such a letter might get through to him. ”

        Two options.

        1. You do nothing and go about your life. What happens? What’s the best that could happen, and what’s the worst that could happen? You talk as if he’s already checked out, or is in the process of doing so. What do YOU want to have happen?

        2. You write him a long letter. What happens? If he’s checking out, this letter may push him away, in which case there’s probably no difference. If he’s on the fence about checking out, PERHAPS your letter would tip him one way or the other. If out, then no difference; you’ve only accelerated what was already happening. But if it tips him TOWARD you …. is that what you’re hoping? In this case, it might .. .MIGHT .. help. What do YOU WANT to have happen?

        Based on what you’ve written here, I suspect that there would be little downside to writing a detailed letter about what you want to have happen. If you lose him, it seems that it’s happening anyway. If the letter brings him back to you, then you win.

        Write the letter. It might help; it probably can’t hurt.

        1. Thanks, Ken. Back in June, he told me he was done and wanted a divorce. He acted impulsively and rashly and in the few weeks that followed, made some mistakes and said and did things that hurt me more than I thought anything could hurt me. He realized what he was doing and stopped. He decided mid-July that he wanted to take divorce off the table and just talk about separation. The plan was/is for him to move out and do some personal work to figure out what he truly wants. It’s late October and he’s still in the house and we’re living mostly as a married couple with one or two things missing: One, he doesn’t tell me he loves me, even though I know he does and he shows me in small ways. Two, he’s been reluctant to kiss me. Not because he doesn’t want to, but because it makes him feel “too close.”
          In many ways, he seems to be leaning more in than out, but I know he’s still on the fence for many reasons, one of which is fear of falling back into old habits.
          All that being said, (and I know it was a LOT) I think I will write that letter and use Matt’s post as a template of sorts, just to get the words started. I know once I start writing, they’ll flow like water, but getting started is the hardest part.
          Thanks again for your thoughtful comment. 🙂

          1. Oh, I also forgot to mention that he did kiss me last week and then we kissed again a couple days ago. It feels like progress. What say you guys? Do I allow myself to feel hopeful, or stay cautious to protect myself?

          2. “he told me he was done and wanted a divorce.”

            I suspect that Matt would agree with me about this; nobody WANTS a divorce. What people want is for the pain to stop. Nobody takes Advil or Tylenol or aspirin because we like the taste of it; we take it to make the pain go away, or at least to back off a bit. When I divorced my first wife 35 years ago, I didn’t do it because I _wanted_ a divorce; I did it because I could no longer stand the pain in our marriage.

            There’s some pain in your relationship, too. (There always is!) When you are composing your letter, try to focus on the things your husband is feeling. You don’t want to cause more pain for yourself in relieving HIS pain; what you should, perhaps, strive for is to minimize the “total_pain” = “your_pain + his_pain”, in your relationship.

            Good marriages thrive when both partners strive to minimize “total_pain”. But when one partner’s pain becomes excessive, that person may stop caring about the “total_pain” and seeks to minimize “his_pain” – and doesn’t care that “your_pain” has just gone through the roof.

            There may be some tradeoffs that can be made; some places where you can increase a little pain for you while relieving a LOT of pain for him, and some places where you can get great relief if only he would accept a LITTLE extra pain. As I said; minimize the TOTAL pain.

            “he doesn’t tell me he loves me, even though I know he does and he shows me in small ways.”

            This sounds like there’s still hope!

          3. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!
            You’re too right about the pain thing, Ken. He just wanted to stop feeling hurt and to stop hurting me. It’s not about wanting a divorce. It was about wanting to end the pain that our relationship was causing him and everyone else in our family.
            Since my last comment, we went to a counseling session (not to fix things, but to work through this whole process we’re going through.)
            At that session he said he was feeling hopeful about us. He also said that he’s “very open to the possibility of us staying together” and that things have been feeling really good.
            More progress!
            I think it’s safe for me to keep choosing hope and having faith.

          4. “I think it’s safe for me to keep choosing hope and having faith.”

            Choosing hope is always more fun than choosing despair; just try to make sure that it is REALISTIC hope and not FALSE hope. Keep your expectations reasonable and keep your promises reasonable, and work toward lessening that “total_pain” that you are both sharing.

            Do you still love him? TELL him so, and SHOW him so. And remember, you need to SHOW HIM in actions that HE can appreciate, because each of us responds differently to various actions. Does he SHOW you through his actions that he loves you? And does he know how to show you, in ways that YOU appreciate? If so, then things are definitely looking up! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Five_Love_Languages

            I wish you the best.

          5. Thanks again, Ken!
            I feel like I’m doing those things. I have reasonable expectations and only make promises I can keep. I DO still love him so much. I do show him that, too.
            He shows me, but not as much as I need, but he’s in a different place right now than I am, so I know I have to be patient.
            I am aware of the Love Languages and try as often as I can, to speak to him in his.
            I will keep being hopeful and believe that anything is possible for our relationship. Thanks again!

          6. Oh- one more thing- today is our 5 year wedding anniversary. I had assumed he wasn’t interested in celebrating in any way or doing gifts, but I have found out otherwise. That too, feels like progress. 🙂

  10. Pingback: 11 Relationship Questions People Are Secretly Asking (and Maybe a Few Answers) | Must Be This Tall To Ride

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Matt Fray

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