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What to Do When Your Spouse Is Just Not There


lonley_heartIf you live long enough, there will most likely come a time when your spouse is just not there. Perhaps (s)he is depressed, and shuts himself/herself up in the extra bedroom and won’t come out. Perhaps (s)he is chronically ill and is focused on every twinge of pain and discomfort, and is simply not interested in anything else. Perhaps (s)he is having a midlife crisis and has “checked out” of your marriage. Or perhaps his/her job requires every waking moment of his/her time.  What do you do then? You simply can’t get through to your spouse, and you feel very much alone and abandoned.  A lot of people will advise you that your marriage has already ended because your spouse has left you (except for maybe the physically ill scenario). If your spouse won’t “toe the line” and “get help”; if your spouse won’t work together on the issue, it means you are free to get divorced, and in fact you are just not facing reality if you try to hang on to a marriage that has already died.

I disagree. It is of course optimal if both people contribute to the marriage, etc. But in reality, there are times when one spouse doesn’t, and sometimes this situation can last for years. If this is a problem you are facing, I would like you to know you don’t have to get divorced. Even if you have tried everything, and feel like giving up, try one more thing. Dig deep and decide that even if your spouse has abandoned you and your marriage, you will honor the vows you made on your wedding day. If you are supposed to leave when your spouse has stopped paying attention, that’s not a marriage – it’s a date.

As bad as it is now, people do heal over time, and things do get better. In the meantime, please pay attention to yourself. Take good care of you. If you feel like your spouse has stopped loving you, love yourself even more. This situation is not your fault. Sometimes life can be very hard, and in almost every marriage of long duration, there has been some serious trouble. Please hear me – I am not advising you to stay with a spouse who is abusive. Do not hesitate to make an appointment with me or with another therapist who will honor your marriage. And one last thought – I hope it doesn’t happen, but there could come a time when you are the spouse who just isn’t there. You could be depressed, ill, having a midlife crisis, super busy with work, etc. I am going to guess you would want your spouse to stay with you, even if (s)he felt like you had abandoned him/her. I hope you don’t feel I am fussing at you. I would just like you to know that if you don’t want to get divorced, you don’t have to – no matter what anyone else tells you. Your well meaning friends and family members are just distressed to see you suffering so, and they think getting a divorce will solve that problem. In the vast majority of cases, it doesn’t. Divorce is very often a prescription that masks the symptoms and doesn’t cure the cause of the problem.  Allow yourself and your marriage to have the necessary time and support to heal, and remember to treat yourself with kindness and gentleness during this very difficult time.