Wife blindsided: Husband no longer attracted to her

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: Less than two weeks ago, my husband dropped a bomb - he says he is no longer attracted to me and doesn't feel that we have much in common anymore. This was a huge surprise to me because he had not expressed or shown any real dissatisfaction previously.

Although he has not yet asked for a divorce, he also has not yet indicated that he wants to stay married. He is going to a therapist to figure out how to better understand and express his feelings.

This is a huge shock to me, and he is showing no outward signs of being committed to our marriage. How do I protect my mental health while I'm waiting it out? I feel like the man I married has disappeared.

Answer: I'm so sorry.

I suggest you don't "protect" your mental health so much as actively promote it. Start taking excellent care of yourself - exercise, eat healthfully, get adequate sleep, spend time with friends who build you up and love you as you are - and, wherever possible, immerse yourself in things you love and find uplifting. Wear your prettiest clothing; get your hair done.

Consider finding a therapist of your own to talk to, especially if it's a struggle to do the kind of self-care I suggested.

And, in general, don't treat this as "waiting it out." That says you need to know what he wants to do before you can start deciding what you want, and that's not completely true.

Sure, you can't stay married unless he does, too, but virtually everything else is yours to decide. Do you want him? That should be an open question, given the information you just received about his investment in the marriage. And if the answer is still yes, then on what terms? What changes to your lives together will you accept or would you insist on?

You have more say in this than you apparently believe. Please realize that you have ways you can act instead of just react. You may not be ready to take advantage of them yet, but just knowing they're there can help.

Comment: My husband did the same thing three years ago. Take care of yourself, and I highly recommend therapy - it was crucial for forgiving myself for what he had done to me. Also, go chat with a divorce lawyer. You need to protect yourself. People think their beloved wouldn't do anything to hurt them, but you didn't think he'd just up and leave, either. Please make sure to take inventory of all of your bank accounts.

Best of luck - please be as kind as possible to yourself.

Comment: The obvious, Occam's-razor explanation is worth considering: Husband is cheating. My wife of eight years (together for 13) all of a sudden was not in love with me, attracted to me, etc., because she had recast her gaze elsewhere.

Reply: True, this is often how it plays out when there's a new love interest. It could also just be lousy communication, though - doubts for a long time that were too uncomfortable or inconvenient to face, much less say out loud.

tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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