The Most Horrific Sentence in the English Language: I Love You, But I Am Not in Love with You.

I love you, but I am not in love with you

“I love you, but I am not in love with you” is a catchall phrase that does not force people to look deeper or to find the real problem.

By Sarah P.

Step right up folks and take a look: here before you sits the famous House of Horrors. It does not matter the time of day or time of year. It does not matter if it is Halloween or spring break. This house stands 365 days a year.

You are standing here because you and the house of horrors both know something has brought you here. The house is beckoning to you and you can hear the house’s whispers. The house calls to you and yet repels you at the same time.

Your spouse has already told you the magic phrase that opens the door. But, I warn you: enter the House of Horrors at your own peril.

Still, you have no choice but to enter.

Words were spoken that cannot be taken back: “I love you, but I am not in love with you.” These same words open the door to the House of Horrors.

Something inside you pulls you through the door. Something calls to you and soon you find yourself walking through these grim horror rooms.

Sometimes your wayward spouse appears at your side or sometimes your wayward spouse does not.

During the times your wayward spouse appears at your side, sometimes he (or she) will answer questions about what you see. Other times he (or she) will not.

Sometimes your wayward spouse will block you from entering some rooms, no matter how much you beg and plead. Your wayward spouse believes locking up those rooms and throwing away the (memory) key is for your own good.

But, deep down, your wayward spouse knows that he (or she) does this for their own benefit. They do not want you to see their contribution to these most horrific rooms.

Deep down, your wayward spouse knows the truth. Deep down, your wayward spouse knows that the House of Horrors did not exist until they built it with their own actions, their own longing, their own addiction to the other person, and their own belief in a life of illusions.

Every lie your wayward spouse told created a brick in the House of Horrors. Each lie and each moment of attention given to the other person, built brick on top of brick until the House of Horrors was complete.

I Love You, But I Am Not in Love with You

Sometimes these words are not personal and they say more about the person speaking them than about the person receiving them. To me, this phrase rings of unaccountability.

A wayward spouse does not want to be accountable for his or her feelings and perhaps believes the betrayed spouse should be a mind reader. Often times, wayward spouses may not be able to talk about their own needs or they have no clue about their own needs.

They magically think that when someone out there appears to meet those needs, that person must be the Holy Grail of all partners that they have sought their whole lives.

They begin to project qualities onto that person that he or she probably does not possess. It is all a trick of the mind.

Can you repair such situations?

Vikki Stark says this about those Toxic words, “The person to whom these words have been spoken comes to my office and asks if it’s possible to bring that stilled body of a marriage back from the grave…What does it mean, this string of ten words that has so much power to harm? It speaks about the lost life force of a couple – that desire to be close, to be together, the impulse for intimacy, the complicity, the sexual energy that was an essential part of falling in love in the early days of the union.” (1)

As we see in Vikki’s comment, I love you, but I am not in love with you, speaks to several things, none of which are the fault of the betrayed spouse.

However, I also tend to believe that this phrase is a generic utterance that anyone can use when they are not self-aware enough to understand what they are actually feeling.

So, what does this phrase really mean?

It can mean many different things, but often an individual doesn’t know the deeper meaning, doesn’t want to come to terms with the deeper meaning, or doesn’t want to discuss the deeper meaning. Because the phrase, “I love you, but I am not in love with you” can mean so many different things, I do not believe it is the end.

I love you, but I am not in love with you can also mean things like:

  • I am having an affair, but you have no right to know that. Instead, I am going to say this lame phrase.
  • I am not mature or motivated enough to know that love is a verb.
  • Something within me is self-destructive and I can’t help but destroy my life.
  • I am no longer attracted to you and attraction IS love and attraction is the only thing that matters.
  • I do not like conflict and do not want to talk about the problems I have with our marriage.
  • I am bored.
  • I have a crush on someone else and that is your fault because you were supposed to (fill in the blank) to keep me happy.
  • If you tried to be hotter, more fun, and if you added constant excitement to my life, I would “love” love But, you do not do that and as a result, I “like” love you.
  • I am too much of a coward to say I want out of my marriage.
  • I am misguided and confuse lust with love, but I do not actually have enough insight to realize this.
  • I do not know what is wrong, so it must be that I do not love you anymore.
  • I am depressed and you caused it.
  • I am having a mid-life crisis and I know that there is some exciting life just around the corner but I cannot experience it because I am still married to you.
  • I have lost respect for you.
  • Pornography is more satisfying than our marriage.
  • I want an open marriage.
  • I have given up on getting my needs met by you.
  • I feel like we will never emotionally connect.
  • I feel invisible to you and I am trying to make myself heard and seen.
  • I am a people pleaser and cannot tell you all these bad things I am thinking.
  • Things are not going well in our relationship.
  • I am afraid of being abandoned, so I will abandon you first.
  • I have no clue why I feel so bad and it must be because I don’t love you.
  • Jenny (or George) makes me feel alive again and that is your fault.

Often people are not connected to their true feelings. Or, if they are, they are afraid to articulate them for fear of being misunderstood, making another angry, or being shamed. “I love you, but I am not in love with you” is a catchall phrase that does not force people to look deeper or to find the real problem.

When I was younger, I experienced several break-ups where “I love you, but I am not in love with you” was used both by myself or by the man breaking up with me. In our late teens and twenties, none of us were really in touch with our complex feelings and so we can (sort of) be excused due to immaturity.

But, the real problem is when people over the age of thirty use this phrase. People over thirty should have done the work required to become self-aware. (I mean, you would think people would do this work. But, sadly many people do not. I have observed men and women in their 70’s who are still as petty or shallow as teens.)

Some people never grow up, do they?

Lust is Not Love

I believe one of the biggest problems that people of all ages face is mistaking lust with love. When they mistake lust with love, they will believe they no longer love their spouse if their spouse no longer causes butterflies in their stomach.

Our culture does a poor job of educating people about the difference between love and lust. To further confuse the issue, our media often presents lust as genuine love.  This type of lust is promoted as the ideal.

Then, there is the issue of our neurochemistry, which was doing its wicked work long before the media came along. The human brain seems to trick us into pro-creating by flooding us with irresistible feelings of lust. These feelings are addictive and they are required for pro-creation, but these are not feelings upon which a couple can build a foundation. Vivian Baruch discusses the neurochemistry behind lust:

“Being “in love” is a natural and delicious first stage of many romantic relationships. Often this is another term for “infatuation”, which one dictionary defines as “to cause to be foolish; to deprive of sound judgment.” When we’re in this state of infatuation or necessary illusion, we’re literally “out of our minds” because our brains and bodies are flooded with hormones and chemicals (like testosterone, oestrogen, adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin) that produce irresistible feelings, desires and behaviours. It’s the marvellous first stage of many relationships, when everything is new, exciting, magical. You’re both willing to do anything for each other, because it seems as if your partner is the answer to all your dreams.

Unfortunately we don’t want to know that this state is temporary. We can’t physically, emotionally or mentally sustain this heightened state. Nature has conspired to trigger these hormonal rushes to initially bring people together, not to remain connected for the long term. Attachment and connection take other brain and hormonal responses like (vasopressin and oxytocin) according to anthropologist and researcher Helen Fisher.

When the lust and attraction hormones recede, the inevitable second stage of relationship begins…at this stage, the impulse to end the relationship can be powerful. We rationalize this by thinking that we’re not “in love” any more. We tend not to ask whether there may be other reasons for our dissatisfaction. We forget that good relationships are made, not made to order according to our particular desires, like a pizza. They need constant tending, just like a garden. Our culture often accepts the “easy come, easy go” attitude of serial relationships, rather than an attitude of putting time and effort into carefully choosing our life partner, followed by creating and building something of value. If we leave too soon, the love that we desire may actually be available just past this challenge.” (2)

 

I love that she explains the neurochemistry behind infatuation and clarifies that infatuation is not love. In my opinion, most, if not all, relationships in the Western world begin due to physical attraction and infatuation. I have witnessed many single people say something to this extent: “if I am not extremely physically attracted to someone and if this attraction is not immediate, I will write them off forever.” Well, that is not a great way to choose a partner because physical attraction tells us absolutely nothing about a person’s suitability for a long-term relationship.

The thing that struck me about my ex-fiancé was that he and I started as friends first and we also helped the other with their career goals. Honestly, I was not attracted to him in the way that made my knees weak. I saw him as a friend. We had the same hobbies and interests, and we used to go to the gym together and coach each other through weight lifting. (I stopped weight lifting years ago and like anyone who does not constantly keep at it, all those muscles have since turned to mush.)

We slowly got to know each other as friends and genuinely liked the company of the other. That all changed one night when we went out with a group of friends to a local dance club. Sometime halfway through a glass of wine, he and I started dancing really close until suddenly we were making fools of ourselves on the dance floor.

And some kind of switch flipped inside me. The guy I was not attracted to in the beginning became a guy I was crazy-off-the-wall attracted to. And we were already good friends on top of that with a ton of common interests and hobbies. It made for a powerful relationship and one I had never experienced up to that point in my life.

As you can imagine, this made the break-up all the worse because he was a good friend well before becoming anything else. In that sense, the relationship was done the right way. We knew the other, had a lot in common, and liked the other as people before the hormones kicked in. However, that certainly did not prevent him from cheating and putting whatever resembled our relationship through a blender until it was one, bloody mess.

Even though my ex and I did things “right,” many couples begin due to an irrational burning lust between the two. This lust binds people together before each person knows who they are and whether or not they are compatible.

Many people are serial monogamists and cycle through relationships every one to two years. I believe people are more likely to be serial monogamists when they start relationships solely based on lust. When the lust dies off, they often find they are incompatible with their partner—and off they go to find another partner who can give them the heady high of ‘first lust.’

On some level, this mindset also sets the stage for future infidelity

A married person meets someone who sparks what seems to be an over-powering lust in them. If the other person feels the same lust, off they go. Then the wayward spouse believes this lust is true love. They mistakenly believe their marriage is a sham simply because their marriage lost ‘first lust.’

There is a bigger problem with lust and affairs.  Because affairs happen under artificial circumstances, lust can last a lot longer than in marriage. This is due to the element of the forbidden. This element can cause some affairs to last a long time since the element of the forbidden keeps fueling the lust. Then, people keep confusing this lust with love.

During our recent interview with Andrew G. Marshall, he referred to the lustful stage as the limerance phase. If you have not already listened to the interview, I highly recommend it. He provides such a fresh view on infidelity. 

 

Opt In Image
Interview Replay...
Group Coaching Session with Andrew G. Marshall

In this coaching session, Sarah P., Doug and Andrew focus on those dreaded words: "I love you but I'm not in love with you" and...

  • What it really means when a person says it.
  • How it can be a positive thing for some couples.
  • Coping strategies when you hear this phrase.
  • How to argue effectively.
  • Much more - including a few member questions.

 

Why Do These Words Hurt So Much?

There are a million reasons it hurts to hear, “I love you, but I am not in love with you.” It can obliterate a person’s sense of self; it can cause a person to question his or her worth; and it most certainly triggers feelings of being out of control. These words make people feel as if they no longer have a safe place in the world.

Finally, hearing this phrase swiftly destroys any sense of “home” that someone previously felt when with their partner. I believe that all of us need “a place to call home” both physically and emotionally. These words threaten both the physical and the emotional sense of home and make people feel extremely insecure.

Most of all, I believe that these words trigger any and all psychological wounds that a person has experienced up until the point of hearing these words. This phrase especially triggers people who did not grow up in homes that fostered secure attachment styles.

A Debrief on Attachment Styles

In our first few years of life, all of us form an attachment style. Our attachment style is formed by the way our caregivers/parents treat us. If our caregivers are empathetic, always attempt to meet our emotional and physical needs, and show us unconditional love, we will most likely develop a secure attachment style.

When our caregivers are abusive, erratic, neglectful, always gone, drunk, and/or inconsistent, we develop insecure attachment styles. We are taught that the world is not a very kind place and that others are not trustworthy.

Hearing “I love you, but I am not in love with you,” hurts everyone, no matter what his or her attachment style. However, these words dredge up even more issues – all of them going as far back as time spent in the crib – when a person did not have the opportunity to develop a secure attachment style.

For example, when a person who has an anxious-preoccupied style hears these words, they will feel wounded. But, they will not feel reassured when and if their spouse genuinely wants to work on and keep the marriage. They will suspect that the wayward spouse is not genuine, no matter what a wayward spouse does to prove herself (or himself). Furthermore, they will think of all of the times they have felt abandoned as a child. The wayward spouse will become a symbol and reminder of all past and present hurts.

For the person with a dismissive-avoidant style, they already learned early in life that intimacy was and is a dangerous thing. When a betrayed spouse has a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, their reaction is to pull back and suppress their feelings.

This type of betrayed spouse will most likely file for divorce, tell everyone that, “I am okay,” and move on with their lives. They will suppress their feelings, not talk about it, and move on as soon as possible. People with this attachment style appear highly independent and self-sufficient to the outside world. But, for this person, a spouse’s infidelity will bring up all of the times he or she was treated indifferently or neglected throughout their lives.

For a person with a fearful-avoidant style, they will also have learned early in life that intimacy is a dangerous thing. In this way, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant types are similar. It is how they react to “being proved right” that is different.

A person with a fearful-avoidant style will still crave the company and partnership found in marriage, will likely want to work on a marriage, but become scared out of their minds when and if intimacy genuinely occurs again. People with this attachment style are in a constant push-pull between wanting intimacy and pushing it away. Too much intimacy or too little intimacy scares them and an affair will bring back childhood wounds. They will remember all of the occasions on which they were abandoned and will be flooded with intolerable and painful feelings.

Now, please do not diagnose yourself with attachment disorders based on these short paragraphs. Only a therapist who has gotten to know you well can help you determine your attachment style. They are mere examples of how attachment styles can be triggered during infidelity. When this occurs, the experience becomes even more miserable for the person with an insecure attachment style.

However, even securely attached people will have phases during recovery where their impulse is to run, to disbelieve, to wall off their feelings, or to be scared out of their minds. These are all normal, human feelings when someone has experienced infidelity.

Thus, my over-arching point is this: when an individual who has developed an insecure attachment style is triggered by infidelity, an individual will be bombarded with scummy and murky feelings whose origins can be found in childhood. This is in addition to having to deal with affair recovery. It often causes the pain of the affair to be magnified by a hundred times.

That is A LOT of scum and muck for anyone to deal with. When infidelity occurs, the proverbial boots that one needs to wear to wade through such muck do not conveniently materialize. This is unchartered territory for even the bravest souls. Fortunately, there is help and this blog is one of those places.

I assume that many of you who are here are in the process of recovering your marriage. However, that does not mean your wayward spouse has insight into his or her behavior. Therefore, the next section has been written for your wayward spouse. I encourage you to share this article with your spouse, even if only this last section, which is addressed to them.

When You Love Your Spouse, But You Are No Longer in Love with Your Spouse

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out since I have written this section just for you.

You may not be able to pinpoint the exact day and moment when you felt like you still loved your spouse, but you were no longer in love with your spouse. Or, perhaps you can pinpoint the day when there was a monumental shift in your feelings.

It is certainly unmistakable when the person who used to send chills up your spine instead inspires indifferent or even contemptuous feelings in you. Perhaps you feel like your spouse will never be able to send chills up your spine again and perhaps you have met someone who does.

Well, first off, feelings like these are temporary, no matter how great the person. Once upon a time, you found your spouse to be so great that you actually married them. You professed your love for them and you said binding vows in front of a large group of family and friends.

You must remember that and remind yourself why your spouse was once so great. What did you see in your spouse at that time? Does your spouse still have the initial personality traits that attracted you?

What happened to change things? What happened the day your spouse became not so great and the other person became that great. What did you do to contribute to your straying from your marriage? (Please don’t blame your betrayed spouse for your affair.)

Let’s talk about your feelings for the other person

You probably feel on some level that the other person was or is a soulmate. Or, maybe the other person was not a soulmate, but there was something about the other person that drew you in and caused you to throw all caution to the wind.

Here is the most important thing: any feelings you have for the other person, no matter how strong, are a mix of lust and infatuation. Perhaps these feelings and this person have caused you to feel altered and have taken you to an entirely different universe where everything feels fantastic and exciting all of the time.

Featured Download: “The Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Affair Partner Now”

If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.

 

Perhaps you even feel like you are at the center of your own romantic movie. But, what might appear to be a romantic movie will soon turn into a romantic tragedy of epic proportions.

This is especially true if you do not break off the affair and get help. If you are still having an affair, I think it is best you end it.

Dr. Scott Haltzman, via the Huffington Post, gives great advice on how to end an affair:

“The very first step in moving past an affair is to end it. To the spouse of someone who has cheated, this seems like a quite simple thing to do. But, to the person having the affair, it’s not so easy. In ways that are not logical, and not fair to the faithful spouse, the person having an affair feels the weight of responsibility to the third party. The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is what I tell all my clients who have cheated: Your first and only promise is the one you made to your spouse. You have no obligation to this other person…

There are four elements to ending an affair. 1. Be direct. Saying things like, “I think we should end this,” leaves room for interpretation. There should be no doubt that the affair is over.  2. Be open to your spouse. Whether you choose to end the affair by email, phone, IM or twitter, you should do so with your spouse over your shoulder. Your mate should know what you say, and, if necessary, have input.  3. Be final. It has to be made clear that the door is closed. Ending an affair is not a temporary hiatus; it’s a never-can-be.  4. Any follow up communication (and there will be follow-up communication) must be shared with your spouse.” (3)

 

All of these steps must be followed, especially the ‘no contact’ step. If you want to recover your marriage, you cannot be a ‘boomerang spouse’ who keeps going back to the other person. I also know that you will probably feel guilt by going no contact with the other person, lest you hurt their feelings.

However, I cannot stress strongly enough that worrying about the other person is NOT your job. You should be worrying about how you have hurt your spouse and your spouse’s feelings.

As for the other person, on some level, they knew exactly how it would end when they got involved with a married person. They went into the affair with their eyes open, aware of what they were doing. The other person had no problem trying to destroy your marriage, so the other person should not be surprised when you choose your spouse. The other person is not an innocent. The only innocents are your betrayed spouse and your children.

It is your responsibility to be loyal to your spouse and his or her feelings, but never to the feelings of the other person. The other person made a decision to get involved with you, whereas your spouse was not involved in that decision and was given no choice. However, your spouse will bear the burden of this terrible harm you have created.

Most of all, remember that the grass is greener where you water it. I would like for you to find ways to start watering the grass in your own marriage and see what happens. I can guarantee that if you put in the same effort with your spouse that you put in with the other person, your marriage will become amazing.

In Summary

The phrase “I love you, but I am not in love with you” is one of the most hurtful things a spouse can hear. Hearing this phrase creates a nightmarish experience for a betrayed spouse.

But, the most important thing a betrayed spouse can do is this: do not take the phrase personally since it says everything about the spouse who utters the phrase while saying nothing about the betrayed spouse.

Also, do not take this phrase at face value since it can actually mean many other things. This is a phrase someone uses when they are out of touch with their own feelings or do not know how to express their precise feelings. It is a catchall phrase that could mean any number of things.

On the other hand, you can use this phrase as a way to open up discussion to get to the bottom of what is going on. When someone says, “I love you, but I am not in love with you,” use it as a guide to go deeper. Something is amiss and it almost always has to do with the wayward spouse. Find out the real reason a wayward spouse said this and try to get to the bottom of the feelings underneath it.

Even if you have heard this phrase many times, not all hope is lost. If you have been married for any amount of time, you have a history with your spouse, a life you have built together, and many memories. Use this phrase to inform how you will go forward even though something is amiss. Every problem has a solution when both people are willing to do some amount of work on their marriage. It may take time. It may take blood, sweat, and tears, but there is hope for recovery. No matter how bad it seems now, you are in a temporary situation.

Situations change, feelings change, and hearts change. It is possible to navigate the House of Horrors and to become closer in so doing. The House of Horrors is not forever and you and your spouse can disassemble it together.

How has your week been? Has your spouse said these words to you and what happened?

Opt In Image
Interview Replay...
Group Coaching Session with Andrew G. Marshall

In this coaching session, Sarah P., Doug and Andrew focus on those dreaded words: "I love you but I'm not in love with you" and...

  • What it really means when a person says it.
  • How it can be a positive thing for some couples.
  • Coping strategies when you hear this phrase.
  • How to argue effectively.
  • Much more - including a few member questions.

 

Sources

Stark, Vikki. I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You! The Ten Word Sentence Most Likely to End Your Marriage. From https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/schlepping-through-heartbreak/201310/i-love-you-i-m-not-in-love-you 

Baruch, Vivian. I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You. From http://vivianbaruch.com/2015/06/24/i-love-you-but-im-not-in-love-with-you/ 

Haltzman, Scott. End Affair: How To Tell Your Affair Partner That It’s Over. From https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/29/end-affair-how-to-tell-yo_n_3369292.html

 

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42 Responses to The Most Horrific Sentence in the English Language: I Love You, But I Am Not in Love with You.

  1. Puzzled November 14, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    Very powerful opening Sarah! I think we can all relate to the House of Horrors: we slowly turn the door handle, cautiously walk inside…only to find darkness, locked doors, heart stopping fears, & blood curdling surprises. It is so true how our spouses are sometimes by our side walking with us through the house, steering us away from the doors that they are afraid to open for us, and leading us down a hallway with only a small light at the end.

    ILYBINILWY: I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You. Wow. I always thought that was just some crappy cliche’ movie line. Never in my worst nightmares did I expect to hear those words come out of my wife’s mouth. It’s been over two years but I can still see her sitting on our front porch and uttering them. I was devastated but it was only the beginning. It would be almost 18 months before she really “looked” at me again. Her words stung on D-day 1 and, sadly, I still feel the sting at times.

    I’ve read more about affairs and affair behavior than I ever wanted to but it’s been helpful. The choices that our spouses make are their own. Unfortunately, those decisions affect our lives, our emotions, and our futures. And it’s a mystery how they can utter those words “I love you but I’m not in love with you” like they are just running to the grocery store. It seems so simple and straight forward to them. But, just like the House of Horrors, we don’t know what’s behind each door. However, our spouses don’t hold every key. We hold the master key to unlocking the doorway out. It’s there but we don’t realize it until we sift through all of the mysteries & shocks that come from our spouse’s House of Horror. We have the power to decide how we live, how we react, and how we move forward. Our spouse can decide if they want to follow us out or if they want to stay locked in the House of Horror that they built.

    • Sarah P. November 15, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

      Hello Puzzled,
      I love that bit you added about betrayed spouses holding the master key and how we choose our reactions and our path forward. That is a terrifically empowering concept!!

      Sarah

      • Shifting Impressions November 15, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

        Sarah I agree with you…..Puzzled, that is a very powerful thought!!!!

  2. Joey November 14, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    Powerful post, Sarah. Who would think that such a short phrase would carry so much weight and create almost a domino effect in the coming months and years after the words are spoken. As the betrayed partner, I am still working through the experience of hearing my ex say that to me, not once, but numerous times as we had many DDays .

    I think I have wrapped my head around the reasons for why the unfaithful spouse says.

    I am still trying to understand the betrayed spouse’s reaction to these words, especially mine. I heard it, I felt it, and I fought it hard. I did everything I possibly could do “win” her back, prove to her that I am a good partner, and that what we had is far better than what she had with the affair partner. I am trying to understand why I allowed her to treat me so horribly, but still fight. I think part of it is the betrayed spouses think everything was was fine because the unfaithful never said anything about their unhappiness until they are caught.

    I think the unfaithful spouse proves to everyone when they say these words that they need other people to make them happy, they don’t have the tools to find inner fulfillment, and then they blame their spouse for that unhappiness.

    But when I look at my reaction, and taking years to finally say enough is enough and kicked her out, it showed that I relied on her way too much for my happiness. She was co-dependent on her affair partner and I was co-dependent on her. And that is where I am with my recovery. Finding myself again and not letting anyone ever control my happiness or choices ever again. Infidelity certainly is the hardest thing I have ever experienced, but it has made me really look at myself.

    I miss the days just watching football and drinking beer and not worrying about this emotional stuff 😉

    • TryingHard November 14, 2017 at 8:29 pm #

      Joey—don’t we all 😞

    • Sarah P. November 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

      Hello Joey,
      I am glad that you had the bravery to kick her out and move on with your life. Such a process takes up so many inner resources to get through it. It can be such a difficult experience, but you will be massively rewarded when you can look back and see how you have grown as a person.

      As for missing the days when you don’t have to worry about emotional stuff, I second that! While it is my life passion to work in the areas of emotional recovery and personal growth, I still want to have a stable and emotionally safe place at home. Everyone does. Everyone wants their home life to be the one place where they feel safe and unconditionally loved for themselves. Everyone wants a safe haven where all is well and they can forget the problems of the day and just sit back and relax with their beer and watch a game or perhaps just cozy up with a good book and tea. But, an affair takes all of that away. An individual no longer has a safe place, especially not their home. That is one of the hardest parts of the whole process.

      I am glad that you are getting through it all and realize that you cannot ever allow someone else to control your happiness. I say Amen to that!

      Sarah

  3. TheFirstWife November 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    What the cheating spouse “forgets” is that they said it and meant it and in my case asked for a D numerous times. Six months of living in this horror show.

    And now I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Recently I unleashed the 4 years of pain and torment with this ILYBNILWY crap.

    I was a bit vicious but he had it coming.

    And my last words were this “I could have accepted and dealt with an A. However I have to live with the fact that you were going to D me and kick me to the curb for someone you knew 6 months b/c of your mid life crisis A”.

    There is nothing that takes the pain away from knowing you were going to be dumped after 25 years of a good marriage.

    I don’t run around behind his back and hdnh out in bars making a fool of myself. I don’t embarrass him on social media (or any of my family) including my children.

    I don’t run up my credit cards.

    I am willing to compromise on anything.

    I made his life pretty darn easy (and his friends were all envious of him).

    And above all I loved him and respected him with all I had. Everything.

    But I guess it just wasn’t good enough for him. I wasn’t young and single and 30. Nope I was the 30 year relationship and there was no way to change that. And I wasn’t going to try.

    But as much as he tried every day to make amends – I’m sorry – no one can undo the damage of hearing ILYBNILWY.

  4. Hopeful November 14, 2017 at 8:09 pm #

    This was a horrible thing to hear. What it proved to me was that idea that my husband was living in a fantasy world and willing to tell himself whatever he needed to in order to justify what he was doing. Some people including my husband can tell themselves anything in order to make themselves feel better. It ranks right up there with him telling me the main reason he cheated in the first place was he got married too young and was not ready. Reading between the lines he should have played the field more since neither ow mattered at all to him and as he said it could be anyone. Oh and also he never pursued anyone but when presented with the option he could not say no.

    He knew he would take our marriage to the brink of destruction. I find all of it hard to take some days still. He is amazing and says such great things now. How can that happen? I struggle since i have evolved but i am the same person who I have always been. It is hard to trust and move forward at times. In the end I feel I can only trust myself. There are great moments and days but so often i think would i be better off alone. I just struggle with the idea of trusting or sharing my life and myself with anyone. Sigh… so true what one of you said above that it is their issues and problems but it sure does affect us in a major way

    • Sarah P. November 15, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

      Hi Hopeful,

      Maybe I am a bit cynical, but it some cases, the only person anyone can trust is themselves. I believe trust is earned over a period of years and so there are certainly people I do trust. But, what I have worked on the most is being a trustworthy person to others and I have found that being this way often allows me to intuitively know who to trust and who not to trust.

      But, in the end, there are many people who will disappoint us, even if they do not mean to. Some humans are like bulls in a fine china shop. They move around life recklessly and it is just who they are. So, you can’t trust them around your proverbial “fine china” and therefore you don’t let them near it.

      I forget who said, “If someone tells you who they are, believe them.” This is a sage advice. When I was younger, I missed so many red flags because I just couldn’t fathom someone could be horrible. I believed everyone was like me, so if someone said or did something distasteful, I thought either it was a mistake or they were having a bad day. I don’t do that anymore.

      So, I guess there is a line to walk. But, if I were in your shoes, I would absolutely feel the way you do.

      Blessings,
      Sarah

  5. TryingHard November 14, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

    Sarah. I can add another meaning to that 9 word phrase

    If they are in love with the AP then the affair is ok. Maybe even destined. They aren’t wrong to cheat, they are in “love “. And not with YOU. They couldn’t help themselves. The heart wants what it wants. You can’t stop real love.

    Again it’s utterances of justification. Yep count me in i heard those words oh about ten minutes into the WE NEED TO TALK conversation. “But but I’m in love. ILYBINILWY”. What???? How old are you?

    Yes it turns your world in it’s eat much the same as a car wreck, a diagnosis of cancer, sudden death of a loved one. Difference being cheaters are doing this on purpose!!

    I think that’s why when i hear I Love You now i question what he really means by it. Like you said love is a verb. It just doesn’t have the same meaning to me anymore because if so many other things that were said since that 10 word phrase. His actions mean more to me. His actions have been good. Not perfect but good. However i am more demanding of his loving actions.

    Now when i hear that cheaters have used that phrase i know it has nothing to do with the BS and everything to do with the ignorance of a cheater. I’ve learned not to give ANY words power any more because just like that people can and will recant. More importantly than parsing those words is to really know yourself and your values and beliefs. People can say all they like. Doesn’t make it valid or true

    • Sarah P. November 15, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

      TryingHard,

      I love, love, love everything you have said and agree 100%. You are so right about ILYBINILWY being used as a justification and perhaps a strategy to attempt to make the affair seem right and possibly even good. After all, what kind of terrible person would get in the way of two soulmates destined to be together, or so the cheater believes!! ILYBINILWY serves as a great manipulation tool in such circumstances.

      By the way, that is so wise to not give words power, but rather looking at someone’s actions. As they say, “actions speak louder than words” and this couldn’t be more true for affair recovery.

      Many blessings,

      Sarah

    • Shifting Impressions November 15, 2017 at 7:02 pm #

      Trying Hard
      I totally agree with you. The thing about words though, is they can be so powerful. They can build up and they can tear down. Once spoken, they can’t be taken back.

  6. TheFirstWife November 14, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    Yup my H married young and only two girlfriends. Me and his GF from HS.

    A little late to be playing the field AFTER you are married.

    I believe that is a big part of his cheating.

  7. Nearly Normal November 15, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Sarah,

    I am curious if you have heard much of the phrase, “I love you, but I love him/her, too.” That’s what I got. It seems to me that it’s similar to ILYBINILWY, but I could be wrong.

    And boy, what a great article! I especially appreciated the part about a sense of home and safety being destroyed.

    Thanks

    • Sarah P. November 15, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

      Hi Nearly Normal, yes, I have heard of the conflict where a person believes he or she loves both their spouse and the other person at the same time. That can be common too. In this case, I believe the person is admitting they want to have their cake and eat it too. Or perhaps they are so insecure and feel so empty inside that they need two people to meet their “needs” and want both people in their life. Both people become like a security blanket for the wayward spouse and he or she does not want to give that up. He or she also does not know what real love looks like.

      Real love is self-sacrifice– what I mean by that is marriage is a compromise. And just because a spouse might find someone outside their marriage attractive, they must let those feelings go and let go of their “wants” if their wants will deeply hurt the marriage. So, I am referring to self-sacrifice as giving up things, actions, substances, or people that will harm the marriage. So, even if someone might want to drink too much, take drugs, have relationships with other people, gamble away college funds, or engage in anything else that hurts the marriage, they must give all that up (sacrifice it) in order to have a stable and fruitful marriage.

      Many blessings,
      Sarah

      • Nearly Normal November 16, 2017 at 10:54 am #

        Thanks for the response, Sarah.

        I’m not sure where my wife fit into the scenarios you describe. The way she described loving both of us, it sounded like, “I was so torn because I loved you, but I also loved him.” This was post-affair, which I am sure of because he lived very far away at that point. At the time she said those words, she was not trying to have her cake and eat it too, but I think she was describing what she was feeling at the time that she was.

        But she also scored very high on insecurity and feeling empty. She said that she felt that I was not interested in her, no matter how much I tried to spend time with her and tell her I loved her. She often felt jealous of time I spent with my job, no matter how much I was willing to put aside work when she needed me. I don’t really want to justify myself here, only illustrate how insecure she often felt.

        I think she was also very confused about true love. Her love for the OM consisted mainly in connecting closely with him, before it turned physical. She felt that she could “click” with him much more easily than with me.

        By the way, I love your definition of love. Sacrifice is key.

        • Sarah P. November 16, 2017 at 11:39 pm #

          Hello Nearly Normal,

          I don’t believe your wife is or was malicious when I was referring to cake eating. It felt more like for whatever reason, she needed two people to meet her emotional needs so she wouldn’t feel empty. I would like to know where the emptiness and insecurity comes from. Do you have any ideas?

          • Nearly Normal November 17, 2017 at 3:20 pm #

            Sarah,

            I think that her insecurity was mainly from some childhood issues – parents divorced, not very good parenting by the single parent left, leading to generally low self-esteem.

            BTW, not really assuming malicious intent with her. But insecurity can do a lot of damage without any malicious intent.

            • Sarah P. November 17, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

              Hello Nearly Normal,
              Divorce leaves so many holes in peoples lives, so that added to insecurity would pretty much explain the motivation. Your wife desperately needed to feel whole but did not now how to get these needs met in ways that were healthy. My heart goes out to her for what she experienced as a child.
              Sarah

  8. Kate November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    When my husband said this to me, my response was “Well I love you, but I’m not in love with you either! We passed the “in-love” phase LONG ago.” The “in-love” phase is like drug addiction to me – they love the FEELING, but not necessarily the person. My therapist told me my husband had a long list of stuff about the OW that he didn’t even LIKE! But he certainly loved the feeling of being “in love.” Because of the huge importance our culture places on romance, we consider the ILYBINILWY phrase to be a stake in the heart. We all must remain “in-love” for a lifetime – something not even remotely possible. One of my favorite insights was from Dr. Frank Pittman who said “the in-love state has nothing whatsoever to do with actually loving someone.” I found the most helpful thing I did in recovery was to define LOVE for myself. Like most people (especially women because that’s how we’ve been trained) I equated romance with love. Love is what you do – NOT HOW YOU FEEL. Love is doing the loving thing even when you aren’t feeling it. And a cheating spouse isn’t being loving toward anybody but themselves – not their spouse, not their family, not the OW. So I insisted my husband start treating me & his family with love – or I was out. It really forced him to challenge his own notions of what love is as well.

    • TheFirstWife November 15, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

      Thank you Kate. These are some really great points.

    • Puzzled November 15, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

      Very good points Kate. I’ll add to this sentiment. Love is truly an action and how we live each day.

      I’ve said before that I wasn’t just fighting for my marriage. I was fighting for my children’s marriages and their belief in what represents love. I know some of you want to shake me and tell me I was nuts but I never yelled at my wife. I never treated her like crap. I treated her with respect. I loved her. I wanted my kids to see what servant love looks like. No matter what, my kids had to see how a man of character will act even when they are walking through hell.

      Was it easy? Hell no. I wanted to scream at her and be nasty and awful. But that’s not me. I would not get pulled into her abyss and change my character because she chose to cheat. If our marriage didn’t make it, then I would know that I stood for what I believed in and that she chose to turn her back on me forever.

    • Nearly Normal November 15, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

      “Love is doing the loving thing even when you aren’t feeling it.”

      Kate, that’s worth gold right there. Loving a person that you feel like loving is no challenge. Loving someone who has hurt you is real love.

    • Sarah P. November 15, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

      Hello Kate,

      I agree with 100% of what you said and great insight!

      One thing stuck me about your husband when you said he loved the feeling of being in love. Have you ever considered that he might be dealing with love addiction on some level? It is very common and it is different than sex addiction. I also believe love addiction is as real as drug addiction. The only difference between the two is that the newness of a relationship triggers the brain to get an incredible and ecstatic high. Whereas in the later, it is a physical substance such a cocaine that triggers this same high. Similar neuro chemicals are released, it is just that one trigger to release those chemicals is a person whereas the other is a physical substance that can be ingested.

      Many blessings,
      Sarah

      • Kate November 16, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

        Hi Sarah.
        My husband had a very difficult childhood & has an addictive personality because of that. He knows this about himself. And he is pretty good about regulating these impulses. But addiction is his go-to method of coping. He definitely was using the affair as an escape from some difficulties in our lives at that time. He was addicted to the sexual fantasy more than anything, I believe. And I have read that’s the hook for most men at least – it’s not what they’re actually doing, but what they’re GOING to to next. That’s what keeps them coming back – those fantasies. I have come to believe ALL affairs have much more in common with addiction and very little to do with love – the people in them behave EXACTLY like drug addicts. That’s why they say hurtful things like ILYBINILWY or when they tell you they’re sorry you got hurt but they don’t regret the affair. Drug addicts are usually sorry about the pain they’ve inflicted on their families, but they are rarely sorry about the high. Addicts get pretty pissed when someone gets between them & their drug. I think if we approached affairs as addictions & removed all the romantic nonsense we associate with affairs it would be a much more helpful way for everyone to look at & deal with them – both for the betrayed & the cheater.

        • Sarah P. November 16, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

          Kate,

          I agree that affairs are so much like addiction and I believe that treating some types of affairs like someone would treat addiction can be helpful. If someone who has an addiction has an affair, I would consider the affair to be identical to whatever addiction it is they have. I have heard women of alcoholics say that “the bottle is his mistress.” The worst part about addiction is that a true addict will put the substance above everything and everyone else, even if he loses his home, his money, his family, and all of his friends. Such is the power of addiction.

          I also like your description of the sexual fantasy aspect and the thinking about what a wayward spouse will do next with his affair partner (to get his next hit).

    • Hopeful November 16, 2017 at 1:24 am #

      Kate, great comments. I agree with all of that. In the end it really is the most selfish act one can do with lasting after effects. I agree my husband had to show me with action. His word was not enough.

  9. TryingHard November 15, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    Fantastic Kate. Couldn’t agree more.

  10. Puzzled November 15, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    Nearly Normal: I wonder that as well about being “in love” with the AP. I remember talking with my wife about her affair. I detailed exactly how it started, played out, etc. This was all simply my guess work and the help of the articles on EAJ on how EA’s happen. She was floored by my accuracy even though she’d never shared this info. I remember telling her that she said ILYBINILWY and it broke me. But I added, I’m sure you probably thought you loved this other guy during this mess. She never disagreed (which sucks). I think that’s why she could not leave or take it further than the EA. She still loved me or at least loved what we once were. But, deep down, she had feelings for the AP but was conflicted with them. This is a reality that I don’t think will ever go away. It’s not an easy thing to try holding onto a rope that’s ripping through your hands like there’s a 10 ton anchor on the other end sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

    • Nearly Normal November 15, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

      Puzzled,

      I’m not sure about the rope/anchor analogy. I think maybe it is better that the wayward spouse is conflicted with feelings towards both. At least then there is a chance for the marriage. but I don’t know. The whole affair fog phenomenon means that even the (perceived) strongest feelings in the world may change as soon as the fog lifts (assuming it does at all).

      Of course, it matters if love is only a feeling, or if it’s a choice, or an action. Especially, it matters what the WS thinks it is.

  11. TheFirstWife November 16, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

    I think for my H he is a sucker for sob stories and poor me whiners. His first AP was a nut job with a long history of failed friendships b/c of her anger and troublemaker mentality.

    Second AP was “my poor hard life “ and I’m just looking for love and someone who won’t dump me after we have sex.

    Seriously she posted it all over social media.

    Knight in shining armor syndrome. My H to a T

    • Rose November 16, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

      Omigosh, mine too. In fact, most of the remorse he feels is not being able to save THEM. He still doesn’t see how he was used and abused, nor how I was.

  12. TryingHard November 17, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    I’m very doubtful about the validity of sexual addiction. And i believe there’s a big difference between addiction and a habit. Lying and cheating is a bad habit. They get away with one and see it worked and they continue. It’s preying and abusing someone’s trust in them.

    My h threw out that phrase sex addiction as an excuse. He’s not. But my hair caught fire when he said it because i know i would leave for sure had he really been convinced he was a sex addiction. I’m not that damn co dependent!! I knew i didn’t have anything in my personal arsenal to combat any addiction. So of course he recanted that statement. As which do much of the other word salad he used during the discovery days.

    This is just my opinion about sex addiction. I’m just not buying it. I’m not buying any excuses that i or he try to believe about his personal choices. It doesn’t change a damn thing. Nor does it minimize the act. It happened because he wanted it to happen.

  13. Puzzled November 17, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    TryingHard: Good thought on lying and cheating as a bad habit. But I think that’s how this how slippery slope of an affair goes. Our CS doesn’t necessarily start off thinking “I’m going to cheat” but there’s the first text, smile, wink, lunch, etc. and they think “this didn’t hurt anyone” so they do it again. And then they are sliding down the slope and don’t stop. They compromise their beliefs and their vows. They betray their spouse because “what we don’t know won’t hurt us” and “it’s nothing serious” and “they’re just a friend”. It becomes easier the second time and, after that, then they don’t even hesitate to continue the affair. Keeping your integrity and your morals is the standard. But, the big but, when you break that moral code the first time, it gets easier to cross that line the next time, and the next, and the next…

  14. TryingHard November 17, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

    Puzzled–Absolutely correct!!! It is indeed a slippery slope and one that anyone can get caught up in if they are sensitive to the headiness that flirting gives one.

    I’m simple saying I don’t buy into the whole idea of “sexual addiction”. I’ve tried reading some about it and I believe there are many who will “soothe” themselves with sex and love the high of the forbidden. I simply don’t believe it’s an addiction. It’s a coping mechanism etc. but not all coping mechanisms are addictions.

    • Sarah P. November 17, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

      Trying Hard,

      Actually you make an excellent point about coping mechanisms and addictions. I have found that sometimes coping mechanisms can turn into full on addictions (such as alcoholism). But not everyone who drinks to cope becomes an alcoholic. It seems to be highly genetic. I think the DSM removed sex addiction in the last issue. (I don’t have it handy right now since I am in a coffee shop and not at home.) Still, in the self-help world both sex addiction and love addiction are considered to be real disorders. I believe that some people can be sex and love addicts, but it is not nearly as widespread as we might imagine and it certainly can be used as a cop out.

      For example, as a cop out someone could say, “I can’t help having affairs because I am a sex addict. I am a victim of my disease, so surely you can’t be angry at me since I cannot control my disease! Why that would be cruel to be angry at me, the victim, over something I cannot control. You bad, bad, unfeeling, betrayed spouse! You just don’t get it and want to victimize me over things that are not in my control! You horrible betrayed spouse! In fact, you drive me to an affair because you cannot understand my disease.”

      What I wrote above is COMPLETELY ABSURD but I have seen people say things as stupid as that.

      • TryingHard November 17, 2017 at 9:52 pm #

        Sarah-lol right?! Yes he tried for about a half hour and then went fly fishing?!?? Words words words is all we get. I laugh now. I’m calling clinics for him like a crazy person and he’s fly flishing after dropping that bomb.

  15. Hopeful November 21, 2017 at 1:10 am #

    I am not sure what the threshold is for addiction vs habit vs escape lies. One thing I know is my husband described his own behavior as something that shifted gradually over time. As said above he did not say one day I am going to cheat. Instead he started to change how he acted and especially in social situations around friends, single women and when drinking. I do not think my husband is an alcoholic but I do think alcohol played a role. I do not believe he would have done what he did if acted the way he did if he was sober. Saying all of that the way my husband describes drinking, his affairs, a night out were all the same. They were all an escape and something he was entitled to. Is it an addiction probably not. But it is engrained in him and a strong habit. To me no matter what it is called I see the parallels between alcohol, sex and cheating.

  16. TheFirstWife November 21, 2017 at 5:44 am #

    I think in some cases the A becomes an addiction.

    During my H’s A and whike he was in the fog he acted completely out of character.

    He put his own desires first. Looking back he is ashamed of how he behaved but his emotions got the better of him. He believed he was in love with the OW.

    He knows now he didn’t really love her but he was addicted to the infatuation stage of his A and the “feelings” that gave him that “high” or rush.

    Unfortunately it is not until the CS decides it is over that the BS can reason or talk to the CS. I tried to make sense of his A and discuss it but we all know that during the A – that only results in lies and gaslighting and half truths and feeling like you are living in a fun house where it is all smoke & mirrors b/c NOTHING makes sense.

    The CS knows it is wrong yet continues to do it. Call it selfishness or addiction – but the pay off is that they feel good (or something) while engages in the A.

    Which is why I don’t believe the CS when they say they”sex was awful” or “I didn’t really like the AP”. Please!! Why would the CS keep going back?

    Because they LIKE how it feels. It’s illicit and wrong and exciting. And addicting.

  17. JTK November 22, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    All,
    I see familiar names here that have supported me this year. It seems my marriage is done. Even though my W and I have started counseling, she says it is just to help me. I made some mistakes through this process that have hurt her deeply. She now says she has no emotion toward me, says our marriage is beyond fixing, and is suggesting we separate. She says I should go be happy with someone else.

    I continue to be completely devastated. She still says email I saw was nothing, and is hurt I never believed her. I described the time after dday to her like I was thrown into the deep end of pool not knowing how to swim, drowning trying to figure out a way to get to the surface for air. As I do this, I see her sitting at the edge with her feet in the water just watching me. You all know the pain.

    Now at 50, I am facing living each of the rest of my days without the love of my life, and as the article says lost my home. I feel hopeless, empty, unloved and frustrated.

    I thank all of you for your support and prayers this year.

  18. Shifting Impressions November 22, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

    JTK
    I am so sorry to hear that. Saying that the counseling is just for you is so hurtful…it shows that she really doesn’t want to face what brought her to the place of betrayal. Unfortunately, none of us can do that for our WS.

    She is turning things back on you, by saying she is hurt that you didn’t believe her, regarding the email. It’s not uncommon for the WS to turn things around that way…..they have a way of making things all about them.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you will take care of you and find a way to move forward.

  19. TryingHard November 22, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

    JTK— your wife reminds me of the meme “it’s not what i did that’s the problem. It’s your poor reaction to it”. Well to heck with that i say!! And like the CNN ad “this is an Apple. Some people will tell you and argue it’s an orange but it’s not it’s an apple “. Your wife served you apples and she’s trying to convince you it’s an orange.

    I’m afraid she probably checked out of the marriage long ago and has been going through false reconciliation. That’s cruel. I’m certain she’s convinced she believes HER life will be better without you. And if her life is better without you surely yours will be better without her too. Sounds like she’s pretty ashamed and depressed as well.

    I am so sorry you’re going through this. Don’t you have a son that’s struggling with the separation as well? i feel worse for him. This is horrible on young people. My x DIL parents divorced when she was 18 and she really had a very hard time. Plus her parents were so self absorbed in their own misery they did nothing to help her. My son and i tried everything but nothing we did helped. I believe her parents divorce contributed to the fall of their marriage as well. Kids, and i don’t care what the age, hate divorce. It’s a sad time I’m sure and my heart goes out to you and your family.

    I hope in time you find someone worthy who will appreciate your goodness and love. I know they are out there for you. meanwhile be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself and put you and your dear son first. You’ll get through this a better man. I know it doesn’t seem possible but i know it will. Please don’t leave this forum. There’s lots of smart caring people here. Hugs to you.

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