How Do You Rebuild When You Don’t Love Her Anymore?

Reader:  This is the next level of married game. If you’re basically an honest Beta poor bastard, you can’t fake being gone. You hang on as long as you can. And then, you’re gone. And of course, the situation improves. But every backslide, every “same old same” behavior is greeted with “now, I remember…I’m gone.” You have no normal human tolerance for working out differences. There’s just the hair-trigger of “be perfect or be alone”. Anybody coming in late would say you’re unreasonable.
So, how do you bring back love and patience, when she made you emotionally die the first time around?
Athol:  The honest truth is that it is much easier to give birth than raise the dead. So the easier route is to find someone new to love and live your life with. It’s hard enough as it is opening your heart to someone new, let alone to the person that made your life a living hell for years on end.
But, there are always potentially good reasons to try and make things work, namely kids and shared assets, so some of you will want to rebuild.
I think you have to both see and hear her admit wrongdoing and taking responsibility for her half of the marriage. She will of course sometimes do whatever the old trigger behavior was, and set you off again. When she does that, she has to be conscious of it and be apologetic. It’s going to be a lot of those two steps forward one step back sort of things, and it is vastly easier to accept her saying, “I’m sorry, that was a step back today, I did that thing again.” as opposed to a dismissive “Whatever.”
So you have to sit down together, and really figure out what she does that really sets you off, and make that a conscious awareness for both of you. So she has to take responsibility for her actions, and you have to take responsibility for the fact it’s a process to reengineer your relationship together.
Sometimes those triggers are going to be things she doesn’t always know about fully and sometimes they can be seemingly quite trivial. Even in good marriages you’re going to have buttons you can push at will on the other person that seriously pisses them off in the middle of a perfectly fine day. You just have to not push them on each other.
This may sound silly, but Jennifer never cooks sausages or peppers for dinner, in part because they are two of my very least favorite foods and in part because it triggers me when she does. There’s a long involved story behind that, but I can’t tell it without making Jennifer look like a total bitch and the queen of being in the wrong. Just accept that even good marriages have bad days, and we had a very bad day that involved these sadistic sausages with little bits of green pepper inside them. So it just pushed a very bad day over the top and I left the house for a couple hours and purposely left my cell phone at home so she couldn’t call me. Which I did intentionally to hurt her. So yeah I know all that sounds pretty and stupid, but there really is a complicated story of miscommunication behind it that I can’t talk about.
About three months after our bad day, I hear a colossal, “SHIT!” from the kitchen. I run because I thought she got burned or something. Instead Jennifer is standing in front of the stove with a bunch of peppers frying away and looking sick to the stomach. Apparently she was on automatic pilot and just regained consciousness halfway through the cooking process and realized what she was cooking. OMG I’m doing it again, he’s going to flip out at me.
As it was, I accepted her apology and just ate around the damn peppers. But she hasn’t done it since. But obviously if she kept doing it over and over, it would piss me off worse and worse.
So triggers are going to be hit accidentally from time to time, and it really helps if she knows what the triggers are and is apologetic for hitting them. Love can slowly seep back in and years later it may all be something you can laugh about together. But if she keeps purposely hammering away at the sore spot, it’s just never going to work. So you may need to move on and start over.
Jennifer:  I have PTSD about those sausages too.


  1. This teaches us of the power of the backturn and abandonment. Whenever she has a sausage moment, abandon her, make her think that she shall be alone forever and that only cats will love her. She can emotionally die a bit inside so that you don't have to.

  2. I guess the question I would ask is: Have you really stopped LOVING her? Or are you simply no longer able to tolerate her crap?

    If it's just about the "triggers," then yeah, I think a couple can work through that, especially if there are factors like kids.

    But if the love is gone, with no real hope of ever being rekindled, that's a much harder game.

  3. Athol

    Sure wish your blog had been around 9 years ago. I see everything I did wrong (going more and more beta to compensate for her anger.

    Don't know for sure if being more alpha would have changed her, but the last 8 years have sucked financially and lost time with my kids.

    It was only offset by finding a lovely wife that treats me well.

  4. Trimegistus says:

    I have to say the peppers example seems a bit trivial. Do you have some kind of allergic reaction to peppers? If yes, then for your wife to cook them is incredibly foolish and callous and you should indeed threaten to leave her if she does it again.

    If you don't, then stop being so damned picky. Eat your vegetables, or don't eat them, but don't freak out because the green stuff is touching the meat.

    This actually brings up something I've been wondering about: what degree of heinousness are we talking about when we discuss giving her a shape-up-or-I'm-gone ultimatum? Infidelity, obvious. No sex, obvious. Cooking peppers? Don't be silly. But where does the line fall?

  5. Trimegistus –

    On peppers and sausages, re-read the post. Think, "symbolic value." Marriages good and bad are full of symbols. I like peppers, and sausages too. But then I'm not Athol, and I'm not married to Jennifer, and my wife and I have different triggers. Most as arbitrary as these, if one looks at it objectively. (Which one can't.)

  6. Ian Ironwood says:

    I concur. A successful marriage is really a complex and sophisticated symbolic language shared by only two people. With Athol and Jennifer, the PEPPERS weren't the issue as much as the untold story leading up to them. Nearly all couples have a sausage-and-peppers thing, a seemingly trivial issue that is invested with profound symbolic importance by both parties — sometimes for different reasons.

    For the Ironwoods, it's cooking. Mrs. Ironwood has many, many wonderful talents. Food preparation is not one of them. When I met her, she couldn't cook her way out of a refugee camp with a can of Spaghetti-Os, and even with intense remedial help she hasn't improved much. When she heads for the kitchen with a declared intention to cook, the kids run and hide and whimper.

    So the kitchen is my domain. I cooked professionally for years, and so it's a domestic chore I welcome. But that doesn't mean that Mrs. Ironwood is always thrilled about that. When she gets a domestic bug up her butt and suddenly feels that she isn't a proper wife and mother unless she actually turns ingredients into a meal for her family (it's rare, but it does happen), I either must frustrate that to protect my children from whatever horror she unleashes on us, or I must step aside and allow nature to take its course and suffer the culinary consequences.

    It's still a sensitive subject, but after 14 years she knows she may prevail upon me to do this if she a) cleans up after herself b) consults me about menu for grocery shopping purposes and c) doesn't try to re-organize anything in my kitchen. Yes, MY kitchen. That's the bridge of my ship, and I have darned good reasons why things are the way they are, and those reasons are not always apparent to my lovely wife. The last time she decided that the silverware drawer and the utensil drawer should be switched out caused a major tiff (she was acting on her mother's suggestion . . . THAT won't happen again. She gets her cooking talents from her mother.) The issue isn't so much one of where the silverware goes, but at the boundaries in the relationship. She has access and use of the kitchen. But it's MY kitchen, and therefore she respects MY rules about it. At this point if she did any reorganization without a profoundly compelling reason, according to our married symbolic language this would be a direct challenge to the boundaries in our relationship, and a re-assessment of some sort would be in order.

    And don't get me started about the damn celery . . .

    The long and short of it is that

  7. I think what is key is this statement, "I think you have to both see and hear her admit wrongdoing and taking responsibility for her half of the marriage".

    This should be an everyday thing for both people in a marriage.

    One of the best things I was ever taught by my parents is that I am responsible for my own happiness. That applies here too. Take responsibility for your own happiness and for your half of the marriage.

    Following that framework will likely result in him/her following suit or the relationship will run its natural course.

  8. @Trimegistus Athol made it very clear in his post that this is not petty and has a long history that he doesn't want to share because it would make his wife look bad.

  9. Trimegistus – I know it's outwardly trivial, that's why I used it as an example of a trivial trigger. But it is a trigger to me.

    It's all part of a very bad day.

  10. Dreadpiratk says:

    Must be something about peppers. We've had issues over them as well. My dear wife, who makes great pizza, puts peppers on hers but I hate them. the fight comes in when she cuts hers first and then mine, making mine taste like peppers- yuck! Talk about petty, I know. What triggered the fights and hard feelings is her unwillingness to accept that I could in fact taste the peppers, and it did in fact ruin my pizza and I wasn't just 'being a baby about it' You can see where that went. Like Athol said, it's a petty thing that evokes a much larger bad thing that can set off these outwardly silly fights.

    She did apologize and made amends by buying me my own pizza cutter.

  11. Looking Glass says:

    As I'm allergic to peppers, I can feel Athol's pain on the subject.

  12. Athol & Jennifer: Could you shed some light on how to show displeasure (eg, against something that bugs you, like sausage & pepper) in a way that enhances your relationship and conversely, doesn't make you whine-y, abusive or bat-shit?

    I feel like I'm missing this lesson in my life, hence, I spend a lot of time in beta-land, except when I "lose it".
    Thanks & happy holidays to the both of you.

  13. Athol, I think this is a GREAT post idea that Anon 9:27pm has. How do you show anger in a "righteous" way. Most people either over do it or under-respond

  14. The peppers have to be symbolic for something. At the same time, Athol's sausage and pepper trigger sounds more of a food phobia. I don't care what happened on the same day he ate sausage and peppers, whatever it was you can get pissed if someone makes that dish because they like it. If I associated a food or dish to a bad day, I'd end up starving to death. Please don't take this to be mean, but I'd talk to a professional about this sausage and pepper issue you have. Jennifer has the right to make them and eat them whenever she feels, and you're smart enough to realize that peppers and sausage was not whatever it was that hurt you.

  15. Ryan – I've already addressed this in the post, you're simply fishing for me to bad mouth my wife, over something we've resolved between us.

    If you're focusing on the peppers, you don't understand the point of the post.

  16. The MacNut says:

    Yeah I think Ryan is missing the point of the peppers post, which is how willing your spouse is to change behavior that annoys you or even downright pissed you off.

    Which actually relates well to Anon 9:27pm (Jason)'s question-which is how to address a problem you have with your spouse in the "right" way. I have a problem with this as well, mainly because I hold things in until I can't take it anymore, then flip out and look like I've lost my last mind.

    How DO you keep things form getting to that point, without sounding like a whiny complainer or like you're picking on your wife unnecessarily?

  17. I’ve loved my wife for many years, and I will never stop loving her. She is the best of me! However, I think she’s ran out of love for me to the point where finding others to have fun with makes her happy (acquaintances or activities I’m not involved in). There is absolutely no jealousy on my end because I know it’s not about another guy… I just know she is no longer happy hanging out with me but is ecstatic when hanging out with other people. The reason I can see this is I love her for everything she is… even if it’s not about me, so if I feel she may be happier without me, I will let it be no matter how much it hurts me because she’s a charm and letting her free is being kind to my soul BUT! when do I ever think of me???

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