We have a newish reader at MMSL and her comments have been long (and good) so rather than quoting them all at length, I’ll more selectively quote than usual and summarize her story and situation.
She’s been married for 40 years, and I believe married at age 20, so she’s 60. Recently her husband unleashed apparently out of the blue, an ultimatum that she loses the fat and trims down – or the marriage is over. The weight appears to have been gained from when she was 20 to 40, and stayed stable but high from 40 to 60.
She complied with the ultimatum, did manage to lose the weight, he’s happier with her appearance and more into her, but she is so hurt by the ultimatum that she’s no longer in love with him. She appears to be staying for the history of the relationship and not much else. Or put another way, she has all these sunk costs in him, so leaving now is hard.
The additional information is that through the marriage she cared from him “unconditionally” through two bouts of alcohol addiction and one of prescription pill addiction. He also lost a job through his own fault at some point, and then later quit his job and never returned to work. She’s also had to increase her earnings to ensure they stay solvent, and his ability to earn an income is in her opinion lacking except at the very beginning of the marriage.
So… as I see it, our friend has two critical errors in her understanding of how marriage and male sexuality works, that have driven her to this point. Essentially she done the female version of the exact same things that a Nice Guy / Betaized Male does wrong.
The first mistake is not understanding what creates attraction (Alpha Traits) in the opposite sex, and wrongly believing that creating relationship comfort (Beta Traits), creates attraction. So for her, all that effort doing housework, caring for him, earning money, making dinner, raising the children etc, only create relationship comfort. Instead to her horror, she discovers what creates attraction in her husband for her, is simply her looking sexy.
“I dressed well, wore appropriate makeup and my hair was professionally styled. I received compliments on my appearance frequently.”
“Well, he had me. He didn’t want ME, he wanted something that would satisfy his visual needs. He got that. He can (and now does) feel passionate about me because I am thin, not because I am a good person, a loving wife and the mother of his children.”
“Athol, ironically, I came to your site as a result of the ultimatum. I wanted to learn more about what my husband had said to me and figure out why he was so totally unhappy. I found the link here as a result of reading on TAM.
I get the man’s need for a visually hot wife. This was not something that I had any idea about prior to the ultimatum. I knew all men looked at other women, even to the point of the head snap and that overly long gaze bestowed on the young sales girl at Sears. I just did not realize that at 60 I was supposed to look that way, too. This was not covered in our premarital counseling 41 years ago. Just wasn’t.”
Believing female friends that you are attractive is a mistake, when it’s the men that decide if you are attractive. You can see once the weight was lost, he did become attracted to her again. The way she looks is creating Alpha, and she gets no attraction points for being a good person.
That being said, she’s obviously starting to get it, and trying to come to terms with having “done it all wrong for so long.” Which is an extremely common experience for men who get the “I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You” speech from their bored wives. After forty years of marriage, it’s got to be a bitter pill to swallow to accept that.
The second mistake is that just like a Nice Guy playing the White Knight savior to an entitlement princess, she’s been playing a forty year game of Wendy taking care of Peter Pan and desperately hoping he grows up. He never does, and frankly the ultimatum of weight loss kinda seems like a husbandly tantrum from that perspective.
She has repeatedly allowed him to take serious advantage of her multiple times over the course of the marriage. Alcoholism twice, prescription pills once, a self-destructive job loss, and a flat-out refusal to work in the recent past until present day. Any one of these things could have been cause to bring things to a head in the marriage, but she’s “unconditionally” just coped with them.
So from his perspective, it would be fairly rational to think, “She’s put up with every other outrageous demand and bullshit I’ve put her through, so why shouldn’t she just put up with the demand she lose a ton of weight?” So in a real sense, she has helped train him to treat her badly. She has trained him not to respect her. There would have been a fairly good chance that if she made a serious stink about the first major issue happening, that the others would never have happened.
Having a belief that unconditional love for another person is a requirement of marriage, can be a major factor in creating a horrible marriage. Unconditional love demands that you tolerate the intolerable.
If you actually love someone else, you don’t demand unconditional love from them. You love them, so you would actively seek not to place intolerable demands on them.
“He can go Beta all over my axx but bushels of roses and tons of words of affirmation won’t erase my memory of what he said and how I was treated. My vision of marriage, the meaning of my marriage and the love and admiration I had for my husband were forever changed as a result of the ultimatum.”
“I am or was guilty of believing in unconditional love. I took my marriage vows seriously. I took care of my husband through two bouts of alcohol addiction and one of prescription pill addiction. I stayed with him when he lost his job through his fault and when he quit his job and never returned to work. I stepped up my earnings to ensure our financial solvency. (Bear in mind financial security is very high on my list of emotional needs and he has never met that need except at the very beginning of our marriage. Kind of like the thin girl who gets married and then gets fat, thereby failing to meet the attractive spouse need of her new husband.) At any rate, I did not EVER threaten to end our marriage during any of these difficulties. I made sure he had the best care possible. That was my responsibility as a wife. It was easier to do because I truly was in love with him. It never occurred to me that it would be OK to use a threat of divorce to get him to sober up or to get a job or to stop spending money we did not have.
Perhaps I am disappointed in myself. I wasted many years taking my marriage seriously, doing the best I could for us and our family. And the whole thing boils down to I am not thin enough to suit his taste. It is more than unsettling to realize that giving unconditional love does not result in receiving unconditional love from your spouse and that my marriage was conditional all along.
I wish I had the feelings back that I had before the ultimatum. They are not gone because he hurt my feelings. They are gone because I am looking at marriage the way he does now, as a conditional contract. Setting love aside, he is not currently meeting and has not met my needs in quite a few years. The fact that I could be justified in issuing marriage ending ultimatums based on my unmet needs is something I am trying to process intellectually and emotionally.”
I think you’re confusing realising you have a “conditional” relationship with the end of your in love feelings. The veil may have lifted and you see the true picture, and it’s the not liking what you see anymore that’s killed your in love feelings off. Jennifer and I for example have a conditional relationship and are still in love with each other.
I’m sure you could imagine me reading Jennifer the riot act if she turned into an alcoholic. I’m sure you could imagine Jennifer trying to shove me out an airlock if I just quit my job to play computer games. Discovering the other cheating wouldn’t be just tolerated either. Violence to each other or the children would be instantly addressed as well. We have conditions for each other, and we have respect for each other. Our marriage agreement is the agreement to met the conditions of marriage.
And there’s a world of difference between caring for a spouse who is the victim of circumstance, instead of being the architect of circumstance. Jennifer would see me being injured in the process of being robbed as quite different than me being injured in a bar fight I started. I would see Jennifer having pneumonia differently than her having Chlamydia.
Furthermore, your actual marriage agreement is defined by your state’s marriage law. Most states allow no fault divorce, so your actual agreement is “Until someone doesn’t want to be married anymore.” Which really isn’t much of a promise to do anything, but there we go. I just report the news, I don’t make it.
So from here….
I think you have a lot of reading and processing to do before deciding to do anything major. Meanwhile I think you can stop catering to him quite so much. Start doing the things that you like to do. Keep your appearance up, and I do mean your attractive to men appearance up. Shameless plug – buy the book. Chapters 10, 11, 12, 16 and 25 would seem to apply fairly well to you.