That cliche – he loves me but he is in love with her

I am so depressed that even writing this is difficult.  I want to just go hide somewhere.  At least I am no longer saying go hide somewhere and die.  But I want to go hide somewhere for a while.  I am crying so hard I can barely see what I’m writing.

I had an individual session with our therapist yesterday.  He listened to my story.  I told him the history of my marriage and the story of the affair and I told him about some of the issues between my husband and me.  He mostly listened and did not say much, just tidbits to show he was paying attention.  He was warm enough but very obviously studying me.  He told me that there is a model to illustrate what had happened to us.

He said that in every marriage, there are really two relationships going on.  The first is the romantic relationship.  He called that the husband-wife relationship.  This is where we find romance and excitement and the here and now.  The second is the family relationship, which he called the mom-dad relationship.  This is where we have security and finances and children and history.

He used chart paper and he drew a circle representing the man in the center top.  Then he drew a circle on either side of the man, creating a triangle.  He drew two arrows, from the man to each of the other circles.  He put my name in one of the circles.  He asked me the name of the affair partner and he put her name in the other circle.

He said that when a man has an affair, he separates the two relationships of the marriage.  The affair partner becomes the husband-wife relationship and the spouse becomes the mom-dad relationship.  For a while, it may be fun to try to do so and he may try to keep up both relationships.  He said there are a few men who are able to compartmentalize their lives to such a degree that they can do this indefinitely.  But he said most men cannot keep it up.  They lean one way and then the other and find it difficult to be happy doing that.  Most of the time, they make a choice between the two women.  Sometimes the choice is forced on them by one of the betrayed spouses finding out, but eventually most men will make the choice themselves.

He said my husband chose me.  He said that in his experience, men do not stay merely for finances or security if there is no love.  He said my husband probably has strong feelings for his OW, being that the affair lasted so long, but he said my husband also has strong feelings for me since he made the decision to be with me.  He said his feelings for her would dissipate as time went on with no contact.  And if we worked at it, we could rebuild the husband-wife relationship between us.

He said many couples, affair or no, lose their husband-wife relationship over time and settle down in the mom-dad relationship.  He asked me if I knew any couples who actually called each other mom and dad.  I nodded.  He said some people are satisfied with that and never do the work to maintain the husband-wife relationship.

I said, “So you’re telling me he loves two women.  One as his romantic love and the other as the matriarch of his family.”  He nodded.  Then he said that my husband also loves me as a woman or he would not be here.  “So you’re telling me he is in love with two women.”

He said yes.

He said that my husband was accustomed to being romantic and sharing his love life with his OW.  He has voluntarily given that up, so now he needs to rebuild that love life with me.  He said it will be uncomfortable at first because he is no longer used to being romantic with me.  He may even feel he is betraying his OW.  But he said it’s like learning a new language.  At first it is uncomfortable because you’re not used to it.  But as you practice you become proficient.  He said my husband would eventually become proficient at being romantic with me.

He went to say that many people come in to his office saying that if the romantic love is not already there, then it’s no use.  He said that was hogwash.  He said romantic love is different from the infatuation of our youth and that it develops like the feelings in any relationship.

Through all this I was quiet.  I made eye contact but I did not respond emotionally.  I have gotten quite good at remaining calm and not giving away my feelings.

I left feeling very confused.  Everyone was waiting for me when I got home.  It was a nice family evening.  When we were getting ready for bed, my husband asked me what was discussed in the session.  I told him.  He agreed with the model.  He said that it was pretty much how it was for him.

I went to my sewing table to think.  I became increasingly depressed as I thought about it.  Different words but same meaning…. two relationships?  He loved us both, her as the wife and me as the matriarch?  That’s the same as that famous phrase:  he loved me but he was in love with her.  He cared for me as family, but she was the apple of his eye.  He is no longer in love with me, but he’s going to try to find the love again.

But I remembered an article that I had read on  It explains things for me very well.  Because I am not one of these people who no longer felt excitement about CK after a number of years.  I was still wild about him, even when he was awful during his affair.  This explains me:


How to Make Romance Last
By Helen Fisher | From the December 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

The truth about what keeps marriages together

I have a friend who met her husband at a red light. She was 15, in a car with a pile of girls. He was in another car with a crowd of boys. As the light turned green, they all decided to pull into a nearby park and party. My friend spent the evening sitting on a picnic table talking to one of the guys. Thirty-seven years later, they are still together.

We are born to love. That feeling of elation that we call romantic love is deeply embedded in our brains. But can it last? This was what my colleagues and I set out to discover in 2007. Led by Bianca Acevedo, PhD, our team asked this question of nearly everyone we met, searching for people who said they were still wild about their longtime spouse. Eventually we scanned the brains of 17 such people as they looked at a photograph of their sweetheart. Most were in their 50s and married an average of 21 years.

The results were astonishing. Psychologists maintain that the dizzying feeling of intense romantic love lasts only about 18 months to—at best—three years. Yet the brains of these middle-aged men and women showed much the same activity as those of young lovers, individuals who had been intensely in love an average of only seven months. Indeed, there was just one important difference between the two groups: Among the older lovers, brain regions associated with anxiety were no longer active; instead, there was activity in the areas associated with calmness.

We are told that happy marriages are based on good communication, shared values, a sturdy support system of friends and relatives, happy, stable childhoods, fair quarrelling, and dogged determination. But in a survey of 470 studies on compatibility, psychologist Marcel Zentner, PhD, of the University of Geneva, found no particular combination of personality traits that leads to sustained romance—with one exception: the ability to sustain your “positive illusions.” Men and women who continue to maintain that their partner is attractive, funny, kind, and ideal for them in just about every way remain content with each other. I’ve seen this phenomenon, known as “love blindness,” in a friend of mine. I knew him and his wife-to-be while we were all i n college, when they both were slim, fit, energetic, and curious: a vibrant couple. Today both are overweight couch potatoes. Yet he still tells me she hasn’t changed a bit. Perhaps this form of self-deception is a gift from nature, enabling us to triumph over the rough spots and the changes in our relationships. I’m not suggesting you should overlook an abusive husband or put up with a deadbeat bore. But it’s worth celebrating one of nature’s best-kept secrets: our human capacity to love…and love…and love.


Apparently my husband does not have this “love blindness.”  Only I do, or did.  He took his love and gave it to someone else.  Maybe it was never mine to begin with.  It was always hers.  Whatever, he is not in love with me.

Later, he came and asked me why I was sitting there in the dark and what was wrong.  I told him.  He said I was being ridiculous.  He said maybe counseling was not a good thing for me.  He said he needed to call the doctor and thank him for creating an even bigger mess.

We have not talked much since.  Not much of this is new information, but it pulls it all into focus in a way that struck me like a bolt of lightning.  It’s really true.  He is not in love with me.  He is grieving the loss of his OW.  He has to learn to be in love with me again.

Am I willing to accept that?  I dont’ know.


10 thoughts on “That cliche – he loves me but he is in love with her

  1. Kris says:

    I don’t like how he’s always calling you ridiculous. That’s really starting to chap my hide!!!!

  2. Not Over It says:

    I appreciate having you as part of my support system, Kris. Thank you.

  3. Him calling you ridiculous is unfair and unkind…but it is a part of his defense mechanism. He has to face up to the hurt he has caused, but it is difficult for ANY of us to do that. The onus is on him and I hope that in further counseling, he will see that and be able to process his own guilt. Men like to fix things…and we get frustrated when we can’t.

    My situation was a lot like yours. I never lost passion for my wife. Although she chose to stay after the first affair and claim her everlasting love for me…we apparently never dealt with some underlying issues and she chose to not work on it.

    Stay in counseling please!!! X and I should have gone 5 years ago. It would have been painful, but I believe it would have spared so much pain overall.

    he did make a choice. he did choose you. and he is probably experience a sense of loss too. that is SOOOOO hard to accept when you are the one betrayed. i believe though that you have to work through this and try to understand his drivers. when you can do this, your marriage can emerge healthier and stroger.
    peace to you

    • Not Over It says:

      Thank you so much. It means so much more coming from someone who truly understands where I am right now. You have convinced me. I will stay in counseling – for now anyway.

      I have been checking your blog, waiting to hear how you are and how the process is going. Hope you are ok.

      • One of the natural tendencies we have when we are hurt, is to try to punish somehow the offender. When that offender becomes defensive about their actions…or our reactions, we get more hurt. “Can’t they see what they did to us!!! They OWE us more. The HAVE to take respoonsibility”
        Although the statements i believe are true…they do owe and the do need to accept responsibility…their own defenses pull them back.
        this is why the counsel of a third, objective party is so important. especially one that is trained to help us work through our own issues so we can listen and understand as well as communicated in a way to be heard. once that becomes part of the healing, then true remorse and respoinsibility from the offender can be achieved (unless they are psychopaths and then no amount of counsel can help them).

        I don’t believe you have forgiven your husband and you harbor sadness, hurt and anger (all justified).
        The offender is also in survival mode too. It hurts him to admit how much he hurt you…so he minimizes. (guessing, but it follows common patterns)
        I hope you can both break through these emotional artifacts and barriers so that you can forgive. You deserve that.

  4. Not Over It says:

    I have read books, articles and the Bible to learn about forgiveness, but have not felt that I can. A couple weeks ago, he was in a rage and told me he was no longer sorry because I refused to let it go.

    I am a much calmer person than he is, and I don’t believe I try to punish him. He, however, feels that any mention or reminder of his affair, such as me reacting to a trigger – however much I try to do it privately, is an example of me torturing him by not letting him forget. I suppose our counselor can help us with this.

    I do not agree with our counselor on a number of things, but I’m going to continue with him for a while before I write him off.

    Thank you again, LFBA. Your comments mean so very much to me.

    • There are a lot of counselors out there.
      Punishing does not have to be external…. but if you are anything like me, when you feel there is injustice, you may punish mentally.
      I was much calmer than X…always smoothing things over. I was her main support when she was feeling guilty after her first affair…but little digs would come my way. Little things like the attitude it was my fault that her affair broke up not on her own terms… and when I felt that little stab, I would withdraw mentally a bit.
      On what you have shared about what your counselor has said, I agree. A marriage has many parts and roles. Ther are many entities to feed and that all can not be fed equally all the time. That’s where remembering the vows kicks in.
      Him becoming outraged at “you not letting him forget” is a way to sublimate the guilt. It turns it away from him and on to you. It is unjust and it is (IMHO) wrong….but it is part of a defense mechanism. This is something that needs to be addressed in counseling (again IMHO). X would do the same to me. She would mention places that she wanted to go to…like Yosemite…. Well Yosemite is a place where their affair occurred and I did not want to go and have all that “history” on us. I suggested we find a different place. To her, that was me punishing her and not letting her forget. To me, that was her being incredibly insensitive to my feelings.
      The calm (think Buddhist) me, would have recognized it as a part of her defense mechanism, but I was still so hurt at the time, that I was too attached to my pain…and could not see beyond what I thought was her insensitivity.
      So, i think I understand where you are coming from…and maybe you can benefit from the mis-steps I took.
      If this counselor does not suit you…get another. But please keep with it. Peace to you
      (oh,,,and I apologize for the typo’s in the last comment)

      • Not Over It says:

        Thank you so much, LFBA. What you say makes sense and I am grateful to be able to hear from someone who’s been there.
        I will bring up the issue of me “not letting him forget” in counseling. I can see from your experience how the BS and the CS come at the same event from opposite perspectives.
        You know, I was raised Buddhist. I became Christian as an adult. I used to go to Buddhist retreats and meditation classes and the whole bit. I kind of infuse that into my Christian beliefs today. So I get your perspective on that. Very interesting.
        I feel a little better today… a little clearer and more able to focus. I’m going to use your comments to jot down some notes to take to counseling this week. Again, thank you.

  5. A betrayed father says:

    Your husband needs more therapy than you do. While you need it for trauma, he needs it to get himself back. My story is very similar to yours in that my wife had two models and hid them – until I nearly went crazy because of all the odd vibes coming from my best friend (one of her other men). Your husband needs to sit down and talk out why he’s got two models and before you flatline. Him saying – but it is over and I love you – that’s not enough – he needs to demonstrate that it is over and that he’s changed! It has been over a year since our D-Day and I’m still working on it. The pain eases, but not the disconnect over the two models. There are reasons why a man or woman is married but attracted to others – they have issues that require therapy. And, I’m sorry to say this as well, but it has been true for me – you can’t use your therapy to solve his problems. I tried this with my therapy and it got us no where. Perhaps start with couples therapy to ease him into it, but your therapy is about you, not the marriage or him. He needs to start working on these things before you die inside (because he ran you over, and he can either say sorry and walk away, or he can heal you).

    There is also the problem of perspective – my wife can’t see the situation from my perspective or anyone others – not solidly. She manages it in brief moments and it tears her apart: She’s a home-wrecker, a liar, a coward, etc. It crushes her. Your husband might be the same – if so, then he’s injured also. He hurt himself – much like in “Harry Potter” – doing an evil act tears your soul – when he was hurting you, your family, etc. He can only get better if he really faces this pain in therapy and heals himself by healing you.

    Right now, like my wife, he’s likely waiting to see if you healing yourself will heal him enough that he’s okay staying – if not, he’ll leave or cheat again – because he’ll resent that you’re apparently better and he’s still in pain.

    I hope you make it. I hope my wife and I make it. The pain does start to go away – I hardly cry anymore, but everything changes and accepting that hasn’t gotten any easier.

    • Not Over It says:

      Thank you – I don’t know what to call you – Unsinge? Seems we are in a similar place right now. Good point that I can’t use my therapy to solve his problems. My online coach has told me the same thing but it really sunk in when you said it. My coach is glad that we are now also in couple’s counseling. I’m going to give it a fair shake, but I’m not very optimistic at this point. Flatline is a good word for it. I am almost at that point.

      For a while, I was better. I had stopped crying all the time and I seemed stronger. Seeing the counselor stirred it all up again. I’m sure, like you, I’ll be better soon. Thank you for writing. Keep in touch!

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