Dr. Weems,
Six years ago, I had an affair. My husband found out and confronted me. I came clean with everything. We worked on our relationship for almost a year, and then he told me that everything was good with our marriage and he wanted to have another baby, so we did. I believed him when he said that he had forgiven me and was ready to rebuild and move forward with our marriage. Then 2 weeks ago, he tells me that he no longer loves me, he never really got over what I did, and he wants to end our marriage of 14 years. He is going to go to counseling with me, but he says that it will not help and he is not going to change.

What can I do to help him realize that I truly love him, and how can I help him get over this hurt that he has carried all these years?
--He Says He No Longer Loves Me

Dear “He Says,”
Let’s begin with the first part of your question: “what can I do to help him realize that I truly love him”? Why is that always the question we come up with in situations where the other partner has decided that he wants out? This is not about your loving him, but his loving you. According to you, he’s stated outright that he no longer loves you. You can’t make someone love you, no matter how much you may love them.

There’s still the matter of the second part of your question: “how can I help him get over this hurt that he has carried all these years?” Hopefully, since he’s willing to go to counseling with you (despite his protests that it probably won't change his mind), your sessions will give you both the insight and skills you need to work through this hurdle in your marriage. If you’ve been reading my “Whispering Hope” column here on Beliefnet, you will know that it is possible to survive adultery. It is not an easy process, but it is possible.

Perhaps what you’re witnessing in your marriage is a delayed reaction on your husband’s part to your adultery of six years ago. Why it has taken him six years to get in touch with his feelings of hurt and anger is not apparent. But if this is a delayed reaction on his part, it’s incumbent upon you to give him the space and grace to feel his feelings and to work through them. Again, counseling should help you find your way through this period of breakdown and, hopefully, rebuilding.

Of course, you too are probably feeling betrayed right about now. Your husband convinced you to have a baby after your makeup as a sign of your pardon and reconciliation, and now it seems that he hadn’t forgiven you after all. The lesson here is that getting pregnant and having a baby shouldn’t be used as consolation prizes in a broken relationship.

There’s always the chance, of course, that your husband is using your affair of six years ago to justify his falling out of love with you and his wish to end this marriage for reasons unrelated to your affair. His actions today may have very little to do with your behavior in the past. If he’s still hurt by your affair, pray to God for healing and give him the space he needs to grieve and find his way back to you. If your husband no longer loves you, there’s very little you can do about that. But I’m a hopeless romantic. I believe that sometimes love doesn’t end as much as it goes into hiding. You might try praying that God show you how to give your husband the time he needs to sort through his feelings in the hopes that his love for you (and his commitment to his marriage) returns. You learn soon enough in marriage that love waxes and wanes a thousand times in the course of a marriage. But what no one tells you is that the mystery of the marriage vow is that it can keep you working at the relationship and clinging to it until love for the other partner miraculously, amazingly begins trickling back into your heart.

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