“I don’t know if I love him anymore”

Mary’s request for help with her relationship, and Elly’s advice

I’m Mary and my partner’s name is Steve. I don’t know if I love Steve anymore.

We have been together 13 years, on and off. We met when we were 20, we were both party animals. Life was fun and crazy. Things got violent and we broke up. A few months later we got back together after he got counselling. We quit drinking but began smoking weed. Life was good – make love not war, peace love and harmony for 3 years or so – until I got pregnant.  

I quit drugs, had the baby and he continued on. He began experimenting with cocaine, and that grew into a crack addiction. I was working out of town at the time, and one day I came home one day and EVERYTHING was gone.

Changes in addictions

There was a stack of pawn slips on the counter with a post-it that said: “I’m sorry”. We broke up again. About a year later we got back together.

Our problems continued. He drank, and occasionally did drugs. I got pregnant again. I ended up leaving when the baby was about a year and half. Again, we spent a good 8 months or so apart. He went to treatment and we tried again. Things have been going well. He’s sober 3 years now. We get along ok – the kids are happy and adjusted, our daughters are 9 and 5 now. We’re in a good place, I work and keep busy with kids, he’s a student and keeps busy with a dance group.

We get along better when we’re apart. When we have to spend a weekend together tho, it usually ends up in an argument.  

2 Adults and children. Would it break your heart to break up the family?
Breaking up a relationship so often means breaking up a family

Work, hobbies and interests

He likes sports and as I mentioned, he’s a dancer. It takes a lot of his time and he is committed to the group. Even though our breakups and his addiction, he stayed with the group. He goes at least twice a week, if not more often. I keep busy with my kids. I drive them to dance classes and piano lessons. I took up Piano myself, and I enjoy it. I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks, so I don’t mind driving. I like to read or go on the computer.

I work in a restorative justice area. I’m supporting mostly supporting us right now. He makes money with his dancing, and he gets social assistance for him and the kids. That covers the daycare, Hydro and most of the groceries. I pay the rest of the bills. Our two cars, cell phones, cable internet etc. etc. The house belongs to his parents.

The positives …

I love watching him dance. It’s his talent and he is very good at it. It makes me feel proud of him. I love that he is a good dad – a great dad. I love how far he’s come in his life – he’s overcome a lot, not only with his addiction issues but also with a troubled childhood.

Doubts about loving him

I don’t think that I love HIM anymore, I like him he’s a good guy and I’m proud of him… I don’t enjoy being intimate with him, its more like just another thing I need to do around the house. He is a very handsome man, and when I compare him to anybody else I would still choose him, but sometimes I can’t even stand him kissing me. I get frustrated with him.  

I step in his pee when I go to the washroom in the morning. I’m busy all week and he can’t be bothered to throw in a load of laundry or clean the table off. He leaves his crumbs on the counter. I feel like if I’m doing all of this anyway – I might as well just do it for myself. I enjoy cooking, but lately, I feel like I don’t even want to make a big supper because its just more for me to clean up afterwards. He thinks I’m lazy and just don’t want to clean.

I’ve talked and talked and talked – then I stopped talking because I realized that he is a man, and needs to be respected too. I may ask him to do something, but I don’t expect that he’ll actually do it. I’m always frustrated and angry but I can’t talk about it because then he calls me a nag, or immature or crazy.

Says if the laundry or the dishes or crumbs on the counter are so important to me then I should just do them myself.

Were both very committed to our family. We want to bring up our kids in a healthy mom and dad home. (neither of us had that growing up)  Lately, with my not being interested in making love – (and getting heavier and heavier) I do worry that he will pursue that need elsewhere.

I’ve been on meds for depression for the last… 3 years. Basically, since we got back together.

Childhood traumas

We have both suffered major traumas in our life. His parents were alcoholics. His younger sisters were apprehended by children’s services, he was already a teen and drinking along with them. He was an alcoholic by grade 12. I was abused as a child, and my parents divorced when I was 3 after my brother died.

Elly’s Advice

Mary, firstly I have to say how much I am in awe of how the two of you have pulled through so far, after all the problems you both have faced. From what you say, you are clearly committed parents as well. You have overcome some very challenging circumstances as a couple. 

Relationship advice?

I can see that you have both invested in your lives as parents and in yourselves individually. I suspect, though, that there is much information missing from your story that you probably wouldn’t want broadcast, but would have helped me advise you better.

What about your relationship?

I see no evidence of any investment in your life as a couple. You’ve stuck by Steve through thick and thin – sure, that has been a major investment, but you don’t seem to have worked together specifically on your relationship.

You also may have stuck by Steve because you couldn’t imagine yourself leading any other life. Perhaps you didn’t have the confidence to leave?  

I guess it was a combination of things that kept you both together – your commitment, love, and wanting your children to feel loved, safe and secure with both parents together.

How to save your relationship

Your relationship is like a plant – if you don’t water and feed it, it will wilt and die. Steve may well be spending more time away because he too feels that the relationship isn’t working anymore. It’s all becoming a vicious circle and so it’s time to take action.

I recommend my Positive Communication Kit for Couples.

Most definitely, I recommend that you connect with Better Help to discuss all your troubles with an online professional, licensed therapist. He or she will take all the time to really understand your situation and help you to figure out your next step. For more information, see my page: Online relationship advice.

The problem with antidepressants

Your antidepressants may contribute to your weight-gain, won’t make you any happier and may lead to long-term damage – mentally and physically. I’d really recommend that you discuss with your doctor how you can come off them. There’s not much evidence now that they work at all – see my article on Treating depression without medication and scroll down to the video for vital info on antidepressants.

Also – very significantly – according to Prof Helen Fisher, antidepressants also depress romantic feelings!

I wonder if you ever have the opportunity to spend time with friends, socialise and have fun. That is something that would really contribute to your well-being.

Stay or walk away?

You didn’t ask me a question, Mary, but I suspect that you’ve been thinking about whether you should leave Steve.

I can’t make that decision for you, but I do recommend my Relationship Compatibility Test.

From what you’ve written, I’d imagine that you may feel all Steve’s attention goes to his dancing and the children and that there is perhaps little left over for you.

I suspect that both of you are unhappy with the relationship now, Mary, but it seems there is much to fight for – see my article: Is my relationship worth saving.

And, my goodness, there’s plenty of evidence to show that you both have the personal inner resources to overcome any difficulties when you put your mind to it!

I wish you all the best for happier times, Mary.

Background photo: silhouette of woman's face. Text: Need advice? Get help. Chat with a licensed therapist now.
Your problem is never too big, too small or too embarrassing to get personal advice from a professional counsellor!