I’ve decided to write on this not because I think you are all wondering what it means, but because many newbies may need to find us and they will search I Love You But I’m Not In-Love With You (also known as ILYBINILWY) because they may not have thought of searching midlife crisis…yet.
So I googled it to see what’s out there. A lot of the writers are trying to explain what it means—as though it is meant to be taken literally. I’m sure there are some who mean it that way—and I’d bet more of those are non-marital break-ups. But in my opinion it’s a waste of time for us to dissect the phrase in order to understand its literal meaning. We know it is about caring for someone—either because of shared history or shared children or universal caring for all life—without having a feeling of passion or fireworks or dare I say…in-fatuation!
Rather than understanding it’s meaning, let’s see if we can understand its purpose.
- I need to say something to deflect my wife and stop her from hounding me with questions.
- I-I-I- can’t think of an excuse and I’ve heard this one is common.
- This is the first thing that came to mind when I was cornered.
- I thought this would be a deal breaker.
- I meant it literally. I’ve met someone else and now I know what it feels like to have my world rocked. I didn’t know what in-love was until now.
- I don’t want to lose my husband’s respect or friendship even though my feelings are different now.
- I just wanted to confuse my wife. [Sarcasm Alert: Maybe to even the playing field so they can both be confused.]
- I wanted to soften the blow.
For you, the Left Behind Spouse, consider ILYBINILWY to be your wake-up call: Your spouse needs help and they are probably not going to let you offer it; your marriage is at risk. Now that you know, you can do something.
It Doesn’t Have to Mean It’s Over
Perhaps the most bothersome interpretation is that it is a certainty of a marriage being over—there is nothing that you can do. I found this idea in a blog on Psychology Today by Vikki Stark, the author of Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal. In her article I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You! she says that “the ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ pronouncement is almost always the closing bell.” Well, at least she conceded that it is almost always rather than a simple always. She goes on to say that “the one who finds him or herself deeply disillusioned doesn’t want to feel that way, once the scales have fallen from their eyes and they realize that there is no more desire, being together becomes intolerable and the end comes quickly.” It comes quickly? I guess that’s relative because to me several years of MLC and dragging out a divorce is nothing close to quick. Although I do notice that intolerability comes quickly for many MLCers and their LBS after Bomb Drop. Once they’ve dropped the bomb, there may be a great relief from the MLCer who now becomes more overt with their anger and resistance and often more open about an affair. Basically, Monster may not make an appearance until Bomb Drop or after and Monster can be intolerable.
Your marriage doesn’t have to be over, but you need to prepare for a long journey. Standing is hard, but I believe that if more people dedicated a Standing effort when their marriage is in trouble, more divorces could be avoided. I’m sorry to tell you that there are no guarantees, but Standing can be something you do to heal as you focus on your own Mirror-Work and maybe, just maybe you will reconcile with your spouse in the end.
Is it Really About Lost Passion?
Like most authors I found, Stark focuses a lot on the literal meaning of the words, believing that “it speaks about the lost life force of a couple,” rather than the lost life force of one half of the couple. That is not to say that the marriage is somehow without problems, but a midlife crisis is a personal crisis that can happen in great as well as rocky marriages. The I love you but I’m not in-love with you is merely the Bomb Drop message that lets you know your marriage just fell down the rabbit hole.
There’s no more desire, but what about the hyper-bonding some experience? In my situation sex became hotter, more spontaneous and more frequent for about 6 weeks. I was being deliberate because I wanted a lot of oxytocin released while he was with me, but what was his reasoning? Sure, he thought every time was going to be the last, but was there more to it? Like so many after Bomb Drop, I lost weight—about 35 pounds in 6 weeks. By the time my weight settled I was 20 pounds less than I had been when we married and he was interested in me physically—he couldn’t stop staring. Trust me it wasn’t desire that was missing. I actually never heard I love you but I’m not in-love with you; I heard I’m just not attracted to you. It was literally laughable given his leering and grabbiness. Some of you may not hear the exact I love you but I’m not in-love with you phrase, but as there was with me, there may be an equivalent.
None of what I’m saying means that a lost life force is not also an issue; but it is an issue that will need resolving after the bigger issues of this being a midlife crisis. You will be able to fix minor issues—especially those that are things you need to correct now and during the crisis, but relationship issues that require a team effort will need to wait until your spouse is through the crisis. Chuck learned quickly that he could still be attracted to me, but it didn’t make a difference in the context of midlife crisis. He moved out after figuring he could still be attracted to me and his affair was not physical until a few weeks after that. If the problem had only been about a lost life force we would have resolved it in those first 6 weeks rather than going through 3+ years of MLC.
What Should You Do After Hearing I Love You But I’m Not In-Love With You?
If you are dealing with MLC, trying to understand ILYBINILWY is a red herring; please don’t waste your time trying to decode MLC-speak. What you need to know is that this phrase (or so,ething similar) is commonly spoken by someone who is having an affair—emotional or physical and that many—perhaps a majority—of MLCers say it. So I recommend that you at least learn the general basics of what a midlife crisis is as well as some basics about infidelity.
If saving your marriage is your goal, think about this: what you resist persists. What does that mean? It means that if you overtly resist your MLCer’s attempts to escape you and the marriage, it will backfire. When a spouse wants to escape, they want and/or need space away from you; give it to them.
What actions are resistant?
- Begging and Pleading
- Trying to convince or reason with your MLCer to stay
- Pointing out all the changes you are making from your MLCer’s list of complaints about you
I made so many changes between Bomb Drop and the time he left that Chuck (with tears) said that now I was almost perfect, but I didn’t highlight my changes, I let him notice them. Your changes may not be trusted anyway—he will resentfully wonder why it took his leaving to get you to change.
- Asking questions
- Telling your spouse they are having a midlife crisis
- Asking about the alienator
why her, what’s she have that I don’t…
- Discussing your relationship (especially if you initiate the discussion)
- Asking about or discussing divorce
- Dismissing your MLCer
- Do not pursue your spouse!!!
I am not recommending that you do the exact opposite of resisting and be completely agreeable either. Don’t discuss divorce if you do not want a divorce—you don’t want to plant the idea and don’t help your MLCer complete divorce paperwork; the person who wants a divorce can do the work to get it and don’t leave your home either; the person who wants out can be the person to move out, but don’t offer them help.
Instead of Resisting, Accept
You are going to need to detach and let-go and that may be the hardest thing you have ever done. Attempts to convince your MLCer that they are making a mistake typically work against your goal and prove to them that they are making the right decision. Use this as an opportunity for your own personal development by focusing on your physical, mental and emotional health and making positive changes in your life. Maybe having to do that upsets you—your life was already perfect and you were healthy; it’s not fair! You’re right, it’s not fair, but reality isn’t always fair. You need to deal with the situation you’ve got rather than the situation you wish you had. Let-Go of controlling that pathway to your goals and learn to trust the process of MLC and your personal growth.
The beauty of Standing is that the things you need to do to get to reconciliation are the same things you need to do if you choose not to Stand. Make this your journey and embrace life with joy. If you do that you will be an Attractive Force and your MLCer may become curious as to how you are doing so well—especially when he or she feels like they are losing everything and they are spinning out of control.
Saving marriage is what this site is about, so I am sorry that you’ve felt the need to be here, but Welcome.