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What to Do When You Stop Loving

Last March, I answered this question on Quora:
If you are married with a kid, but you and your wife do not love each other, what should you do?

Twitter tweet by Quora: Awesome Quora answer @married

My answer:
Love your kid's mother. It's the greatest gift you could ever give your child.

Regardless of your emotions toward her, be as generous, forgiving, caring, brave, fair, trustworthy, nurturing, helpful, complimentary, and welcoming as you possibly can. Use every ounce of your creativity, everything you have ever learned to find ways to make your child's mother feel welcome in your life.

Smile a compassionate smile when you are around her.

Ask everyone who knows her to remind you of her best qualities.

Do not let disagreements get in your way of loving her for what you agree on.

Let go of your expectations of what she would do if she loved you. Stop tapping your toe waiting for anything. Pay attention instead to all the good things she gives you, does for you, says to you, does with you, or does to make your body feel great. Savor each one.

What would you change about yourself if you divorced? Unless it will break your vows and your child's heart, do it right now. Lose weight, get in shape, write a book, go out for a beer with your friends, take a trip your wife wants no part of, give your kid a second bedroom and fill it with furniture and toys that are even nicer than what they have now, give them two sets of gifts at every holiday, take twice as many vacations with them, and never eat another brussels sprout.

Should unhappy parents ever divorce? Sure. But the ones who should are unlikely to describe their situation as "you and your wife do not love each other." This is just the very common trough between when you love because you feel loved and the day you feel loved because you chose to love.

While in this trough, you feel frustrated. You want to love and be loved. You can tell your kids are getting cheated, and you imagine it would be better for them to have the two of you happy again, even if it is because you are loved by and loving people they don't give a hoot about. You think it would be better even if you were happy elsewhere and they still lived in their current home, even if their other beloved parent were bitter.

The trough is a horrible place to be. But most marriages come out the other side. They come out when one spouse makes an effort to love again or lets go of believing only divorce would remove the constraints they see on their current life and start being themselves again. The other side of this trough is a very nice place to be.

Have you come through the trough? Did your parents? Add a comment about it. Help anyone who might be coming through the trough now.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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