I recently heard from a wife who told me that she was pretty sure that her marriage was over. Things had been rough for a few years. But, within the last few days, the husband had finally admitted to her that he was no longer attracted to her. This was perhaps the worst thing that the husband might have said. The wife told me, in part: "hearing that he's no longer attracted to me is devastating and tells me that my marriage is likely over. Honestly, I believe that his physical attraction to me was most of what brought us together. Personality wise, we're opposites. Our values and belief systems are mostly different. So, the very strong attraction was really the only thing we had going for us. With that gone, I think we're in big trouble. Is there any way at all that a marriage that was mostly based on chemistry and attraction can be saved? Because if there is, I'm willing to do just about anything to save it."
I believe that the vast majorities of marriages can be saved. I draw the line with cases of physical, verbal, or mental abuse. However, most other issues can usually be worked through, at least in my opinion. And many times, the issues that the spouses think is the problem actually isn't. I suspected the this supposed "lack of physical attraction" ran a little deeper and encompassed other issues. And, this couple had two children who brought them together on a level deeper than any chemistry or attraction possibly could. So, I suspected that the wife was focusing too much on this one issue and neglecting some others. I believed that a shift in focus could make some big changes. I will discuss this more in the following article.
Although The Spouses Involved May Believe That They Married Based On Chemistry and Physical Attraction Alone, This Is Rarely The Case: It's not unusual for people to tell me that they have a marriage that was based solely upon their attraction to one another.
But, often, I turn this around and ask them if they would invest in and then marry someone who looked nearly perfect physically but who had a personality and behaviors that made their skin crawl? Few people would admit to this. Yes, appearance may have been the thing that peaked your interest in the beginning. There is nothing wrong with this. But, if the person's personality wasn't at least somewhat pleasing to you, it's highly unlikely that you would've continued on. It would be incredibly hard to find someone physically attractive when, time and time again, their actions and behaviors grated on your nerves or were unattractive to you.
Very few people would describe their spouse as perfect. Generally speaking, there are some attributes that they adore and others that they ultimately embrace because they love their spouse as a whole and know that all of the attributes combined are what makes their spouse who they are and the person that they love so much. There is nothing wrong with this either.
Finally, the way that your spouse makes you feel is reflected in how you see them. Sure, the wife was probably a knock out when they met, but there were likely other things at play here. The most beautiful woman in the world may just appear downright unattractive to her husband if he doesn't feel understood, loved, and appreciated by her. When two people are deeply connected and bonded, they see the other person through rose colored glasses. They project their positive feelings onto all aspects of the other person (and this includes appearance.) So, I very strongly suspected that the husband was projecting the "rough last couple of years" onto the wife's looks. I also strongly felt that once the marriage started to drastically improve, he would literally begin to see her in a whole new way and this whole "I no longer find you attractive talk" would stop.
Improving The Marriage In A Way That Focuses On What's Inside Rather Than On What Is Outside: I know that the wife assumed that she and her husband had nothing else other than attraction and chemistry. I did not believe this to be true. They had two beautiful children that they both adored more than anything in the world. They had a shared business. They had many mutual friends. They had a lot of time and effort invested in their lives together. And they had a home that they had both built. You dont' build these things if you are invested only in looks.
But, as life became hectic, they had stopped focusing on these things. I did not dialogue directly with the husband, but I would be willing to bet that if I did, he would tell me what the vast majority of men tell me. This is that their wife no longer seems to make the time for them, always seems distracted and negative, and no longer seems to appreciate and understand them. The husband's frustration with this was likely clouding how he felt about BOTH the way she looked and how she acted.
I felt that if this couple focused and placed their attention on reconnecting and THEN addressed their marital issues (many people try to do this too soon) then she would see a big improvement in the outlook on both of their parts. She was somewhat resistant to this because she was very resentful about her husband's comments. And now, she felt badly about herself. She told me: "what's the point? I can do all of these things and he still will think I'm ugly. Why would I put myself out there like this when he's only going to reject me?"
I asked the wife if she really and truly bought that there were drastic changes in her appearance. She admitted that she was sort of coasting along and not paying as much attention to how she looked, but that deep down, she had to admit that she pretty much looked the same. She wondered if she should make any drastic changes. This was her decision of course, but I did not believe that this was optimal. I often tell people to go for the appearance that is going to make them happy as an individual. If she were to make drastic changes only to please someone else, she was going to resent this.
But if she made some very small and subtle changes that boosted her own confidence, then she might be better able to focus on the marriage and be deliberate about it rather than doubtful. In the end, she just decided to update her wardrobe and change her hair and make up somewhat. She felt very positive about this. And she was beginning to understand that the husband likely didn't entirely mean what he was saying, although he might believe that the did.
She finally did understand that he was likely projecting his frustration and disappointment on the relationship and then lashing out at the one thing that he knew meant the most to her – which was her appearance. This was likely specifically meant to get the wife's attention, which it most certainly did.
In short, I believe that any marriage can be saved – even one that was based on physical attraction. But honestly, I very rarely think that this is an entirely accurate characterization.
It took me way too long to realize that I was contributing to this whole unattractive business. It had issues with myself which rubbed off unto him. When I stopped focusing on pleasing him and started focusing on pleasing myself, things changed. Luckily, over time (and taking calculated baby steps), I was able to reestablish intimacy and bring back his love. You can read a very personal story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com.