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You Don’t Love Him But Can’t Leave Him

You feel nothing for your partner – or maybe he even disgusts you. Here’s what to do when you don’t love him, but feel like you can’t leave him.

You Don’t Love Him But Can’t Leave HimRead Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. When we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena – whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, the creative process, or a difficult family conversation. Or, leaving a man you don’t love anymore.

Are you in the same boat as this reader? She says: “I’ve been in this relationship for 7 years. We have a 2 year old son. In the past he cheated on me (a lot).  Now he’s faithful and I’m sooo over him. I keep telling myself if I had a job that could allow me to pay rent on my own then I would break it off. I also sit and think about everything I need him for. I don’t like for him to touch me and his presence annoys me.  I just feel if my life was in a better place he wouldn’t even be in it. I NEED HELP!!!!!!!”

She left this comment on my article about ending a relationship when you’re scared to be alone.

There’s no denying that being alone is frightening and even overwhelming, even if you’ve only been in the relationship for a year or two. I dated a guy for nine months, and was so enmeshed I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him. I knew it was an unhealthy relationship and I’d be unhappy if I stayed with him, but I couldn’t break free. What’s up with that? Fear, insecurity, self-doubt, and even laziness.

When You Don’t Love Him But Can’t Leave Him

Okay, so you’re where I was: you don’t love him, but you can’t leave him. Here’s what I’d do…

Make a list of the things you need him for

I need him to pay the rent, buy food for my kid, and pay the household bills. Maybe I also like the cable TV, internet access, Netflix, pedicures, iPhone, and freedom not to work.

Is money keeping you from doing what you want? Read How to Get Money to Leave Your Husband. Financial independence is one of the most precious, valuable gifts you could ever give yourself. Even if you think your marriage will never ever fail, you could be a widow before you’re ready! If you don’t know how to make money to pay the bills – or even how the bills are paid – then you’re screwed.

Get your own source of income

Money is freedom and independence. Money allows you to make choices and decisions – like leaving a guy you don’t love. But money isn’t everything, is it? Millions of women stay in crappy relationships even though they have money to spare.

When I dated the guy I couldn’t bear to leave, I was working full-time, paying my own rent and bills, and even buying dinners and movies for him. It’s not always money that holds us back, is it?

If you’re worried about after you leave him, read How to Start Over When You Need Money.

Look beyond money for the real reason you can’t leave him

You Don’t Love Him But Can’t Leave Him

When You Don’t Love Him But Can’t Leave Him

You don’t need much money to survive. I’ve lived on less than $15,000 a year. It’s not fun and I didn’t exactly love my life, but I survived. My mom was a single mom, and lived on welfare most of my childhood (she has schizophrenia and couldn’t work).

Money – or lack of it – isn’t the only reason you can’t leave your husband, whom you no longer love.

Tell me your other reasons for staying. Spend 20 minutes writing all the reasons you can’t bring yourself to leave this guy you don’t love. Dig deep. Be honest with yourself.

And, ask yourself what you’d do if you only have a year left to live. Would you stay with a guy you don’t love, or would you pursue a deeper, richer, happier life?

If you’re 100% sure you can’t leave him, read How to Survive a Situation You Can’t Change.

I welcome your thought on what to do when you don’t love him but can’t leave him. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but it may help you to share your experience.

Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.

Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me!

My prayer for all women who don’t love their husbands but can’t leave is for peace and healing. May God guide you to the place you need to be, and help you be the woman you want to become.

17 thoughts on “You Don’t Love Him But Can’t Leave Him”

  1. My boyfriend and I have a relatively complex relationship. I’ve known him for a year and a half now and don’t really like him but at the same time I really really like him and don’t want to imagine a relationship with anyone but him. We have never officially said we’re dating but I refer to him as my boyfriend and he doesn’t seem to mind. The problem with our relationship is we met during a difficult time in my life. I began transitioning a year before we met and was a completely different person. I had a questionable group of friends and spent a lot of time partying not to mention I was going by a different name. He filled my life with something good. At the time I didn’t realize this and only cared about his looks. Since we’ve met I’ve stopped taking hormones as well as partying all together. Now I see him for the good guy he is but feel as though it’s too late. I associate him with the bad parts of my life and often times say nasty things to him. He forgives me and we still talk, still obviously things are not the same – worse even. I’m 23 year old and in good shape but tense up whenever I think of finding someone else. He’s too good for me, more disciplined, more attractive, more everything. I feel so small. Not to mention guilty for being so nasty to such a good guy. We’ve ‘broken up’ a few times and when it happens I seem to lose all hope in living. It’s been 6 months of this. I have a new job now and all my dreams of a future involve him with me. Thank you for writing this article and thank you to whoever is reading.

  2. I have been with my boyfriend for 11 years. We have 3 kids together ranging between the ages of 2-8. He is an amazing guy, amazing parent, he is honestly great. Anyone would want to slap me if I said I do not want to be with him anymore. I honestly do not know why I feel the way I do. I am sad and miserable all the time. I feel like I do not want to be with him anymore, but at the same time I feel terrible for wanting to hurt him. We had a huge fight about 3 weeks ago, he found a message that I sent a male friend and I was flirting with him. He left the house for 3 days an said he wanted to end things. I felt horrible for the first 2 days, I felt like I destroyed my family and the life of my kids. I felt like the worse person in the world. I begged him to fix things and he said no. Then 4 days later we sat down to discuss things and he said he wanted to fix things. I was shocked because by this time I felt like I had found a way out, however, when he said he wanted to fix things I felt like I should give it a try. Things were good for 3 days… I felt like that is what I really wanted, but now I am back to feeling like I want nothing to do with him. But I do not feel like I can leave him… I start thinking about many things like my kids and how I am going to hurt him. How do I fall back in love with someone? I feel so lost and confused but at the same time I feel stupid because I do have the perfect family and I do not appreciate it.

  3. My husband and I met when I was 32. We have been married for 25 years. We have two college age children. My husband has always had issues of low self esteem, OCD, alcoholism and depression. I have dealt with those as best I could over the years. I quit working (as a graphic artist) when our youngest child was 3 and became what I call a “household manager”. While hubby goes to work and makes us financially secure, I do everything else. Everything… I manage the finances, invest, pay the bills, plan vacations, college planning, do all the yard maintenance, cook, clean, grocery shop, make repairs around the house, do remodeling, take care of all the kids’ needs, take care of our 12 animals. I do not get a day off from all these responsibilities unless I leave town… and even then I worry that things aren’t being taken care of. Husband and I have not been intimate in at least 15 years. He has lost interest in doing anything except drinking, smoking pot or sleeping. I have gotten to where I can’t stand him. I’m 58 years old now and feel like I’m trapped with this man. I can’t afford to leave. Thanks for letting me vent.

  4. I have been with my husband for 30 years. I got pregnant at 17 and was pregnant for our second at 20 when we married. I would say it was a good marriage up until we had our 5th late in life child when I was 41. I am now 46 and it has been a difficult 5 years. He is so focused on our youngest, I presume because he wasn’t really there for our older children because he worked more, and that has affected our marriage negatively, almost like I have to compete with my child for his attention, which makes me feel like an idiot. He has changed and I honestly can’t even stand him most of the time. He has become more of a conspiracy theorist, drinks alcohol more, isolates. We have built a good life, good careers (I could take care of myself financially), five children and now two grandchildren, but I feel I have to stay because of the odds we have beat (teen pregnancy, no money, young marriage), like we have overcome so much how can I feel like this. I don’t know if I would ever leave because I can honestly say there are so many times I stayed because of the kids that how fair would it be that our fifth child would have a broken home (all my other children are adults) and now with grandchildren. Is it possible to just exist in the life you have because a choice to leave would have such a negative impact on so many people? Since I was 17 I have lived for someone else and my needs and wants were no longer important, I would feel very guilty to put myself first, but then I am very angry that I don’t, does that even make sense?

  5. I’ve been with my husband for 17 years. For 12 of those years he was always drunk. Always spending all of the money on booze and gambling. Going out all hours of the night. He was very emotionally and verbally abusive. Punched holes in walls smashed out windows..etc. We always fought and it was always bad…in the end even our children were afraid of him. I left him 18 months ago, but took him back with the promise of changing. 6 months later it was the worst it had ever been. So I left him for good…or so I thought. He works away..as in on the other side of the country for most of the year. He came home 2 months ago and slowly each week he was at my place more n more now he’s sleeping at my place. I can do it on my own. I do not love him anymore I don’t miss him, When he hugs me I feel nothing. So why can’t I let him go?

  6. There is no breaking out of a relationship without getting hurt – and without hurting someone you love or once loved. All good-byes are painful, even when you don’t feel the love anymore. All endings hurt, especially when you’ve been feeling like you can’t leave him for a long time.

    It’s difficult to figure out exactly what is holding you in this relationship, but that will be the first step to breaking free. Yes, you don’t want to hurt him. You don’t love him, but you can’t leave him for more reasons than that. Your job is to learn what’s holding you back from moving forward in your life.

    Here’s an article that may help:

    6 Reasons You’re Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship

    Read through those reasons women stay in relationships with men they don’t love…is there anything there that relates to you?

  7. Hay,
    Financially I’m stable enough to care for myself, we live together but it’s not his place nor mine. It’s more of a house we share with two other people. I won’t be able to move out at the moment but I would love to. The reason why I can’t leave him is because I myself do not fully understand the reason for me not loving him, I guess I never truly wanted to be in this relationship from the start but as time went by I really started loving and caring for him. Sometimes I despise his way of doing things. I feel terrible because he has always been so good for me and has done so many things for me that any lady will slap me for wanting to leave him. I just don’t see my happy ending( if there is such a thing) with him.
    I will have to see him everyday as we will still be sharing the same house until one of us can move out.
    I want to break the relationship but when we discuss this I doubt myself due to the fact that I never wanted to hurt him and now I believe that I have completely destroyed him and relationships for him.

  8. I am only 22 years old and just recently had my son (almost 2 months old) with a man that I’m not in love with anymore. I have been abused, lied too, talked down to, manipulated, cheated on and I’m just not happy anymore.. And haven’t been for awhile. I feel like no matter what he does or how bad I want to leave, I can’t and I don’t know why I’m this way. It doesn’t make sense to me or any of my friends/family that I tell my problems to. My biggest fear is my son being in two separate homes.. I don’t want to have to share him or him be away from me at any time. My boyfriend is untrustworthy and I would NEVER trust him alone with our son. He’s a drug addict and will do anything in his power to get drugs. Whether it’s spending our last penny or even pawning his own belongings to get money for drugs. He threatens me and says he will kill me if I was to leave. He’s completely psycho and being with him 2 and a half years, I believe he would try. He doesn’t have his life together by no means. He lost his job recently being high on pain pills and I’m out of work due to me being on maternity leave still so now we’re both jobless with a house, power bill and everything else due and no way of income. He runs from his issues constantly and never wants to admit to doing wrong or to even try to get help. I just hate thinking about me being alone as far as a relationship goes because he’s been here with me every day since 2 years ago. I don’t even wanna think about my son going from home to home because I would never want him alone with his drug addicted dad. I’m just terrified.. But I’m not in love anymore. I feel like I need to be here though. What do I do? Please help me with any advice. Anyone. Thank you.

  9. Hello, Thank you for you site and for the advise you are able to give to so many woman in this awful situation. I too am in a very sad situation. I’m with a man who I have learned after much research on the this subject is a Avoident type personality. I have been through every excuse there is from him on why he can’t love or make love to me. I have cried and I have read any and everything I could possibly read on the subject. We have only been together for 4 years..one of which I lived alone and the rest where we have been together and broken up because of the emptiness I always felt and still feel. I have tried to loose weight and did but nothing changed. I tried to dress sexy and be very sweet and loving, that ddnt work. I have asked why and got yelled at for being a nag. I do not nag him, I rarely bring the subject up, it’s only when I feel like I’m falling apart inside that I bring it up. He hates to talk about it and says it’s my problem and to deal with it. I have never been unloved in a relationship. It hurts. I’m attractive and well liked. I’m a serious type person and loyal to him. He is a good person, just not a loving one. He never touches me and hasent kissed me or made love to me in 2 years. I have tried to work to get a car so I could eventually leave, to no avail, I lost my job. I’m so lonely all the time. No vacation ever! Not even a day by the beach…nothing. No valentines or birthday cards or dinners. Nothing! He buys old cars and restores them, spends thousands doing it and he loves it, it’s his hobbie, and that’s fine it’s just he lays in bed on his phone for hours surfing the net on cars year after year…I asked him finally about when we would ever get married, he said he will never marry anyone, I was crushed beyond words. He never talks about the future or nothing. He’s never been married and has no kids, he just turned 60. From the time he comes home he is in bed till its time to leave for work again the next day. I live in the house all alone besides him snoring in the bedroom. I love him, I always have and that’s what hurts so badly. I want to leave him but right now I can’t. I know how much I will grieve over the break up. I cry just thinking of it. I know that this is the way it will be forever! Nothing will change . I have given up trying to change things, I’m in such disparare, I feel so rejected and like a looser. I have no where else to go! My mother is sick and fighting for her life, I have no family to speak of. I asked him to help me leave as he makes a very good living, but he won’t. He says to find a way to leave if that’s what I want. So I just have accepted it, but I’m dying inside. I’m loosing my will and my hope. I know there a lots of men who would want me, the problem is that I feel damaged and broken and unlovable. I remember when I felt good about myself as a person and a woman. I remember when I felt pretty and sexy and desirable. I remember being a happy woman. Today I feel like a shell, like I want to crawl up with my books and read and drowned the whole world out! I feel as though nothing matters anymore, I daydream of leaving this house and getting my own place but I don’t have the resources or the will power anymore. I know you can’t change anyone in this life and shouldn’t even try, either they love you or they don’t. And if they don’t nothing you do can change that.

  10. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Sue,

    I pray you find the strength and courage you need to leave this man. You don’t love him, and you CAN leave him. You hate your life — and it’s time to say enough is enough! I pray you find healing and power in your life, and that you can leave him because you don’t love him.

    May joy, peace, and faith be yours.


  11. I hate my life. I’ve been married for 19 years. We dated for 5 before we got married. We have been separated twice. Two domestic violence arrests. I don’t work. My son wanted to keep homeschooling. I think it would have been better if I’d left. He says he loves me, but he is controlling and always has to get his own way. We do nothing together. He is off with friends (again) right now. It is 2am. I think he’s cheated on me before. I’ve never found proof. I did find unopened condoms before. I tell him I hate him all of the time. I want to leave him when our son graduates. He has never spent any time with his son. He is disabled and has mental health issues. I am really sick of it.

    1. Sue, I know this post is really old but I’m in a similar situation. MArried 24 years, stay at home mom and just don’t know what to do. 10 years ago I did have an affair. He says he never has but I’ve been told multiple times he has when we were younger. It took him years to finally put the affair behind him. Three years after he found out we had a huge argument and he became violent and I had him arrested for strangulation. He had a no contact order in place for 3 months but after that time we talked and I decided to let him come back home. He’s never been physically violent since then but I feel emotionally he knows how to hurt me. He always wants to have sex or have me send naked photos daily. He never was this way prior to finding out about my affair. It’s to the point I ignore his text request only for him to be mad. I am home alone a lot now that two of our kids are in college and my daughter is in high school. This drives him nuts. I’ve found myself drinking more to get thru all the must be nice to be home instead of working text or the 15 what are you doing text in 6 hours. I’m at my whits end and I don’t know what to do. Our finances are not good. I have babysat for years so I have no outside work experience since 2002. I don’t think I could make it on my own and support my daughter. I just want to breath and feel normal again.

  12. Dear Janie,

    It sounds like you need to decide if you want to stay with your husband the way he is, or leave him. You can’t change him, and you don’t have many things in common.

    Do you love him enough to try to make it work? Is he willing to make any compromises, to make you happy?

    Sometimes the freedom of being independent and happy is worth the pain of living paycheck to paycheck. Are you willing to try to live on your own?

  13. I have being marry 12 years me and my husband has nothing in common he away going doing thing he wants to do I all left behind but I don’t like to go raceing I all ways bulding my life around him we are god parents for this little boy he with me ever week end he love staying here but it all way me takeing care of him he 7 I don’t no what to do I told him I was not happy I don’t thank he belive me when I tell him I want to leave but don’t want to hurt him or the little boy I have no life of what so ever it be hard to cause he does pay most of the bill I work but car payments has to come first I could live be really tight if I could fine some thing cheap what should I do

  14. Thank you for being here. I wish I could give you personal advice — and even a hug! I wish I could help you through this, and see you blossom into a happy, healthy woman.

    What advice would you give yourself, if you were me? What would you tell yourself about your relationship — and yourself?

    You are the expert on you, and on your relationship. The answers are in you.

    What is holding you back from doing what you need to do?

  15. Hi Laurie, I often wonder how I let myself get into the mess of a marriage I have. My husband and I met in college. He was a true challenge, never really giving me to much of his time or energy which somehow was a challenge or familiar in a way. I pursued him and 7 years later we were married. He is extraordinarily unattached, does not connect with me about me or our children. It used to be less obvious as his job involved lots of travel. However he has lost nearly ten jobs in the 13 years we have been married. He is frankly a half asser if that’s a word. I have often heard him say, ” that’s not my job,” which also plies to everything inside, outside and related to ADL’s of child rearing. He is painfully irritable and yells loudly nearly everything,e he speaks. All of this and in my mind I want to pretend it is just fine. I often tell myself that a crummy husband is better than being single and raising 3 kids (who adore their dad for reasons I assume are just natural for young children.) I think if I were to get seriously ill he would not bother to help me. Other people have noticed and remarked to my embarrassment that I do everything and that he constantly critiques me, namely his whole family and mine. I feel horrible that I can’t make this good for my kids and myself. I am fearful of what will happen if O leave this relationship. Will my children resent me and be damaged emotionally, will we be painfully poor, or will I be always gone working. Will I love the rest of my life lonely and unloved, both ways. I feel sad and responsible for creating this situation. Maybe I deserve to suffer because I ignored all hints and thought I could make this a good thing. I don’t feel like I can share with anyone I know. I would be ashamed of how we look like a nice family but it is me running around fawning smoke and putting up mirrors. Can any of us be better of I leave?

  16. Dear Laurie, I really need some advice. I’ve been dating a man for 2&1/2 yrs now & it seems to be getting worse. He lives alone & we live 40 min. away from each other. I only see him on weekends because he isn’t willing to meet during the week. I’ve caught him in lies before & i’m struggling with trusting him. Over the last months i have found out that both his ex wives contact him & he feels i’m wrong to be upset. He didn’t have kids with either of them so i don’t get the need to be. I’m not aloud to keep anything at his house & gifts or cards i’ve given to him he puts them in a drawer. He says he loves me & no one else & I’m the only one that comes there. So why hide things? I gave him a picture of us & its no where to be found said he lost it. When i try to talk to him about us he is vague & chances the subject. I love him but i don’t believe he is in love with me. We only have sex twice a month if that but worse than that he seems to struggle to even hold me. Last weekend when i was there he never held me, haven’t seen him for a week at that point. He acts like he saw me an hour ago. I have asked him why our parents haven’t met or my sons have never been invited to his house, & only get ” i don’t know”. For Christmas & Easter we were suppose to be together but didn’t. I only get to talk to him on the phone at night before he goes to bed. When i’ve tried to call him at different time i’ve interrupted him or he is busy. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

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