Should you divorce when your husband is just a friend?
Many of my clients married their best friend. And this is often trumpeted as a good thing – rightly so in many circumstances. Should you divorce when your husband is just a friend? Of course, you want to be married to someone who’s got your back, who you trust, who you can laugh and relax with.
But increasingly, clients are confessing that rather than falling out of love with their husband, they were never in love in the first place. Their husband was only ever their best friend. Maybe for a time, it seemed like more than that, because that’s what they wanted. Maybe there was a bit of spark at the start, but it’s long gone. Maybe they thought it would be good enough. But now…not so much.
So, if that’s you, should you divorce when your husband is just a friend?
Why did you marry a friend?
Marrying the man you consider to be your best friend is romantic, in all the Hollywood best rom-coms. Think Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding. And I absolutely believe you should be friends as well as lovers with your spouse. You need to like the person you live with, trust them, be able to get along with the mundanities of everyday life, and not want to throttle each other.
But if that’s all he is, and all he’s ever been, you are likely to run into difficulties in your marriage. You will feel like something’s missing, because it is.
Perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time. You got to an age and stage after school/college/university when you felt that you ‘should’ be married and settled. You had a trusted relationship with your now-husband, and worked it up into something it never really was. So, Should you divorce when your husband is just a friend?
Perhaps you’d never felt a real intimacy and passion so you weren’t sure of the difference between loving someone romantically and loving them in a platonic way.
Perhaps you’d had plenty of great sex and passion, but always with partners that treated you badly, and your BFF was always there for you. And when you decided to ditch the bad boys… the good guy seemed like the right way to go.
Perhaps you were older and panicking that you’d miss out on marriage and family so you picked the ‘safe’ option of your BFF.
Should you divorce when your husband is just a friend? Understanding your own motivations will help you figure out whether divorce is the right option for you.
Can he be more than your best friend?
What kind of chemistry do you and your husband have? Is there a sexual desire? Was there ever a sexual desire? Is the chemistry just good mates and banter? Is he now a good ‘business partner’ for ‘Our Family PLC’?
When we are attracted to someone and ‘fall in love’ we enter the state of limerence. What the heck is limerence, I hear you ask? It’s that gooey period in a new relationship when we obsess about our partner and feel that they are ‘perfect’. We want to be with them all the time. We want to be in bed with them all the time. Everything else feels like a drag. They are your oxygen, your everything.
Of course, just like you, they’re not perfect. The candyfloss sweetness of limerence lasts for around 18 months, and then the business of ‘real love’ can begin. Real love still includes chemistry but often not in such an all-consuming way. Connection becomes deeper and you start to build your relationship on a solid foundation of acceptance, giving and supporting rather than focusing on how the other person makes you feel.
Even though the limerence phase ends in all healthy relationships, it’s an important part of the relationship journey. It’s the spark that ignited your connection. If you were only ever just good friends, the lack of a spark in your relationship can undermine your sense of happiness. You want more – you have a longing for something that isn’t there.
Do you feel that he could be more than just a friend?
Try relationship counselling or sex therapy
Ending a relationship is never easy. It’s even harder when your partner was your friend before you got together – particularly if that friendship has a history. So before you call time on your marriage, consider exploring avenues to create the connection you crave. It is possible for chemistry to develop, or reawaken if it’s been long dormant.
Relationship counselling and or sex therapy are safe spaces for you and your husband to learn more about each other. It will take work on both sides, but you can learn the tools to creating deeper connection, relating to each other with more intimacy physically and emotionally.
If you want both want to.
You are not greedy or selfish
Not all of the women who work with me are in abusive high conflict marriages. Many are married to really ‘nice’ and ‘good’ men. They live in lovely homes, have great lives and a husband who respects them.
These women are also lonely, craving intimacy and longing for the spark of relationship.
If you are one of these women, you’ll relate to the feelings of guilt and feeling selfish – after all, you have a great life, right?
The media still loves to push the story that all men crave sexual connection and that women don’t care about sex once they’ve had children. Newsflash – this isn’t true. It’s the 21st century, and tired gender stereotypes like that should be kicked straight out of the bedroom window.
Many of my clients live with men who aren’t interested in sex and don’t want intimacy with their wives – being in a family unit is ‘enough’ for them. They’re in their contented little groove and happy with it. So Should you divorce when your husband is just a friend?
Being the spouse who wants and needs more is lonely and frustrating. But it doesn’t make you unreasonable. You have every right to want a more fulfilling relationship. Wanting more is neither greedy or selfish.
You’ll lose a husband and potentially a friend too
If you divorce you risk losing a friend as well as a husband – the stakes are indeed high. Recognising this in advance will support you to come to terms with the impact of divorce on your future life. You may be letting go of a marriage but also a connection that goes back to adolescence or even further. That’s hard. And what’s even tougher is that you can’t control it.
You can control how you behave, and how you treat your husband – now, during the divorce and after. You might be able to stack the odds in favour of your ongoing friendship. But you will never be in control of how your husband feels or how he reacts.
If you are his best friend, he too will feel a sense of loss deeper than just the ending of a marriage. If you can, address this issue between you – acknowledge the loss and feel the sadness. Use therapy to help you process this, either together or individually.
It may be that your husband will recognise that divorce is a good idea, either immediately, or after the dust settles. Hopefully, you will be able to maintain or find your way back to friendship in some way. This isn’t guaranteed, so be prepared for the fact that you may lose his friendship forever.
And make sure you have other trusted people around you to support you as you ride the emotional rollercoaster of separation and divorce.
The children will be fine
Many of the women I work with marry their friend because they felt that having a good father for their children was more important than finding a man to be ‘in love’ with. These women comment on how great these men are as fathers and how important that relationship is to their children. They consider staying in the relationship because it isn’t ‘bad enough’ to leave.
My question is always: “Is it good enough to stay?”
“But what about the children?” is generally the response.
But what are you teaching your children by staying? They are wiser than you know. Do you want to teach them that it’s ok to live an unfulfilled life, forever putting your happiness on hold for someone else? Or do you want to model knowing what you want, and going after it, with kindness and consideration for everyone around you as well as yourself?
Your children will be fine if you and your husband deal with your separation and divorce appropriately. That means keeping divorce-related discussions away from them and talking to the children together about your divorce with a united message of love and stability for them. Neither of you are divorcing your children,and it’s important they really hear that message.
What do you want for yourself?
When your husband is just your friend, the world can feel like a very lonely place. You feel you should be grateful for the life you have because, well, it could be worse, right? Yes, it could, and you also deserve to be in a happy relationship with a person you’re in love with – if that’s what you want.
Just because you’re not utterly miserable does not mean you have to put up with a marriage that’s not giving you everything you need. Even when he’s a nice guy. (And if he’s a nice guy that increases the odds you’ll be able to have a collaborative, non-combative divorce, which is emotionally and financially the least damaging for everyone).
You cant live your life for anyone but you. Not your children, and certainly not for your husband. Only you have the answers to whether the marriage you have right now is right for you. In my Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves – The Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready, I share my thoughts on how to know if you should leave. You can buy it here.
Coaching for clarity
It’s a myth that divorce coaches like me only work with people who are getting divorced, or that we steer you towards divorce. I want you to feel happy and fulfilled in your life. And that means not being in a bad or under-par marriage.
I am a specialist in divorce and its legal complexities, yes, but I am also a highly trained and experienced coach. That means I work with you to help you understand yourself better, so you can make wise choices about your future. Sometimes those choices mean working through issues with your husband and staying together, feeling the sort of satisfaction you hadn’t dreamed possible. Sometimes they mean facing up to your marriage being over and working out what next so you can live the life you want to.
Should you divorce when your husband is just a friend?
If your husband is just a friend and you are struggling to make sense of where you are at, book an Ask The Alchemist Session with me.
In just 90 minutes I can help you get the clarity you need to make a smart decision for you. Leave the agonising behind, and figure out once and for all whether your husband is the best friend you want and need in a spouse, or ‘just the best friend’ that leaves you wanting.
You don’t need to feel this conflicted. Book in a call now.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com