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How to Know if You`re Really in Love/Soon to be ex wife wants to remain friends


Hi there

I have recently separated with my wife of 10 years. We have to daughters, 4 and 8. We both still own our home and will keep it for the sake of the kids.
The last 2 years of our marriage has been difficult, my wife has not felt  appreciated, unattractive and take for granted. I had issues with my eldest daughter not relating to me and the final straw was my wife finding porn on my computer. I have now rebuilt my relationship with my daughter, we are great and I have stopped watching porn and treat my wife how I should have done.

Living together after she filed for divorce was hard. She wanted space and resented me being around her. Now that I have moved out, she feels sad that the dream is gone but now wants to build a friendship with me. We have had some good days together as a family. She wants me to see the kids as much as possible and we are spending the weekend doing stuff. She feels that we are appreciating and respecting each other now more than we have done for years. She says that marriage is not necessary if we can honor each other the way we are now.

My problem is this. I am devastated at loosing her and not living with my family. I want to reconcile with her but feel that being her friend and going along with this new found euphoria that she is feeling is not right. I know we have to get on for the sake of the kids but am worried that I may be waiting around forever. It is still early days and from being an ice maiden to chatting to me again is a big shift, but what can I do to make her feel more romantically towards me? She seems absolute in seeing the divorce through to the end and describes this as a new chapter where we can have an even better relationship than before?!...but as friends? I just want a normal loving and intimate relationship and will give this time but for how long? Please advise.

Dear Andy,

Thank you for writing. It's not easy, so first off, congratulate yourself for having the courage. It is a step toward being bigger than yesterday. We all grow in sharing.

I don't know your wife and I don't know you, so I will go on what you have told me and try to help.

There are several ways to look at this, but first you must look at yourself; why do you want to keep your wife as your spouse? In Zen there is a thing called the koan ('wadu' in Korean). It is a question a teacher asks a student so that the student must open his or her mind to a conundrum. Often in relationships we feel we are facing a conundrum, so why not do what the Zen master does? Ask, 'What is this?'

The problem is, in relationships, we often think we are hearing double-speak. 'Is she saying what she means?' Well, before we can determine this, we should ask what WE mean. That is why I asked why you want to be with her as husband and wife. I ask because you didn't treat her like a wife, before--that is how you arrived at this situation, right? I mean, even if you thought everything was okay, she did not, right? So, even if you were doing the best you could, she felt you weren't. So, I am not blaming you, or taking her side--I am listening to what you have said. I am helping you see the situation, I hope.

Relationships go awry for multiple reasons. Often the main reason is self-delusion--on the part of both partners. But it does not matter. Wheather the participants do not see eye to eye because they are deluded or not, the result is the same.

So ask yourself:

1. 'What is this--my feeling?; do I want her because I am losing her and so am reacting out of instinct, or do I love her and want nothing more but to spend my last days with her?

2. 'What is this--her wanting to be friends?' Does she love me, but feels she has to start over, or is she being kind and wanting to stick out a relationship for the benefit of the kids and human kindness and the need for a bridge to the next relationship? You know her, basically. How does she play? Or, has she changed?

You actually know the answer. Sit in meditation to find it, if it is not clear; That is, if you cannot see it already.

I spent years in devastating heartbreak. I had no children, like you have, and I was not married to the girl I had been estranged from, but the loss of the relationship was so hard that I basically became more or less a recluse. What allowed me to find happiness was coming to terms with reality. Now, don't interpret that in a cliched way. Interpret it this way: Reality is not that she is gone. It is not that she is not gone. It is--as the mafiosi say--what it is. In this moment. So, you have her and you don't.

The good thing is, she wants to be friends. That's what you were when you started, whether you call it that or not, right--only now, you have an incredible bond: your marriage, whether it ends or not. That will never change, even in divorce: you were married. You also have children. This links you beyond death, into history. So, you can build on this, if you want, and if she wants.

Be a gentleman. Be a Zen master, taking in each moment and seeing it for what it is (not for what people say it is--even what I say it is). Be kind. Be patient. Be a great friend, and when appropriate, give that compliment. Offer that gift. Listen. Really listen. Be a pillow and a blanket. Be a fan and a roof. Don't be a sports coplex or a launch tower--yet. Just be there. And, be absent, too. Fragrence, not air. Pictures, not wall paper.

You are on a new journey. Take it step by step. You may find, with the newness of this, that when you ask "what is this?', you get surprising answers. you may not want it any more, yourself, when you discover whom she is becoming. Or, you may find that she is scared and testing you. You may discover why you were the way you were--which, according to you, caused this. Did it? Was it all you? Either way, be cool, and do not indulge in fantasy--negative OR positive. Just be, and be the best you can.

Some say to get a woman back we have to be at least what we were when we first met. That can be hard, since sometimes we are part fantasy--created by her. But hey, you can only be yourself. If she is honest and you have fallen, and it is not that she has moved on, she will stay in love with you when she sees your improvements and that you have gotten up--and stronger than when you had hit the ground. If she does not, you may find she was a bigger part of the problem than you had though, and you the lesser one.

Respect yourself. Respect her. Be there for her, but not too much.

And then, when things are more neutral, peaceful, working according to the new aggreement, you can even ask her: What is this? And tell her then, that you love her and cannot live without her--if that is the truth--the answer to the "what is this" in you.

My ex once said something to me I will never forget: "Don't do for me what you think will make me happy; do what you know will make me happy."

Try that. She will respect that.

Let me know what you think, what you feel and what happens.

How to Know if You`re Really in Love

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Mando (Carl Atteniese Jr.)


I've read, thought, written, and taught about love for over eleven years. I've had thoughtful love-oriented relationships only--for about twenty-eight years. I struggle endlessly to be a supremely thoughtful, compassionate, fair, and empirical thinker. This is crucial. I believe in the feeling and process of love. This is also crucial. As an artist, a poet, and an essayist--as a teacher of ESL in other cultures--I have had ample opportunity for the analysis of love... personally and inter-culturally, and this has made my introspection and analysis of relationships--with original ideas and those of my favorite psychotherapists--very fruitful. I will tell you three things, which will help you now--before you even write to me: To have true love in yourself and with another, you must: 1. Be Free. 2. Be Adult. 3. Be Honest. 4. Be Disciplined. 5. Find numbers 3~5 easy, because you are overcome with love. 6. Be willing to do virtually anything reasonable (and many things unreasonable from the point of view of others).7. Never settle (in other words, be with someone you do not love), thinking that you will grow into love. 8. Never take a match made by another; your heart and mind must choose your love--period. 9. Never allow yourself to be put into temptation--ever (this is also natural--if you are in love). 10. Be able to listen like you never listened before--to yourself and to your beloved. 11. Love humanity--both the conditions & qualities, and all people.


I've been fortunate to have helped many people around the world and I love to do it. I will be happy to help you, too--no matter whom you are. If I am busy or unable to help you right away, consider these books to help you help yourself--until I can respond: "Being Happy", by Andrew Mathews; any books by Dr. Wayne Dyer; "The Art of Loving", by Dr. Erich Fromm; "Love", by Leo Buscaglia, "True Love", and "Anger", both by Thich Nhat Hanh. Also Read "The Beloved" and "The Prophet", both by Khalil Gibran. Read "The Road Less Traveled" and "People of The Lie", both by Dr. M. Scott Peck.... Learn more about me at

Amnesty International Partner of Conscience (, Union of Concerned Scientists ( and (htp://

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Certificates in recognizing violence in the home and child abuse, in preventing violence in school. Raised with an emphasis on loving all people and to be politically active. Studied Zen at Hwa Gye Sa Temple, Han Maum Zen & Culture Center, and The Buddhist English Library of Seoul, in South Korea. Taught seventeen years in the US and South Korea. Teacher Training in the U.S. at Berlitz and the Center for English Studies, NYC, and at Inlingua, Princeton. Studied Drawing, Photography, and Painting at the School of Visual Arts, NYC, and basic Psychology at Nassau Community College, Long Island. Fifteen years of experience teaching English as a Second language--many of those years abroad--has helped as well, as people from other cultures help us see ourselves and other human beings in a different light.

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My reward is knowing I have helped people.

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