Being “in love.”
I have heard so many people say, “I love her, but I’m not in love with her.” Or, “I don’t remember when it was I stopped loving my husband that way. But it’s gone.”
Why does this happen to some couples and not others? Is it luck? Hard work? A choice?
I have watched many decide to divorce, admitting that they’ve failed in maintaining a love for someone they vowed to love forever. It feels awful.
I know; I’ve been there myself.
Many remain married for any number of reasons that don’t reflect undying devotion or being glad he or she is the one you’re going home to. What are these reasons? Money. “The kids,” Habit. Religious beliefs. Fear of being alone. Fear of what others might think. An addiction to the bitter fighting of an emotional rollercoaster. Or pure inertia.
A question I like to ask? “Knowing all the things you know now, why would you marry your partner today? What would cause you to say “I do” all over again?”
If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s pretty likely you aren’t real happy in your marriage.
That’s not to say it’s hopeless. There are steps you can take to help build and maintain the love you’re currently experiencing, or help you reconnect to the feelings you and your partner once held for each other.
1) If you’re hanging onto resentment, search for forgiveness. You’re the one who will suffer the most from bitterness.
Forgiveness is essential in a long-term relationship. I know I have both given it, and received it in my own. Bitterness is something that kills not just a relationship, but the soul of the person who feels it. Think about issues that you’re unnecessarily holding onto that drive a wedge between the two of you, and work on putting them behind you so that you can be in the now with your partner.
2) If you’ve ignored your relationship, it badly needs your attention. Now. In the present. Not later. Not after the kids are gone.
Have you always put put the children or your job first? This is a common mistake, and one that is easily justified, “I need to make money so we can send the kids to college.” Or, “I am so busy getting the kids to all their activities, I don’t have time to do anything else.” “I am incredibly tired after working all day…” Sound familiar?
Those are excuses, not reasons.
Marriage can’t take a back seat or it will die a slow death. You have to give time to each other.
3) If you’re not happy with your own life, work on self-esteem. Don’t allow yourself to involve someone else or compare yourself to others on social media.
You have to confront things about yourself that perhaps you don’t want to admit. Perhaps the problems in your marriage are more about you as an individual and don’t have much to do with your partner at all. Maybe you have issues from the past that are governing you. You’re struggling with your own worth or insecurities. Your life isn’t where you thought it would be or you are struggling with getting older.
This is hard to see especially if you become attracted to someone else; then it really gets messy and painful. Affairs are frequently about believing that someone else holds the power to make your life what you have always thought it could be. Well guess what? You actually hold that power.
You could also be comparing your and your partnership with what others look like on social media. Big, big mistake. Social media isn’t reality. It’s folks presenting what’s cutest, funniest, most loving, or, horribly, will gain the most social media attention. Yuck.
You and your partnership will never live up to that.
4) If you don’t touch each other, literally, know it will be awkward at first. Talk with your partner about reinitiating touch — slowly but with intention.
Initially in your relationship, that lust/love was new and exciting. Now intimacy may be more intentional, or it may not be happening at all. There is lots of sex in movies and on TV, but there are plenty of folks who are too worn out from their daily lives to even hold one another platonically, let alone intimately.
Couples can forget that touching and making love are ways to connect and re-energize in a unique way. You can learn that again; it may be awkward but it’s possible.
5) If you haven’t laughed in a long time, find the lighter side of life, and share. Don’t forget you need to play together to stay happily together.
I have listened to many people struggle and fight during a therapy session; when they can still laugh about something, I feel much more optimistic about whether or not they will make it. There’s something positive between them, a connection that contains a lightness and speaks to your shared history. Perhaps bringing some levity back into your conversations can help you find that playfulness you used to share.
6) If the two of you are passing ships in the night, know it’s vital to feel partnered — to have at least one common goal that interests both of you, (Psst… not the kids…)
This happens when people don’t talk and don’t realize the importance of having a common goal. What are the two of you about? What do you care about together? Where is your sense of partnership? These are important questions to answer; whether it’s work in your community, in a church, or in your own lives this goal can bring fresh excitement and a sense of common purpose to a marriage.
7) If you’re focused on what’s not there any more, you’ll miss what what is there — the deeper understanding and value of years together.
If you have been together for a while, in all likelihood, you have had experiences that have “de-romanticized” your partner, to say the least. You’ve seen them really sick. You know that irritating sound her throat makes when she eats too fast. You can almost imitate the way he blows his nose in the morning. You’ve watched as the other one pouted, got mad over something inconsequential, or seemed to deliberately pick a fight with you. They’ve disappointed you, and you’ve disappointed them.
They have long lost that rock-star quality they had at the beginning, because you have been through the nitty gritty together. However, there can exist a depth of feeling and experience that is irreplaceable and far more of a treasure that the rock-star glam. But it can’t be new again. It simply can’t. That has to realized, accepted, and appreciated because what is gained in return is incredibly valuable.
So what would cause you to marry your partner all over again? Even knowing what you know now? (Remember, they are answering the same question…).
I hope you find answers that warm your heart.
Click here for “Marriage Is Not For Chickens,”the gift book by Dr. Margaret! It’s perfect for engagements, anniversaries, weddings, or for the person you love!
You can hear more about depression and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly posts as well as her podcasts, plus Dr. Margaret’s eBook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”