There was a time when you and your partner felt so in love, and thought so highly of each other, that you wanted to commit yourselves to spending the rest of your lives together.
Can you still remember those feelings? What impressed you about your partner? What drew you together? Memories like this can act like glue when you hit rougher seas and most marriages will experience some turbulent times.
What is it that makes some marriages more likely to thrive than others? I think I can safely say that it is an ongoing sense of admiration and wonder. Admiration and wonder over being together.
There’s an old song that goes, “You’ve lost that loving feeling.” The lyrics and the melody are heart wrenching, especially the part that says, “We had a love, a love you don’t find every day.” A beautiful thing is falling apart. It is a song of deep regret and longing.
The echo of love is ringing through the song. The singer doesn’t want to let go. This kind of love should never fail.
We often don’t see what we have until it is lost. I think of all the divorcees who later say, “If only….”
A break in a relationship can always be traced back to an incident, however small. A conflict or a disappointment. You thought your partner would behave one way, and they behaved another.
Something surprising happened. Something unexpected. Something that cast your partner in a new light, a less positive one.
And, as a result there was hurt. Maybe slight hurt. Or maybe a very deep injury. And, if it was not addressed and resolved, the hurt was carried for days, maybe years.
Chances are that the surprise happened again. And again. Along with other disappointing surprises. They accumulated.
Maybe you didn’t handle the dissappointment so well. People who are hurt often don’t. Perhaps the inciting incident resulted in a vicious circle of blame and recrimination. As a result the pain was multiplied exponentially.
Or. you went off alone, without saying anything, to lick your wounds. You withdrew, as a form of protection, and it became a pattern.
Injury in a marriage is very real and very deep. The one you loved and trusted hurt you. The one you thought would have your back, turned on you. The one you entrusted your life to, suddenly seemed uncaring and insensitive. This is extremely difficult to reconcile because the emotions around the incident are so intense, especially when one person decides that the other person was, or is, uncaring.
This kind of experience can plunge a person into a lonely pit of despair. Often couples don’t know how to climb out of this place and, tragically, in time they give up on the relationship.
You want to catch your relationship before it falls to this low point because your marriage is worth saving
I think the biggest cry in a relationship is, “You don’t get it.” In other words, I wasn’t trying to hurt you. You don’t understand what I need from you. You are getting it wrong.
If we go back and very slowly and carefully unravel our early discord, we will probably find, to our surprise, that the intentions of the other person who hurt us were not as mean as we thought. There may have been some carelessness involved, some inattentiveness, some misunderstanding. But, chances are that there was no malicious intent because malice is something that builds over time, after repeated injury.
He did it again. Or she did it again. Repetition reinforces the thought that the other person does not care.
This is where we begin to lose our wonder and admiration.
Old hurts from other relationships might surface and blur the image of the person you once wanted to marry (a bully, for example, or a harsh parent). Or they lose their glow in light of other idealized images (when compared with a past flame or an attentive parent).
We all want to keep “that loving feeling.” Just, how do we do it?
We have to find a way. We have to believe there is a way.
We need to be creative, and go back, again, and again, and work at resolving issues, trying different approaches.
We have to pray, and dialogue (talk about it). Analyze (pull it apart and look at it and figure it out). We have to target issues. We have to assimilate (add new information and fit it all together) and reframe (put the pieces together differently for a new meaning). We have to agonize and pray some more. We have to reiterate (go back and repeat).
We have to fight. Both partners need to engage in the fight for their marriage and believe they can make this work.
We can get back that loving feeling. It is possible. I have seen it done multiple times.
We were brought together for a reason and we were meant to stay together. We have to keep this vision of a long term future together. We will endure and prevail.
Yes, some relationships have to end. But not yours. Not if you are willing to work on it.
Abuse is the only valid reason to leave a relationship. The unrelentingly unwillingness to work on solutions destroys hope and once hope is gone, the unhappy alternative is to live in a loveless relationship or make an exit. This, however, does not need to be your story. There are plenty of redemptive stories of marriages where the loving feeling was recovered.
If your partner is asking for change, take it very seriously. Because this is your chance to do something that could be the salvation of your marriage. If one partner’s request for change goes on and on, for years without acknowledgement, then the fabric of the relationship will gradually deteriorate. And when your eyes are finally opened, it may be a case of there being too little invested too late. So take the request for change seriously.
Marriage requires requires constant adjustment and willingness to change.
Can you change? Do you know in what exact ways you need to change? Can you openly ask, what do you want from me? Because, it is worth doing what you can to get the loving feeling back.
The loving feeling is what both of you want and need. You must pursue it, consciously, or stand the risk of losing it.