Being "in love."
How do you maintain it? How do you keep from experiencing what I have heard so many people say. "I love her, but I'm not in love with her". Is it luck? Hard work? A choice?
I have watched many decide to divorce. To admit they have failed in maintaining love for someone they vowed to love. Forever. It feels awful. I know. I have done it myself.
I have also known many who remain married. For whatever reason. Financial. "The kids." Habit. Maybe there is love there, but hardly anything about it feels fresh. Like the love was born today, not years ago.
I like to ask a question in therapy.
"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 are not happy in your marriage.
That's not to say it's hopeless.
1) Maybe you are hanging on to resentment.
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
2) Maybe the two of you have ignored your relationship.
You have put the children or your job first. Always. This is such a common mistake. It's easily justified. "I need to make money so we can send the kids to college." "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..."
Marriage can't take a back seat. It will die a slow death. You have to give time to each other.
3) Maybe you are not happy with yourself.
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 have to confront in yourself what perhaps you don't want to admit. It could very well be about you. You have issues from the past that are governing you. You are struggling with your own worth or insecurities. You aren't who you thought you would be or you are struggling with getting older.
Perhaps it is your marriage but these things need to be considered carefully.
4) You don't touch each other. Literally.
We all may watch a lot of sex in movies and on TV. But there are lots of folks who are too worn out from their daily lives to even hold one another. They 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.
Initially, it was new and exciting. Lust/love is what I call it. Now it may be more intentional.
5) Maybe you haven't laughed in a long time. Together.
I have listened to many people struggle and fight. When they can, at the end of a session, laugh about something, I feel much more optimistic about whether or not they will make it. There's something positive connecting them.
6) You don't have anything you are striving for together.
This happens when people don't talk. Don't realize the importance of having a common goal. Whether it's work in your community, in a church, in your own lives. That goal brings fresh excitement and a sense of purpose to a marriage.
What are the two of you about? What do you care about together? Important questions to answer.
7) You have not accepted the loss nor appreciated the gain.
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 have seen them really sick. Green at the gills. Or pouting. Or irritable. And they have hurt you. Or disappointed you. And you, them.
They have lost that rock-star quality they had at the beginning for sure.
You have been through life together.
Instead, there can exist a depth of feeling and experience that is irreplaceable. To be treasured.
But it can't be new again. It simply can't.
That has to realized. Accepted. And appreciated.
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...).
Perhaps you can find answers that surprise you. Even warm your heart.
I hope so.
You can read more of Dr. Margaret at http://drmargaretrutherford.com. You can also receive a free copy of her new eBook, "Seven Commandments Of Good Therapy", a basic guide to knowing either how to choose a good therapist or to how to evaluate if you are getting good therapy! Just check out her website to see how!
Photo courtesy Deborah Strauss.