I received a call from someone wanting counseling for their marriage. They were desperate, not knowing what to do. Their marriage was fine – so they thought – up until recently when their spouse informed them things were over. The reason given? “I don’t love you anymore!”
I have had that call on many occasions.
What was to be my advice? Why does this happen? What can you do when this occurs or if you find yourself feeling this way?
Three facts to keep in mind about feelings:
1. Feelings Come and Go.
It is true for all of us.
I remember the first time my “feelings” for my wife were gone. We had been married about 5 years and the feelings we once had were greatly diminished. At times, I was unable to discern if I was feeling them at all. I remember being scared and confused. What was happening?
I knew at one point I loved her and on some level I still did. I just wasn’t feeling it. Why not?
It wasn’t too long thereafter, that the feelings began to return. How was that? What caused the one and then the other? Was there a cause at all? Or was it just a happenstance?
To find the answers we had to keep in mind the next point.
2. Feelings Are Like Indicator Lights.
In the same way that indicator lights on the dashboard of our cars report to us how well (or not) the engine is running, our feelings towards each other indicate how well (or not) our marriage is running.
During the previous months that led up to the moment of realization that my feelings were gone, I had been working nearly 80 hours a week, ironic as it is, starting up a new Counseling Center. Needless to say I was rarely home and when I was, I had very little energy to devote to another relationship. At the same time, my wife had had our first child, Brittany. As every mom knows, having a child is all consuming, particularly the first time through. By the end of the day, Zerrin was exhausted, and had very little to contribute to the marriage. With both of us nearly spent, moody, and less affectionate we weren’t very fun to be around! Any real wonder why the feelings of love had all but disappeared?
What were we to do?
We had to keep in mind the third point.
3. There is a Cause and Effect Nature to Our Feelings.
Remember the last time you put money in a vending machine and you got something out? Cause and effect, right? How about when you put money into the machine and nothing happened? You either lost your money or it came right back out without the product you were wanting. In this case there was a disconnect between the cause and effect. Now is where we get real honest. What did you do – cuss at it? Kick the machine? Or what? No doubt at some point all three! AND by kicking the machine, sometimes you even got your product. But we all know that is not the best way to do it!
Marriage is like a vending machine. You put something in and you get something out. Usually. There are a few important features to keep in mind, however. Both parties have to be “putting in” in order to achieve the effect you both desire.
Also, it matters what you put in. I have dropped coins into a vending machine only to have them return. Upon investigation I realized I was putting in a nickel when I thought it was a quarter!
When we put the wrong things in to our marriage it may not function correctly either. If we do this enough, the marriage stops functioning altogether. Unfortunately we then tend to cuss, or kick, or just go our own way. Forgetting the cause and effect nature to our feelings, we fail to discover what might be wrong, and the answers we need to bring about positive change.
In our case, Zerrin and I were not putting in to our marriage what it needed. The result? Cause and effect. It began to break down and our feeling warning lights started flashing. Fortunately we stopped long enough to evaluate what was happening and discovered the needed changes to make. Reaffirming our time and priorities for each other were the most important factors. Before long, our negative feeling warning lights turned off, the marriage began to run smoothly once again, and good, warm, feelings of love returned.
SO, if you or someone you know is at the place of saying “I don’t love him (or her) anymore,” remember: feelings come and go. They are indicators that something is wrong. Find the cause, make whatever changes YOU can make, and watch for positive effects. They may not come as quickly as you hope or in all the ways you want. Don’t give up. In relationships, there are no guarantees, but you certainly up the chances for positive outcomes in your marriage the more good you pour into it!
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