When I Don’t Feel Love For My Spouse

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When I Don’t Feel Love For My Spouse

By Steve Cornell

A woman once told me that she planned to leave her husband because she “just didn’t love him anymore.” I asked her to change the way she worded what she planned to do so that her decision could be understood accurately. I asked her to say it this way: “I am choosing to no longer value my husband and to break my commitment to remain faithful to him.”

She declined to word her decision this way but insisted on using terms that made her appear to be a victim of feelings she could not change. She also thought her decision was actually virtuous in its honesty and in her refusal to be a hypocrite.

Being and Behaving in Love

When performing weddings, I raise this question: “What is it that draws people together to be married?” Most answer with one word: love. Yes, love draws us together. But what is love? Is it something we can fall into and fall out of? Is it chemistry? Infatuation? Is it an emotional response or a choice?

Over the years, people have told me they want to be married because they love each other. I’ve also had people (like this woman) tell me that they want out of their marriage because they no longer feel love for their mate.

This has led me to ask some serious questions about the nature of love. In my evaluation, I’ve concluded that we need to distinguish two dimensions of love.

Being in love. This dimension is the emotional attraction of love. It’s what people mean when they speak of “falling in love.” It’s usually based on more superficial reactions to appearance and first impressions. Clearly, it’s a natural part of human attraction. Though not necessarily wrong, it’s not enough to sustain a meaningful and lasting relationship. It’s far too superficial. Deeply satisfying relationships are built on the second dimension of love.

Behaving in love. This dimension does not depend on feelings and chemistry. It’s the love of volition. It’s the choice to respond to my mate in a loving manner, regardless of feelings. This dimension of love is a choice to value my mate and seek his or her best. While I can’t always make myself feel a certain way, I can always choose to act in a loving way.

In the context of marriage, the distinction between these two dimensions is very important to understand. Most relationships start with a high dose of the being dimension of love and, in most relationships, this feeling diminishes with time. When this happens, the key to keeping the flame of love burning is not pursuing a feeling but deciding to value the other person and be devoted to his or her best—no matter what one feels.

It’s a choice to act in love even when we don’t feel love. I realize that to many people this sounds almost like a great sin. It sounds as if I am advocating some form of dishonesty but, surprisingly, when we choose to love, the feelings often follow the actions!

Cultural Barrier

We must confront a cultural barrier that threatens this understanding of love. Our culture sends a strong message telling us that above all else, we must be true to our feelings. To do anything else, we’re told, would simply be dishonest and hypocritical. So it has become a mark of good character to be true to your feelings.

This cultural ethic is often used to give people a false sense of virtue when breaking deep commitments. By “avoiding hypocrisy” and “being honest enough to admit the loss of feelings,” they feel justified—perhaps even virtuous—in breaking their wedding vows.

There is a deep and self-destructive deception in this line of reasoning. It implies that we are somehow victims of our feelings, incapable of mastering them. Feelings come and go with changes in the weather.

But do you go to work only when you feel like going? Do athletes or great musicians only practice when they feel like it? We simply cannot live a healthy and productive life if we let our feelings master us. This is especially true regarding relationships.

If we hope to experience deep and lasting relationships as intended by God, love must be understood as an action more than a feeling.

Remember that God demonstrated his love for us not because we are a warm, lovable group of people whom he could not resist. Instead, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the kind of love husbands are commanded to show toward their wives (Ephesians 5:25).

Reflect often on this distinction between being in love and behaving in love. Use this for conversation as couples, in small groups, and with those preparing for marriage.

Reflect also on the best definition of love available to humanity.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a)

If you are struggling with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Who is the Mature One in Your Marriage?

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Who is the Mature One in Your Marriage?

By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

It is much easier to sit back and say, “Well Emerson, I would be more loving if my wife was more respectful!” Or, “Why should I show my husband respect when he is treating me in an unloving way?”

Of course it is easier to be obedient to God in our marriage when our husband or wife is also being obedient. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

So who goes first?

My answer: the mature one.

How do you know if you are the mature one? Let me put it this way.  I can tell you if you are the immature one.

The immature person uses this information not to change themselves, but to try to change their spouse. Their whole mindset is to get their spouse to be more loving or respectful rather than trying to be more loving or respectful themselves. They do not believe that they have the power to influence their spouse, but instead see their spouse as having all the power to influence them. Therefore they must change their spouse in order to be happy.

The immature person lacks obedience to God’s commands. Instead their mission is to get their spouse to obey God’s command toward them. Bottom line, the Lord will not honor that and a spouse is not going to respond to that any more than if the roles were reversed.

The mature person, on the other hand, will do their part to improve the marriage, even if it means putting their own feelings aside. They will choose obedience to God’s commands over their own feelings and over their circumstances. That’s because they understand the nature of God:  He is a good God, whose commands are given to help us, not to harm us.

Let me also add that the mature one does not tell their disobedient spouse that they are immature. Nor do they throw it around that they are doing all of these loving or respectful things because of their maturity. That would be immature – and counterproductive! Shaming or condemning your spouse for their immaturity is really a reflection of your own immaturity. The mature spouse displays their loving or respectful actions with a humble heart.

Which are you in your relationship?  The mature one – or the immature one?

If you have hesitated to step out in faith and honor God in your marriage, trust His word and His character. Trust that He would not ask you to do something foolish. He is too wise for that. Be the mature one and make the first loving or respectful move. It could change everything!

-Dr. E

If you would like help with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Loving and Liking in Marriage

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“A strong marriage requires choosing to love each other even in the moments when you struggle to like each other.” (Marriage 365)

If you would like help in your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Helping Older Adolescents Evaluate a Love Relationship

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Helping Older Adolescents Evaluate a Love Relationship

By Carl E. Pickhardt

(For the full article go to Psychology Today)

Actual love relationships become more frequent in older adolescence, during the high school and college age years.

Before that, “love” is more frequently confused with crushes. These are idealized projections on another person that result in a romantic attraction, mostly of the fantasy kind, which is why most crushes fail the test of reality and do not last.

It’s when loving feelings for and from another person motivate the desire to continue and deepen this attachment that it can become increasingly challenging and confusing to navigate.

The more caring the relationship grows, the more complicated to manage it becomes. Intimacy is demanding that way. And because love is such a dominant emotion, it is easy to lose perspective on what is happening  and to lose judgment about what to do.

It is when a young person is feeling frustrated, uncertain, confused, injured, or ambivalent in her or his attachment that parents of the empathetic and non-judgmental kind can be of supportive use. They can give the young person some frameworks for considering the nature and conduct of a healthy and loving relationship to help inform understanding and to guide decision-making.

To that end, what follows are several aspects of such relationships to which parents might want to speak: Treatment, Sharing, and Mutuality.

 

If you would like help with your older adolescent, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk to a coach or counselor.

Choosing to Love Day after Day

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If you would you would like help with your choices to love, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Labels and Respectfully Confronting Friends

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Labels and Respectfully Confronting Friends: Ask Joy

By Joy Eggerichs Reed

Hi Joy,

I have a dude friend who I really respect and appreciate, but who often complains about how lonely he is and how “all women suck.” It’s really frustrating to hear over and over again, but I’m not sure how to approach him. If I confront him at all he gets defensive.

On one hand, I can understand that he’s coming from a place of hurt and pain. On the other hand, I hate to hear him putting females down and not taking responsibility for his own actions. I really want to be respectful towards him, but every attempt seems to fail! Helpppp!

—Brittany

My Response:

You are a great friend, Brittany!

You’re seeking to understand how to graciously confront this guy, even when he probably doesn’t deserve your empathy after all his put downs towards females. (That’s the unnerving part of grace— giving someone a gift that they don’t deserve, but that gift can also be the thing that transforms a person.)

Communicating happens most effectively when we can get to the root of why someone is behaving a certain way.

When we find that pesky little talon buried in the ground, it can often lead to empathy on our end.

The root for this dude? His pain. I’m guessing he’s been burned by some ladies…

Sometimes when we’ve been wounded by people, it’s easier to put a label on them because it helps us make sense for why we feel so hurt.

When we give a label, we feel less confused… 

She may say, “Oh, of course he never called me back. That’s because he’s a lying lunatic.”

Or he might say… “Yeah, she couldn’t be trusted. Crazy is written all over that face.”

Sometimes we even take the more concerned approach to labeling…

Where she’ll say,“I mean, it makes sense— look at the family he comes from.”

Or he’ll ask… “You know what happened to her when she was younger, right?” 

I would even argue that labels like this can be beneficial for someone’s healing.

They can be the catalyst for someone getting help, and a starting point if they hear someone lovingly say, “You were abused.” “You were manipulated.” “You were betrayed.”

I think the gauge for figuring out if the label is right or wrong is to figure out who the label is for.

If the label is motivated out of a hope for genuine healing—for ourselves and for others—then the label is good.

If we label in order to make sense of our own pain, or to make us feel less crazy, less confused and more in control, then our motivation is wrong. That type of labeling can permeate our spirit if it goes unrecognized.

Recently my father said, “Bitterness is like taking a poisonous pill and hoping the other person will die.” He wasn’t the original person to say that, so when I googled it, I found similar quotes from Nelson Mandela and actress Carrie Fischer.

(I’m gonna go ahead and let Princess Leia get the credit.)

If labels don’t lead us to deeper grace and understanding, then they probably just do what you sense your friend is doing— putting the blame on others instead of taking responsibility for his own part to play.

He will get defensive if you challenge him because he probably feels safer staying upset. His generalizations of women help him feel justified in his hurt. If he let down his defensiveness for a moment, he might have to face his hurt and that scares him.

Now, do I suggest you read him the above paragraph and tell him he is scared of pain and on the verge of a break down? No.

You hold great power and effectiveness in how you challenge him.

So here is what I suggest:

1. Go to worst-case scenario—he may not listen to you. You may need to consider dropping it because he might not be at a place of receiving feedback. (Remember, he’s a free agent.)

2. 2 Timothy 1:7 is truth I cling to as a believer when I need to confront people on tough topics.

3. A pseudo scenario to play out in your head:

 “________, Can I talk to you about something I’ve been thinking about?”

(Give him a chance to say “yes” or “no.” If he says “yes,” then he already has a posture that invites your words, as opposed to you just stating your thoughts from left field.)

“I’m obviously your friend because you know I think so highly of you.  I respect how you _______, _______ and ______.”

(Insert acts of service you see him doing, his work ethic or how he treats his family or guy friends. Because remember, “respect language” is not respecting someone’s behavior, like grace, it’s a gift. Recognizing that many men respond to language like this can lead them to them to trust that you are really for them.)

“Because of the type of man I know you to be, and the man I assume you desire to be, I feel like you can handle me challenging you a little. I’m not sure you realize it, but you have been super negative about women lately. It feels like you think all women suck and in case you missed it, I am a woman.”

(Pause…)

“I know you’ve been burned by some of “my kind,” (smile, laugh or keep it light in a way that you guys are familiar with) but that attitude you hold towards women seeps through you. I appreciate you letting your guard down with me, but I think if others heard you they would see a misrepresentation of the man I know you to be.” 

(Pause… he might say something…)

“So my request and challenge is to maybe try and shift your perspective. Try looking at women through the lens of women like me, instead of the women who have hurt you. I think you will find that they might even become more attracted to you because they won’t get the impression that you think they suck as human beings. (haha.) I mean, who wants to date a guy who thinks all women are crazy?!?”

(And then just go crazy.)

End scene.

From my crazy-labeled heart,

Joy

Great Marriages Don’t Happen By Accident

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Happy and fulfilling marriages don’t happen by accident. If you choose to love each other intentionally every day, you will find a wealth of emotional connectivity and mutual strength as your marriage is tested by life’s difficult times.

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5 Ways To Cultivate Intimacy In Your Marriage

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5 Ways To Cultivate Intimacy In Your Marriage

By Jennifer Smith

Intimacy is a vital part of marriage. It is through intimacy that a couple creates connection and a deep bond that far exceeds any other relationship one could have.

It is important that we intentionally cultivate intimacy in marriage. There are many different ways a husband and wife can do this. It takes time, energy and effort, but if you are intentional about it, your marriage will benefit and grow.

Many people associate the word intimacy with sex. Although sex is an intimate act a husband and wife can enjoy together, there are other ways to cultivate intimacy as well. Sexual intimacy is very important, but so are these other intimate acts.

5 Ways To Cultivate Intimacy In Your Marriage:

1. Pray Together

Praying together can seem intimidating, especially if you are not comfortable praying out loud. However, this is one of the most intimate things you will ever get to share with your husband. So gather up the courage and pray with your man! Pray for your marriage, your family, and your future! Praying together builds intimacy because you are vulnerably exposing your heart, not just before your husband, but to God at the same time.

2. Converse With Each Other

This does not mean just talk to one another, rather it means to find a relaxing atmosphere to give quality time to communicating with each other. Be intentional about removing distractions. Make eye contact, share your heart with him, and take time to just listen. Things that you can discuss include the condition of your marriage, goals, issues you may need to resolve, and things God is teaching you. Quality communication fosters intimacy in marriage!

3. Eat Together

Our fast-paced culture tends to fill up every ounce of our time. Learn to slow down and keep your priorities, priorities! Sit together and enjoy a meal with your husband. This can be as simple as a light lunch or you can really set the mood by lighting candles and setting the table nicely. We were made to enjoy food and what better way to nourish your body than doing so alongside your husband. Use the time you have to bless your husband by making his favorite meal! One of the most intimate settings Jesus experienced with His disciples was sharing Passover with them! Eating together fosters intimacy because it shows you care enough to slow down and enjoy the time you have been given, it encourages community, and it usually creates an atmosphere of peace.

4. Play Together

Experience joy, laughter, excitement, and fun as you play together. You can play with your spouse through games like keep away with the remote, tickle torture, water fights, clean pranks, or actually sport games. Playing together keeps your relationship fresh as you are energized by laughter and happiness. Playing together will stimulate your mind and your heart. Playing together cultivates intimacy in marriage because it includes physical touch.

5. Go On Adventures

Just like playing together, going on adventures will stimulate your mind and your heart. Go on adventures together may be trying a new restaurant, going on a hike, traveling out of state, going on a mission trip, or taking a drive. This will cause you to communicate as you experience new things around you! Be creative and explore with your husband as often as you can! Remember these do not have to be expensive, it may just be a walk down a street you have never been down before. As you learn to trust each other through your adventures and the excitement of experiencing new things is intimate because it will draw you closer to each other!


If you would like more help in cultivating intimacy in your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

3 Things I Have Learned While Being Single

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3 Things I Have Learned While Being Single

By Joy Eggerichs

I realize that my generation resists anything that is “3 steps to ________.”  It seems too “packaged” or “consumeristic.”  My apologies.

In thinking about the things I have learned while being single, I wrote some of them down.

This created a list.

That list happened to consist of three things.

Are you seeing the natural progression?

Next time I will let my post be more “organic” and “holistic.” Then we can dialogue.

But back to my list…

1) Work at being content, even when you don’t feel it.

If I’m not content in my singleness I probably won’t be content in marriage. (i.e. like George and Gwennie)

My mother has taught me this and it makes sense.  It’s easy to idealize the things we don’t have or the seasons we aren’t living in.  We look at Facebook and think, “Wow, that person’s life is so much cooler than mine.”

In that moment we have a choice.  We can either let discontent breed in us, or we can be realistic about the situation at hand. For example, Bill and Nancy aren’t posting the photos of the two hours their baby spent in a blood curdling scream.  Or the status update doesn’t read, “Joy Eggerichs is spending Friday night crying in the fetal position.”

Okay, maybe once.

I remember last spring hearing about a woman who had just gotten married and was freaking out about not being able to leave an event when she wanted.  She had to now consider her husband. The patterns and personality we develop in our singleness won’t go away when we get hitched.

Walking home that spring day I expressed gratitude to God for the freedom I had in my singleness…freedom to go and leave as I please.  But should marriage come, I vowed to remember the feeling of yet again going home and still not having anyone to hug me.  Married people often forget the things they have, but once longed for.

That day I chose to strive for contentment, no matter the season.

2) Focus on who you are becoming and learn to give some grace.

So often we are “looking” for the right person and yet my father always reminds me that it’s more important that I “be” the right person.  I don’t think he means striving for perfection as much as he means a shift in focus.

Have you ever written or made a mental list of what you want in a person?

I have. Multiple times.  It’s in a diamond encrusted silver frame. So what?

This can be a healthy reference point.  Especially when you think you’re in love with the girl from the Verizon stand in the middle of the mall because she gave you a discount on your Droid. It may feel like love, but it’s not.

However, I think it’s more important to have a checklist for our own life.  Are we living a higher standard? Are we treating people, our God, and our body in a way that is honoring?  If we can’t say that for ourselves, it seems a bit hypocritical to expect to find someone that makes our list.

We need to extend “checklist” grace to one another.

3) Is God a good God?

There is this whole trend of being angry at God. Especially when it comes to anything we are disappointedabout, i.e. relationships. When relationships are hard or completely lacking, I sense our generation feels like it’s most authentic to be angry at God.

I believe it’s 110% okay to bring our anger to God. But we must not let that manifest itself into sin because it gives the Devil a foothold (Eph 4:26-27) .

“Oh Joy, you sound so silly when you talk about the Devil.”

Yes, I feel silly, but I believe it’s true.  Josh White, a pastor and friend here in Portland, said recently (in my own words) that if we don’t acknowledge the brokenness and darkness of this world, then when something goes wrong, all we will have left to blame is God.

I see this happening far too often.  We get angry at God in our singleness when we desire to be married, or when our friends are having babies or when we realize we are never hugged, or when we wonder who we will grow old with, or whose shoulder we will cry on.

For me, having to answer if God is good affects how I live and react in my singleness.


If you would like to talk to someone about your relationships or being single, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Can You and Your Partner Agree to Disagree?

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Can You and Your Partner Agree to Disagree?

By Lean Seltzer

Let’s agree to disagree.

challange acceptedCertainly, you’ve heard the phrase before, perhaps so often that it’s ceased to have much meaning to you. But the fact is that in a long-term, committed relationship, when circumstances oblige you to confront significant differences with your partner, nothing could be more crucial than agreeing to disagree.

In my 30-plus years of doing therapy, I’ve found that helping couples learn to truly accept their inevitable dissimilarities—and to take them in stride—serves not only to protect marital harmony in situations of potential conflict but, even more, to help the relationship reach its full potential.

Not that such a near-paradoxical accord, adaptation, or accommodation is easy to accomplish. Most of the time it can be extremely challenging—for most couples, reaching the point where they’re able to comfortably agree to disagree can take not months but years, if their relationship ever achieves that enviable state of grace at all.

Why?

Well, if you operate the way most people do, when your partner takes exception to your viewpoint—or introduces one sharply contrasting with yours—you may find it almost impossible not to experience them as invalidating you, personally attacking you, or striving to defeat you. And if this is how you perceive them in the moment—not as your lifetime companion but as your willful adversary—then you’re compelled to strike back, defend yourself, or even exit the situation entirely, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically. After all, in that instant of disagreement their words have managed to morph them into your enemy. How could this not be the case if, somewhere deep in your gut, you experience their contrary point of view as somehow puncturing your own? (And incidentally, there’s an awfully good chance they’ll be reacting to you similarly—i.e., experiencing your position as aiming poison arrows at theirs.)

This, of course, is when you’re most likely to summon all your mental energy to prove them wrong. For it may feel as though it’s absolutely critical to defend your position. In that moment of perceived threat you may feel (without really understanding why) as if your viewpoint represents something intimately connected to your essence, so that making any concessions would be to sacrifice the innermost core of your being.

And to the extent that you identify yourself with your mind—that you unconsciously regard yourself as equitable to it—then the thought of changing your mind, or simply detaching from it, can feel untenable, even hazardous. So it can be exceedingly difficult to avoid taking your partner’s disagreement personally, especially when you can’t help attributing a certain authority to them; they are, after all, your “match.”

Additionally, when your partner takes exception to what you’re saying, it can feel like a total withdrawal of their loyalty and support—all the more so if you’re dependent on their approval. Yet what’s imperative to understand is that on most occasions your disagreements merely mean that the two of you happen not to see something the same way—or that your wants or needs on a particular matter differ. Not being each other’s clones, naturally you’re not going to share all the same preferences.

No big deal, right?

If in that moment of disagreement you actually feel abandoned by your partner, it can be a very big deal. You can feel completely out of harmony with them—frustrated, demeaned, disregarded, disconnected, alienated, and/or betrayed. At least that’s what the child part of you may be experiencing—and it can be intensely uncomfortable and disconcerting.

Move from Menacing Disagreements to Safe Ones

For the rest of the article, check out the article in full at Psychology Today.


If you would like help with your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.