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.

If You Give a Husband a Kiss

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If You Give a Husband a Kiss

This mom turned “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie” into “When You Give a Husband a Kiss”… and it’s kind of amazing!

By Leah Heffner

If you give your husband a kiss, he’ll probably want a hug to go with it.

You’ll nestle your head under his chin, and just breathe him in.

The smell will remind you of when you first started dating and you didn’t want to be anywhere else but nestled under his chin.

You’ll think back on some of your favorite first dates – ice cream, pancakes, holding hands in front of your friends.

Before you can get too carried away, a toddler will probably squeeeeeeze his way in between your legs, breaking apart your hug.

You’ll open your eyes to see breakfast dishes that need cleaned up, kids who need noses or butts wiped, and the million other tiny and enormous things you do every day.

You’ll see the little babies running around and the messes and pile of bills and the work shirts.

You’ll see the rogue marker marks and mountain of laundry and the inch thick dust bunnies.

You might be so overwhelmed, you won’t know where to start.

You’ll see all the ways your life is different now than it was when it was late-night pancake dates and ice cream runs.

So you’ll take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, take a drink of coffee, and just start on something.

You’ll get so caught up in what’s going on around you, you’ll miss talking to your husband before he leaves for work.

You’ll start to say goodbye as he leaves, when you notice the baby has had a blow out.

After you change the diaper, you’ll wash your hands, and notice your wedding ring.

Your wedding ring will remind you of your wedding, and the man that you married.

You’ll think again of all the ways life is different now than it was when he slipped that ring on your finger.

And then you’ll think of all the ways it’s still the same, just like when you nestled your head under his chin.

You’ll hear the door to the garage shut and realize your husband’s leaving for work.

You’ll realize you don’t want to miss giving him one more hug before he leaves this morning.

So you’ll run out into the driveway looking like a hot mess.

He’ll smile because he thinks you’re beautiful, and you’ll still not understand how much he means it.

You’ll probably smile back, trying to pick one out of a million things you could say.

Instead, you’ll decide to give him a hug.

And chances are, if you give your husband a hug, YOU’LL want a kiss to go with it.

 

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

How to Skyrocket Your Intimacy Through Shared Activity

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How to Skyrocket Your Intimacy Through Shared Activity

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

We all have hobbies and interests that we’re passionate about; the trick is finding a way to integrate them into our marriages. Some couples do this with ease. Others, however, struggle to find a good middle ground–or even new activities to share.

Today, we’re talking about how to create opportunities for shared activities in your marriage to skyrocket your intimacy and make your relationship happier.

THE VALUE OF SHARED HOBBIES

Sharing activities or hobbies as a couple is incredibly important to the health of your marriage. Enjoying hobbies, recreational activities, and downtime together allows intimacy to flourish in your relationship.

For wives, spending time together in shared activities fulfills their longing for intimacy. It also draws husbands into that sense of intimate connection, creating a mutually beneficial situation for both partners. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, as long as you put the time and energy into spending time together.

When you spend time with your spouse, you’re creating memories and good feelings together that will spill over into other areas of your marriage. No matter what’s going on in your life, you have these times set aside, when you and your spouse will simply be doing an activity you enjoy together. And when the going gets rough, you’ll have those good times to lean on and look forward to.

You’ll also be setting a great example for your children of what a healthy marriage looks like. One of the best things you can do for your kids is to let them see the two of you loving each other well. And when they’re grown, they can emulate that in their marriages.

HOW TO FIND ACTIVITIES TO SHARE

If you two already have many common interests, then agreeing on what to do together should be a cinch. You’ll have a ton of options to choose from! If you both enjoy physical activities like biking or tennis, hit the trail or the court together once a week (or alternate, if you like both!). If the two of you are music buffs or love theatre, choose a show or performance to attend together every month (and in the meantime, kick back and listen to records together for a relaxing date night at home).

It gets a bit tricker to find things to do together when you don’t share many interests, so you’ll really have to put your heads together to figure something out. The good news is that it’s not about what you have in common–it’s how you work with one another to find that common ground, or create something new in the process.

First, make a list of each of your favorite hobbies, and sit down together to talk through each of them to gauge each other’s level of interest in the items on the list. Create a new list for the solutions you land on, and write those down. After that, talk through each item again until you’ve landed on one or two activities that you’d like to participate in together.

Another way to approach this could be to ask each other, “If you could only do one thing in your free time from now on, what would it be?” Then, make the effort to get involved (as much as possible–even just a little) in one another’s top choice.

If you find yourselves coming up short on ideas, we’ve created a free cheat sheet that will help jump-start your search for some activities that both of you feel interested in. You might both find an activity to engage in that you’ve never tried before, and who knows? It may end up becoming your favorite.

REMEMBER TO KEEP IT FUN

If finding shared activities has proven to be a challenge, don’t look at it as being mismatched with your spouse. Instead, view it as an opportunity to experience life on a deeper level with your partner and best friend. Exploring new activities and hobbies together can enrich your life and your marriage, and that in itself is a huge payoff.

Next week, we’ll focus on what to do when hobbies or activities steal your spouse’s time and energy…plus give you some tips on how to get his or her attention back on your relationship.

If you would like help skyrocketing your intimacy through shared activity, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Avoiding Destructive Defensiveness

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Studies by the Gottman Institute have demonstrated that when we respond to criticism or a complaint with defensiveness, the conflict escalates rather than becoming constructive.

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

6 Ways Substance Abuse Can Destroy Your Marriage

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6 Ways Substance Abuse Can Destroy Your Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Addiction is an overwhelming illness whose hallmark symptoms are the physiological craving of, and emotional attachment to, a legal or illegal substance or practice. Most often, we see addictions in the form of substances like alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs.

Substance abuse is devastating to marriages, families, and relationships. It can result in career loss, financial ruin, divorce, estrangement, and even death. Today, we’ll focus on six landmines that substance abuse plants in your marriage when you’re struggling with addiction.

For all of these issues, we strongly encourage that you and your spouse seek outside professional help. Consult your local minister or physician for reliable recovery resources, like a 12-step system that understands your unique struggle. Addiction is not something you can overcome on your own, but with the right help, you will be able to move past this and rebuild your lives.

DENIAL

Denial is risky business when it comes to facing a life-altering issue like addiction. For the addicted spouse, denial comes in the form of the idea that they’re in control of their addiction–they can stop any time they want. This is frustrating for the non-addicted spouse, who can often (eventually) see the problem for what it is, but finds it difficult to impossible to interact with the addicted spouse who is so strongly rooted in denial.

But many times, especially at first, the non-addicted spouse is also in denial. While the other person may display a host of red flags that point to substance abuse, it can feel easier in the moment for the non-addicted spouse to come up with alternate explanations or write off the signs as coincidence. Denial on the part of the non-addicted spouse is dangerous because it delays the possibility of seeking necessary professional help…even if that help only comes in the form of support for the non-addicted person in the marriage.

HELPLESSNESS

Whether it’s you or your spouse who is struggling with an addiction, helplessness takes root quickly. After a period of denial has passed, an addicted spouse may feel helpless to control what is happening to them; they find themselves at the mercy of the drug. The non-addicted spouse is likely to feel helpless when it comes to their spouse’s addictive behavior because they can’t do anything to stop it or make the situation better.

Feeling totally out of control of any situation–but especially a situation like this–is terrifying, stressful, and unsettling. Both spouses are at risk of seeking out behavior patterns that make them feel more in control of their lives, which can create a volatile situation in the relationship.

DISHONESTY

Addiction breeds dishonesty. It’s nearly an inevitable byproduct of substance abuse. The addicted spouse inherently knows that the substance that’s controlling their life shouldn’t be playing a role in it at all. Yet, because the physiological need for it is very real, they find themselves lying to cover up the problem.

However painful it may be, the non-addicted spouse must keep track of their spouse’s dishonesty. It’s essential to learn the telltale signs that the addicted spouse is lying; he or she may fall into a pattern that is easy to recognize. During and after recovery, the non-addicted spouse may still find it difficult to trust their husband or wife, but if they’ve become familiar with his or her patterns during dishonesty, it could become a framework they can use to evaluate the recovering spouse.

NEGLECT

Addictive substances tend to steal an addicted spouse’s entire focus (perhaps not at first, but eventually, this tends to be the case). This can lead to the spouse neglecting the needs of their family, plus their responsibilities at home and at work. As a result, the addicted spouse may eventually find themselves jobless and even in the throes of financial ruin.

For the non-addicted spouse, experiencing neglect is detrimental to their health and wellbeing, the health and wellbeing of their children, and the financial stability of the family. Over time, they find themselves shouldering the burden of the addicted spouse’s responsibilities, plus their own. This can lead to anger, resentment, and contempt, which can be difficult to overcome even after the couple has received professional help to overcome the addiction itself.

PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ILLNESS & PAIN

Substance abuse often begins when a person is trying to escape pain of some kind. What addicted individuals often don’t realize is that the substance will eventually cause them physical and psychological pain. Addiction also leads to varying types of illness, brought on by the years of self-harm.

For a non-addicted spouse, psychological pain and illness may occur as a result of the tremendous stress brought on by the addiction. Practice radical self-care and talk to your physician or counselor if your family is facing an addiction that has caused your health to deteriorate. Your recovering spouse and any children you may have will need you to be healthy in the coming months as you face this down.

ABUSE

Unfortunately, addiction is capable of creating an abusive environment in your home–be it verbal, physical, emotional, or otherwise. A person who has become addicted to a substance is susceptible to personality changes that include aggression and violence.

If you are a non-addicted spouse and your husband or wife has become abusive, creating a dangerous environment in your home, get yourself and any children you may have to safety. Consult your counselor for the safest way to communicate to your spouse that you have left the home, and you won’t be able to come back until it is safe for you to be there. Encourage them to seek the help they need to get well so that your family can be together again in a healthy environment.

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

The “Perfect Couple” Myth

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“A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” (Dave Meurer)

If you would like help in learning and enjoying your differences with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.

Look at Your Partner Through Rose-Colored Glasses (Seriously)

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Look at Your Partner Through Rose-Colored Glasses (Seriously)

By Sanaa Hyder, M.S.Ed

When you started dating your partner, you probably had glowing things to say about them. You noticed every gesture (flowers for no reason!) and every sweet compliment. Fast forward a few years, you both may have collected hurtful emotional bumps and bruises along the way, making it hard to focus on the good things. It’s easy to fall into a rut and imagine that your partner doesn’t care, even if they still do. Does this negative perspective hurt a relationship? Let’s take a look at what the research says.

Dr. Gottman defines the negative perspective as an overriding sense of negative regard, where even neutral or positive actions from your partner are skewed in your mind to be perceived as negative. This often manifests itself in feelings of loneliness, powerlessness, and eventually one or both partners distancing themselves from each other. When your feelings are predominantly negative, every action, bid for attention, joke, or mistake can be interpreted through this new negative lense – whether or not it deserves to be seen that way.

If you find yourself constantly questioning your partner’s intentions, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, you may be experiencing the result of weeks or months of being in the negative perspective.

Dr. Gottman suggests that it’s never too late to reinvigorate your relationship with positive feelings for one another. This requires a deliberate effort to think about your partner in a more favorable light. Successful couples create a culture of goodwill in their relationship and purposefully strive to see each other through rose-colored glasses.

But what does positivity in a relationship actually look like? Here are some ideas for how to start thinking the best of your partner.

“I love it when…”
Try starting your sentences (even complaints) with “I love it when.” For instance, instead of “Why haven’t we gone on a date recently?” try this: “I love it when we go out together. Remember when we went to that restaurant that night? I had so much fun. Let’s do that again!”

Write down your appreciations
Try making a list of all the small things you notice your partner do or say. Dr. Gottman encourages couples to catch their partner doing something right. Start in the morning and continue through the evening as if you’re tracking their good habits. For instance: made coffee, poured my cereal, called me in the afternoon, paid the bill after I forgot.

An awareness of these small moments builds a habit of mind of seeing your partner in a positive way. When it is time to voice your appreciation, it will be easier to recall one moment out of many. Of course, they may also be negative moments, but try to actively engage your mind in remembering the good ones.

Build up your partner
Find moments to tell your partner about how amazing, brave, and sexy a certain behavior has been. Here are some examples.

Did they collect old clothing for donation? “Babe, you’re so thoughtful and giving  – not just to this family!” or, “Thanks for coming out shopping with me on Wednesday, even though it was boring for you, I’m glad you came.”

Your attitude is your responsibility. You have the opportunity to adjust the narrative you want to tell yourself about the relationship. This narrative is important because it affects the intensity of your arguments, and ultimately your long term-success as a couple.

Now, after doing these exercises, it becomes easier to state your complaint or positive need, because you have a perspective of your partner which may be more akin to the perspective they hold of themselves.

For instance, when you are in the positive perspective, you are more inclined to recall that you are asking someone for whom you’ve built up regard and love. Within the context of appreciating your partner’s efforts all day, it feels easier to to approach your best friend with your needs from a place of warmth and affection.

If you were not paying attention to your partner’s actions all day, your request might gloss over their good behavior. Your partner may think you haven’t noticed their efforts at being caring and attentive. Unknowingly, you create a culture of negativity. So, paying attention matters. Sound like a lot to keep in mind? Maybe at first, but remember that the Gottman motto is “small things often”  -  this includes noticing the small things and appreciating them.

To build a culture of good feelings in your home and in your relationship, you have to start taking responsibility for your mindset. Where the mind goes, words and actions will follow.

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

The Biggest Communication Problem

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Listen, then respond. Empathy and understanding must precede advice.
-Jennifer Dowling

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

Stopping Triangulation in Relationships

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Stopping Triangulation: How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Involving a Third Person in Your Problems

By Couples Therapy Center of NJ

Most of my clients have some kind of challenge in their relationships with others. The struggle may be with a spouse, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a child, a neighbor, or a landlord. No matter who the struggle is with, we often discuss what someone else said or did and how my client felt hurt or angry about it during our sessions. When we dig deeper, many times I find that a big part of the problem is triangulation. Triangulation is when a third person gets involved in a conflict. It might feel good temporarily, but it will hurt you in the long run.

Think of an imaginary triangle of three people. An issue may come up between two of them: maybe something one person said or did that upset the other. Triangulation occurs when one of the two individuals involved in the issue ‘invites’ a third person into the debate or argument. By ‘invite’ I mean talks to the third person about the individual they have the issue with or talks about the issue itself. The original issue has little or nothing to do with the third person! The problem here is when we use this as a way to vent our feelings.

This is what talking behind someone’s back is all about. Let’s say it starts when you take issue with what someone said. You then ‘invite’ a third person in by talking about it with them INSTEAD of talking directly to the person you had the issue with.

This feels good temporarily because it gives you a chance to vent your feelings and feel understood by someone else. And putting someone else down is a means of getting revenge.

Triangulation, however, is NOT helpful in the long run. It complicates the original problem because now another person’s thoughts and feelings are involved. More importantly, it denies us the means to solving the issue. The best way of solving an issue is talking directly to the person who hurt or angered us. So, what do you do instead?

First, realize who the issue is really with. Identify which two people the original debate or hurt or anger is between.

Second, don’t ‘invite’ a third person into the discussion (in other words, don’t triangulate). It is OK, and quite beneficial, if you do choose to talk to a very specific 3rd person: that person being your therapist. It is a therapist’s job to help you figure out your personal relationships. Talking to your therapist is different from triangulation because the therapist’s intention is to help you decide how you’re going to resolve the issue. Your therapist will offer you tools and ideas for solving the problem and your therapist will encourage you to talk directly to the person involved in order to get it worked through.

 

If you would like help in your marriage or relationships, 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.