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“I Finally Got It and She Said She Was Done”
Have you been faced with a time in your marriage when things weren’t going so well and you decided to make some changes in your life and you actually made those changes? And when you finally figured it all out and were excited to tell her and she said she was done. In fact, she was so done that she actually complimented you for making the changes but the hurt, the disappointments, the inconsistencies of the past was just too much and she had no more “let’s try this again.” What do you do? Are there things you can do? Is there hope?
Well, let me say this about this article that might cause you to read it or put it down. Funny…you may be so desperate that you will read anything to get your marriage back. The reason I say this is I am a Christian, a Father and a husband of 40 years (not all happy years I may say) and this will be the perspective of writing this article. I generally write about fathering but the question of the article is a common issue men talk to me about. So, here comes the second disclosure: I am not licensed in counseling…just a lot of years talking to men and teaching fatherhood all over the world. The first premise of my article is to recommend that you see a licensed family counselor that has two critical ingredients (my opinion…my article). The first thing I will recommend is that your counselor be a “believer of Jesus…and active in a relationship with Him.” Note, I did not say anything about a church. I am talking about a believer not a church goer who does the Sunday Jesus deal. The second requirement is that they are a licensed family counselor of an accredited university program with at least ten years of family counseling. This is not set in stone but pretty close. You need a good mix of the healing transformation of our Father plus receive therapeutic tools to deal with the issues you are facing. OK? Done.
You need to relax and maybe take this article in parts and pieces because there are so many factors that need talking about. It is really sort of “gleaming” over what are chapters or sessions of this topic. Here we go.
I think the first question You must ask Yourself “Is there hope?’
So, let’s talk about the Falling Out of Love Process
It is important to understand that the “falling out of love” process can be personalized to both partners it’s not just others and there IS information that can help describe what each partner is experiencing. Generally speaking, most authors agree there is a process and I have provided a summary of phases that is most similar to many couples in counseling:
Gradual decline – Some individuals describe the falling out of love process as a gradual one. Sailor wrote, “Time mask(s) subtle, almost imperceptive changes of gradual decline.” Tiny problems turn into small ones. Left unattended, they become medium sized issues and the initial committed relationship begins to crack and become vulnerable to other problems. The protective factors erode away and leave partners open and susceptible to attacks that would have earlier been easily averted. Therefore, one of the two findings of the disconnection process is a very slow and gradual process that happens over a long period of time. This is the part I think a lot of men face waking up one day and she said, “I am out of here.” Shock, panic, disbelief. Guess what? You missed it.
Pivotal Moment – Another process is described as a pivotal moment which is a specific interaction in their falling-out-of-love process. Sailor writes, “Pivotal moment represented an easily discernible, easily identifiable instantaneous revelation in which there is unquestionable knowledge that the romantic love for one’s spouse has vanished. The perceptions and descriptions of ‘pivotal moment’ were intense and did not diminish with the passage of time.” The most common is the discovery of an adulterous affair(s).
Change in sense-of-self (self-preservation, guilt, feeling like failure) –It generally included a partner who were involved in the ending of a relationship experience with intense changes in their own sense of Self. They felt guilty or depressed; they grieved, felt like a failure, wanted to take all the blame and then Contempt/anger/hatred – Not only are there intense negative emotional floods directed toward themselves, but there are also equal emotional floods directed toward their spouse. Extreme feelings of contempt, disdain, anger, hatred, and – in some cases – even fantasies about their death, frequently occur. Therefore, not only are those who are going through a relationship disconnection unhappy with themselves (and possibly seeing themselves in a distorted way), they are unhappy with their partners and very possibly seeing them in an equally distorted way.
In many studies about this subject is an issue concerning the fact that falling out of love is, as described by some, the peak level of the emotional pain threshold. That’s probably because pain creates a flooding of protective factors, including hormones and other processes kicked in by the endocrine system. When this happens, some of these endocrine processes serve as specific catalysts to embed memories, especially if that pain is accompanied by surges of adrenaline. What happens when there is such a great amount of emotional wounding is an experience likened unto any other trauma, then the hippocampus (responsible for short-term memory) experiences actual nerve damage brought on by cortisol flooding. We will stop there as this can be an entire issue to discuss. By the way, Cortisol is a measurable lab value you can request your physician to order in a lab.
What this means in layman’s terms is that during the whole “falling out of love process,” there are actual distorted emotional memories being created.
These distorted memories, when embedded by floods of adrenaline, end up – in essence – being emotional brain scars…and take a long time to heal.
Now – let’s flip over to the “falling IN love process” for a moment. The experience is amazingly complex and sort of like being on drugs. The unconscious is at work; couples get their greatest needs met from a partner who seemingly is a perfect fit, their bodies are flooded with cortisol creating a natural high; interestingly, females testosterone levels spike (making them feel a little more virile and aggressive) while male testosterone levels are lowered (making them feel more docile and amicable). Between the two entangled in the wonderful thing called Love, all of Nature’s blessings are being showered down over them in a rainstorm they probably wish would never end.
That’s quite a difference to the falling out of love process, isn’t it? It’s almost as if, to coin religious phrases, falling in love is Heaven, and falling out of love is Hell. And both are accompanied by a range of bio-socio-emotional processes that almost seem bigger than the individuals involved.
But all this information begs a few more follow up questions. If we know what happens to people when they fall in love, and we understand (to a degree) what happens when they fall out of love, WHAT do we know about couples having a chance to RE-fall back into love?
Some couples fall back into a romantic love connection gradually. They’ve described the process taking up to two years from their “out of love” feelings to their “back in love” feelings. Other couples have experienced a “pivotal moment” of falling back into love. This all sounds pretty academic doesn’t it? As a Christian, I have seen what I just have to call as a miracle of forgiveness and renewal. It was and is just a release of hurt by one or both partners. This has to be done with a willingness to let go as I would say to let Him. Read on to hear my point:
Partners that enter into a prayer time state they have to undo the feelings of contempt, mistrust, and isolation. They had to actively work at “turning toward” each other when they had been shutting each other out for such a long time. And mostly, all had to take a risk. They had to take a leap of faith that went exactly and expressly against how they felt emotionally in order to achieve what they recaptured. None of them, when taking that risk, were sure about how it might work out…and most took the risk because of someone other than themselves: their children, their family, their connections with collective friends, etc. In other words, I want to trust God and I have nothing to loose.
So – can you fall back into romantic love with your partner once you’ve disconnected from them emotionally? Yes. Will it always happen? I have seen it many times, but assume (because I’ve witnessed it) that some relationships are irreparably damaged and the individuals that make up those relationships are so hurt they are simply unable to take the steps necessary to heal. Remember, there is more than just attitude at play here…there is biology and physiology and certainly other family or friends involved as well.
So what’s the summary here? I think there are some clear messages:
1) To those of you who are or have fallen out of love – it’s a hard, painful process and there are many levels to the journey that got you to that place.
2) To those of you who wonder if you can fall back into love – it MAY BE a hard, painful process and there will most certainly be many levels involved on that particular journey as well.
However, it can happen. And reconnecting in a romantic way with a spouse is reported as a highly treasured attribute to many long term marriages who state they are ‘so glad they dug in and stayed together.’ But…only YOU can know yourself, your limits, and whether you have emotionally what it takes to risk stepping out on a journey that seems completely foreign, uncomfortable, and probably will be many times painful before it gets better. It could be one year. It could be two. And unfortunately, sometimes it will be never. But…if you are ready to take the risk, My advice is to use a great tool and that is to find a qualified counselor or pastor who can help guide you. Here is my advice on pastors without a counseling background. There will be great advice, help, recommendations, reading material and the best gift they can give you is when to “pass you off” to a counselor. Assuming more men are reading this than women because of my web site name, I will address this for men. I have provided several things that I consider mandatory in trying to renew your relationship.
Unconditional Acceptance – Accept her unconditionally. Start by dropping the ‘she needs to do ____ for me first’ attitude — if you have one (and most men do). I’m sure she’s disappointed and probably hurt you in many ways, but if you want her to start treating you better you’re going to have be the one to get it started. I know you’re probably thinking, “Why me? Why not her first?” Well, you’ve heard the saying, ‘Man Up,’ right? Okay, tell yourself that and get to work. The other real answer is that “you’re the headship of your family and marriage – it is your calling.”
Love Her – Make her feel wanted, important, special. Do things that make her feel she’s who you want to be with — instead of your phone, or softball buddies, or ESPN, or a beer. What did you do when you were courting her to make her feel wanted and loved? Try some of those approaches again. One reason your wife may not love you is because she feels you don’t love her.
Compliment Her – Most women want to hear that their partner finds them attractive. Be on the lookout for things to compliment about her appearance, dress, home, and work, how she is as a mother to your kids, or whatever else is really important to her.
Touch Without Sex – Here’s a little secret — guys get more and better sex when they aren’t pushing for it all the time. Women want to enjoy our physical presence without our expecting or having to have it always lead to sex. If it happens, great, but don’t always be pushing for it. Try hugging, touching, and kissing her without wanting sex. You might be really surprised by what you get in return. I tell men all the time that it is not what is between your legs that she wants but your heart.
Talk to Her – One of the most frequent complaints I hear from women is about their husbands not talking to them. Sometimes this means not really talking to them at all, but often it’s that he never shares with her his thoughts and feelings. Women want to know what’s going on inside their man, so push yourself to open up and share what’s happening on the inside with your wife. A good place to start would be telling her you feel she doesn’t love you and then ask her how she feels.
Be Honest – Recently a guy was telling me that he’s afraid to be honest with his wife. There were many painful reasons why he had become fearful and stopped being honest with her about how he felt. However, those experiences didn’t change the fact that his marriage is suffering because he is not honest with her. Guys can easily skirt around the truth. Don’t do it. Be honest with her. Wives tell me all the time that they just want to hear the truth, even if it’s painful.
Be Consistent – Doing things consistently is one of the hardest things for all of us to do. Getting your wife to love you again is not a one and done thing. It requires continual effort. It can be tough for many guys to stay consistent in the loving our partner department. But our not loving our wives consistently is usually one of the key reasons she no longer loves us.
Now, let’s switch gears over to the God side in this equation.
Seek God. My common remark to men is “this is about You”. Many times we get in a fix and then we want God to rush in and take care of it when we have been pretty negligent in our relationship with Him and we really don’t know where to start – which adds to the problem. So, practice patience. The first thing men need to do is recognize that restoring a broken heart will not happen overnight. Emotions heal very slowly and steps should begin to restore an injured or wounded heart – just don’t expect much for a while. Regaining trust is a longer time.
Love Her. This is the biggest need of a wife and most will say it is for the most part unmet. It is a daily (maybe hour by hour or at least conversation by conversation) to demonstrate or communicate the love you have for her – not sexual (leave that to the side). Evaluate if too much time is spent on golf, rodeo, career, etc. A wife needs to know only second to God is your love for her.
Romance Her. A woman has a need for romance. Most wives had a fairy tale idea of marriage when they were growing up. They realized early in marriage this isn’t reality, but their need for occasional romance remains. Men rarely know how to do this. A man should be genuine, but should recognize and value the uniqueness of his wife and find ways to give her romance.
Value Words. When a man comes home and says “This house is a mess”, being a mostly factual being, that’s probably all he meant. He looked around, made a physical observation and stated a factual conclusion. The wife most likely hears lots of negative information, such as, “You have done nothing all day”, or maybe even, “I don’t like you.” That sounds impossible to most guy’s rationale minds, but with emotions receiving information anything could be heard, whether that was intended response or not. Most men need to learn how to be gentle with their wives and the words they use. One question I ask men, “Would you let another man talk to you wife the way you talk to her?”
Communicate on Her Terms. Women communicate best heart to heart….not head to head. A man should allow his wife to see his true heart. This is difficult for a man to do, but he should be willing to be vulnerable with her. Men may need to ask their wives as they would their guy friends. It’s rare for men to get very “deep” in their conversations with other men, especially when it involves emotions. Women require understanding, compassion, openness and honesty in communication.
Give Consistent Assurance. Trust is an important need for a woman in relationships. The wife needs to know that her husband is going to be faithful. Men should not take offense, for example, when their wife asks details about their schedule or the activities of their day. The wife desires to be a partner in her husband’s life and these details help her provide trust and security in the relationship. A man should also tell his wife frequently that he loves her. She needs this consistent assurance. As long as nothing major happens, most men can live with a “we said it once and meant it” attitude. This is not enough for the wiring of most women.
Encourage Truth. Ultimately life cannot be lived strictly by emotions. We need truth. Emotions are often unreliable. A woman who feels unloved may be very much loved by her family, but she fails to feel that truth because of years of emotional abuse or just because she’s emotionally having a bad day. Men should gently, but consistently speak truth in love, reminding his wife of her worth, her beauty, and her place in his life. Husbands have this ability better than anyone in the heart of their wife. Over time – truth, when given with love, can play a part in healing damaged emotions.
Be Consistent. The heart is damaged over years and years of injury. Sadly many women have deep and tragic heart wounds, but much of this injury will
have been unintentionally delivered and small in terms of the magnitude of the incident. Years of emotional injury builds up in the heart until the heart becomes closed. The erasing of the pain will happen just as it was developed…a little bit at a time. The husband cannot try this for a week and then stop. Protecting a woman’s heart must become a lifestyle.
I remember talking to a guy whose wife was experiencing a deep depression. As I sat and listened it was apparent, though unknowingly, he had been damaging his wife’s heart for years. He couldn’t seem to understand why his wife was so emotional; “Everything seems to upset her”, he said. The man told me he had tried to help her through her problems and that everything they had going against them he could “fix” if she would let him. I am not sure I could have convinced this man that his attempts at “repair” were probably one of the chief causes of his wife’s broken heart. Most men tell me they don’t know how to be who their wife needs them to be or want them to be. And, most men don’t, anymore than our wives know how to be the wife we need. I believe we want to grow strong marriages we will both, husbands and wives, have to keep learning. It is never too late to begin? Ephesians 5 calls it a mystery, but the best marriages work through the hard work, to get the greater gain. Great marriages are worth it.
So, let me end this on a bit spiritual basis. There will be several attitudes you will have with this article – as with me writing it. I will approach the end with this philosophy: Men – fight for your wives. Be the main prayer warrior in praying for her, the marriage and your children (most are involved). I would invite you to find men who “get this idea” of fighting as warriors to regain what has been lost. Look and ask for other men who have experience in this type of problem. Not all are alike but are alike! Got that? You will find the common denominator being communication, insults to the marriage (words, adultery, etc) and a lack of passion. So, fight! Pray in no special way or without all the religious words. Our Father loves you and knows you and you don’t have to put on a fancy coat to talk to Him. He wants you to be successful. He wants a marriage to succeed. He wants you to include Him. He wants you. So, guess what – you can’t move without Him and make it happen. So, this is about You. Step back and take an inventory on your present relationship – bet it needs a tune-up with Him. So, this is really easy but the hardest part. I love teens or small children who really get God because there is no or little baggage. They want Him and He wants them and off it goes. So, if you need some help – find a man (not a woman) who can navigate you to a refreshing start with the Father. Oh, I am not sexist when I say not a woman – female love, compassionate, understanding, loving, coffees and then so forth can really murk up the deal. Just stay clear of all of that for now. A mature Christian couple can be a great help.
Oh, one last but important suggestion. It is important what words come into your head and heart that might not be that great. I am not sure I would listen to a friend who has divorced or been married several times and let him tell me “just leave that Bixxh and find someone else”. Don’t let the hurts and failures of their marriages get into your marriage. So, guard who you get advice from and it will not be from another guy sitting in a bar listening to him talk about the other sexy women there. Not happening. Be careful who you let into your heart and head. This is a tough place and a tough problem because you might find yourself “rowing up-stream” from a wife who is calling it done. Don’t call it done even in divorce. I have several friends who re-married but there was a lot of pain and misery with each other and their children.
My best advice in all of this: Seek God First, Get You in Order and Don’t be a Control Freak in trying to fix it and align yourself with good counseling and good men mentors. Good luck.
A Father’s Prayer
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