On any given day, Bob and I get the same phone call – different couple, different circumstances, but a similar story:
My wife and I have been married for 15 years. We have two kids, 11 and 13.
I started my own company and have worked nonstop for years to earn a good living and provide the life I thought my wife wanted. She stayed home with the kids. We live in a beautiful home, and she buys whatever she wants.
She came to me last week and said she has been telling me for years that she’s unhappy; and if things don’t change, she wants to separate. I was blindsided. Sure, she complained we didn’t have enough time together, but I didn’t realize how serious it was.
Over the years, she asked if we could spend more time together, go on dates, travel without the kids, but my business was growing, and we were so busy with the kids. I guess we focused on everything but our marriage.
I now realize I ignored my wife. I didn’t get it. I blamed her for complaining. After all, I was a great provider, I never cheated on her, like some of my friends.
She said she loves me but isn’t “in love.” What does that even mean – we’re married. I don’t understand what she wants.
She did agree to come to counseling, which is why I’m calling.
I sense the pain and heartbreak of someone who feels his marriage, his family, and the life he has known is on the line. He fell asleep at the wheel of his marriage and didn’t realize it. His wife attempted to wake him up, but either she couldn’t or she didn’t speak up loud enough. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it’s just sad.
When they came for their first appointment with us, for Couple to Couple® Coaching, we listened to each partner’s story. She said to her husband,
“I love you but I’m not ‘in-love.'”
I asked her to explain further. She said to her husband, “I care about you as a person, as the parent of our children, but I don’t feel connected to you emotionally or sexually.”
They asked: “Can you help us? Can our marriage be saved? Can couples fall back ‘in love?'” Our resounding answer was yes, if you do the work.
What does it take to move a relationship from doing the business of the household to feeling “in-love” again? We explained 5 keys to falling back “in-love”:
1) Grow In-Love.
“Falling in-love” is what happens in the beginning. We don’t try to fall in love – it just happens. After the honeymoon, love becomes a verb. It takes effort. You have to change the phrase “falling in-love” to “growing in-love.” This means intentionally and mindfully nurturing and feeding the emotional and sexual connections. Often couples think they don’t have to work at their relationship once they are married. That is a myth. Bob and I work on our relationship every day, even after 30 years – and we do this for a living.
2) Start a new relationship.
Marital crisis can be an awakening; a new beginning; an opportunity to recharge and grow your connections, sexually and emotionally. Once kids reach their latency years, we have more time to focus on our marriages, yet we have gotten out of the habit of doing that. The focus has been on career and kids. Our relationships often get put on the back burner. They are the last thing on the list, if they even make it to the list. Some people take their relationships for granted and may not even realize it’s fading, until the crisis.
Today can be a launching point to create more depth; to learn more about who your partner is and how your partner’s needs have changed over the years.
Make a date and talk about your vision of what would create a deeper bond moving forward – ask each other questions and be genuine about how you feel in a kind way.
3) Communicate about your emotional and sexual desires.
Explore what makes you feel loved. Share those thoughts with each other. Ask for what you desire. Seek deeper understanding about what makes your partner feel loved. Listen to and validate each other’s needs. Each of us receives love differently.
It doesn’t matter how you want to give love, it’s more important to know how your partner wants to receive it.
4) Learn about love.
Love is a verb. Love means “doing” love, creating daily love habits. Relationships don’t grow by themselves. We have to put forth effort to change habits, to create new rituals of love, to check in with our partner about what’s working and what’s not. When you actively love your partner, you feel more loving.
Here are several amazing books from the top experts in our field. You and your partner can read or listen to them together, then discuss what resonates with you. It will put you on the path to deepen your connection.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
Dr. Sue Johnson
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
5) Be patient and persevere.
Change and growth happen over time. In our world where instant gratification is the norm, we have to look at marriage and relationships as a work in progress. Encourage your partner by appreciating their efforts. Don’t give up.
“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is…a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.”
– Timothy Keller
Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Bob and I are here for you!
Your relationship deserves the highest level of support. Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander are committed to helping individuals and couples build connection and deepen bonds in a world that often makes it difficult.
Call them at 410-363-2825 or email them today, email@example.com.