In today’s Western culture being married usually means you started out “in love.” In that condition it seems your brain stops working. Your lover can do no wrong. Logic seems unimportant. Never was a couple more perfect for each other. You love your spouse!
If only that feeling lasted. Now, who’s that person asleep in my bed? Why would I want to talk to you? My needs aren’t being satisfied. Whose idea was it to get married anyway?
Falling in love. Falling out of love. That modern mental construct hasn’t turned out to be very helpful. Sure, the early emotions can be downright intoxicating! And without those feelings there probably wouldn’t be many marriages. Or children. But feelings are fickle. What then?
What do you do when you suddenly realize, “I don’t love my spouse anymore.”
Acknowledge Your Hurt
Things might be really horrible. You might have been betrayed through your spouse’s porn use or affair or other serious trust-breaking behavior. You might have been traumatized by married sex, and just can’t take it any longer. Your spouse might be truly toxic.
Or it might be less dramatic but just as soul-destroying. Your spouse might be carrying their own baggage and over time it’s fractured any connection between you. You may have tried so many times to communicate and been met by a stone wall.
Or the connection between you may have simply withered through neglect. Both of you may have been so focused on careers or kids that you haven’t cared for the “us” of your marriage. Life has happened, and disappointment has taken the place of hope.
Notice what’s going on in your soul. What feelings have replaced love? Bitterness? Hurt? Anger? Frustration? Resentment? Apathy? There is more to the truth than your feelings, but your heartache and all its complications is part of the truth. Your feelings count. Be honest – with yourself, with God, and with a trusted Christian friend or professional.
The most important thing about feelings is that they provide information. You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t troubled about your marriage, and that’s worth paying attention to.
Love is More than a Feeling
It’s relatively easy to act lovingly when the warm fuzzies are there. But the warm fuzzies will be temporary. Two sinners getting married is a setup for disaster – always. What then?
Marriage as God designed it is to be is a covenant, not a contract. A contract says, “As long as you make me feel good, I’ll stay. And when you stop making me feel good, I reserve the right to leave.”
A covenant says what you will do. There’s no “hedging your bets” in a covenant. God’s love for us is a covenant; it’s not dependent on our behavior. He has covenanted to be for us regardless of how we respond. There is nothing God does that does not come from His love. His justice has often been portrayed as harsh and unloving, but you want Him to make things right!
Love is much more a verb than a noun. Covenant love in marriage means you do the right thing regardless of your feelings, and regardless of what your spouse does. It’s no 50-50; you’re truly all in, 100%. Your feelings are real, but love means feelings don’t dictate your actions.
Do the Next Right Thing
Feeling out of love? That’s real. But that lack of loving feeling doesn’t dictate what you do next.
Notice that this is not doing the easy thing, or the nice thing. Often love is anything but easy or nice. If there is destructive behavior going on, the good of the relationship demands you tell the truth. And being honest may be painful. Love sometimes sets very difficult boundaries, because that’s what’s required for the relationship to get better. That’s hard.
If you must speak a hard truth, set a difficult boundary, or walk away, remember this is not punishing your spouse. Love requires that you be for the relationship. And if the relationship is sick, sometimes it requires drastic surgery for there to be a chance at recovery. Rosie Makinney knows what that fight is like; you may enjoy this conversation we had together.
Some wives have succumbed to the idea that submission in Christian marriage means putting up with bad behavior even when they continue to be harmed. That’s not love, but codependency. If you’ve been traumatized it can seem difficult to know the difference; that’s why getting some perspective from both God and a trusted Christian counselor can be so vital.
And there are times the loving thing, the right thing, is to walk away. If addiction or abuse is going on, if your marriage is toxic, love may require walking away. Your spouse may not feel loved; that’s not the criteria. It’s, what is the right thing to do?
Is Your Love Gone Forever?
Your loving feelings? The good news is that they can come back. God can restore anything, even your marriage, if both you and your spouse are giving Him permission to do His work. Feelings are fickle. But if you continue to do the next right thing, your heart can heal and loving feelings can return.
Doing the next right thing for the relationship may require some hard work. It might mean dealing with your own trauma or pain or addiction. It might mean learning to communicate all over again, doing the hard work of healthy forgiveness, making the mental choice to move toward your spouse, or learning what it’s like to have God be the glue holding you together.
Couples who have had long successful marriages aren’t those who never faced problems, or those whose loving feelings never waned; they’re couples who persevered through the dark times in continuing to do the next right thing. And the good news is that going through tough times and coming out the other side very often leads to even stronger connection and satisfaction than before.
That’s learning to love well.
Your Turn: Do you feel like you don’t love your spouse? What’s your sense of what the next right thing is? Do you need some help to know what that is? Leave a comment below.
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Want to feel more Connected with your Spouse?
If you’re feeling disconnected from your spouse, there are things you can do to improve the intimacy between you.
I’ve prepared a FREE Resource Guide to help you Re-Connect with your Spouse with some practical next steps and additional resources. I’d love to send it to you!