Resurrecting a Broken Marriage
Feb 17, 1997
After 16 years of marriage, my wife feels she no longer loves me and wonders if she ever did. I want to repair our marriage, but if the love is gone, is that possible? How do I know for sure it's really gone? If it is, can I get it back? Help.
A Husband in Need
DEAR HUSBAND IN NEED:
In a moment of crisis like this it's necessary to step back and review fundamental questions about one's whole life. A marriage that has endured for 16 years is not something that should be cast aside lightly -- and yet, when one or both partners no longer feel any love for the other, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find the motivation to stay together.
If you have children, you and your wife can certainly think of how much they will suffer if you split up. The damage done to children when their parents break apart is incalculable and long-lasting.
Love is something that we feel. Romantic love can be overwhelming. It may be useful for you and your wife to recall how you first met, and what you did together when you first met -- how you felt when you looked at sunsets together -- and how you shared experiences of love that were precious to you both. This exercise may help you both remember how much you really loved each other.
A marriage enrichment program that helps couples remember how much they really love each other, and helps them communicate in a new way, is the Retrouvaille Marriage Counseling Program. It's on the web at "http://www.vicnet.net.au/~retro." Their web site has a series of quotes from very satisfied couples who have attended. A program like Retrouvaille furnishes support that many couples find very helpful -- especially if one of the partners is having a difficult time communicating.
Communication, in this case, needs to revolve around heart and love -- the bottom line in a marriage. The reason that we all like love is that it feels wonderful. It brings us joy, pure and simple. One of the great attributes of love is that it multiplies. The more we feel it, and experience it, the more we want it. It's like bumblebees and honey.
Unfortunately for many couples, it isn't understood very well that love requires far more than a responsive feeling. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe -- with an emphasis on the word "creative." Creating something requires a creator -- not just a viewer, or onlooker. Pure, unselfish love is created when one person gives love to another. One person gives, and the other person receives. The one receiving feels great! If all goes well, the one who received love gives true, unselfish love back to the first person. Only then can an enduring relationship of unselfish love be created and maintained. In other words, true love requires that both parties give unselfishly to each other. Love then, is a relationship of heart that we create and maintain by our actions and experience through our feelings.
Love can be given in many ways. The simplest way to begin giving love to another is to care for the other person. Delve into your wife's situation. Be kind and thoughtful, and express a considerate and warm heart. Pay attention to things that she likes -- spend time with her, talking and experiencing things together with her. Many marriages decline because the husband and wife don't talk with each other, don't spend time with each other, and ultimately no longer understand each other. They become strangers over a long period of time.
This is truly regrettable, because most husbands and wives start out by loving each other. The opportunity is there to build a great and long-lasting love -- but instead, many husbands and wives forget that caring for their spouse's heart is like caring for a lily of the valley. Our hearts are fragile, and easily hurt. Very often, the so-called tough cookie is someone who has been hurt so much, and so often, that he or she is no longer aware of a deep-seated pain that may have existed since childhood.
What this means in terms of marriage is that sometimes the husband and wife find it very difficult to even talk about topics like unselfish love. Hearts are like beautiful ferns that want to gently brush against each other -- but instead are often trampled to death. This doesn't mean that true unselfish love is weak or simply "sensitive" and girlish. Love requires great strength and great endurance to give endlessly to those who may not appreciate it or receive it. Unselfish love has given people throughout history the courage and iron will to sacrifice everything -- even their lives. That is the reason that unselfish love is the most powerful force in the universe -- it causes us to feel so deeply that we want to give everything to the one whom we love.
Your wife's love for you may be entirely gone. Your love for her may also be gone. That isn't the issue, at all, however. The real issue is whether you and your wife want to renew and strengthen your mutual commitment to become a husband and wife of pure and unselfish love. The real issue is whether you both can initiate a process of giving love, care, concern and true service to each other. True love is something that has to be created from the ground up, brick by brick. It requires sweat, and tears, and sometimes pain and suffering to give to another person. Often, it requires that we are sincerely honest with ourselves, and realize that we may not have given enough. More often than not, it requires apology.
Apology lives in the same camp as repentance. Both stem from the heart that says, "I did it. It's my responsibility. Even though the other person may not love enough, the only issue that I need to be concerned about is how much love I can give." I sincerely believe that marriages will ultimately flourish if both the husband and wife develop a sensitivity to the heart that God must have toward marriage, family and unselfish love. It stands to reason that God wants marriages to succeed -- and must indeed hope that each husband and wife do their best to give true love to each other. From this point of view, the beginning point of a resurrected marriage is humility and repentance for the poor quality of our love, followed by an absolute commitment to try again -- and never give up.
The love between you and your wife can be revived to a much higher degree than it ever was -- for that is the nature of love itself. True love is limitless. If a husband and wife care for each other unselfishly, and give endlessly to each other, with unconditional kindness and respect, then their hearts will naturally be moved. Their love will grow -- and when love grows it ignores boundaries. How big is the universe? Isn't love that big? Every marriage can be saved if the husband and wife take complete responsibility to build a relationship of unselfish love. The first steps are simple. Talk. Share your heart. Listen to her feelings. Find a way for you both to mutually apologize in order to remove what might be years of pain. If you feel like it, praying together can work miracles. Remember that a marriage of true love is something that you and your wife must create together, day by day, forever.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”