Over the 40 years that I have been guiding individual and couples, I have all the time worked with individuals who are considering leaving their marriage. Frequently they say things like:
* I no longer feel intimate with my spouse. I love him/her, but I’m no longer in love with him/her.
* The love we once had seems to be lost.
* We don’t seem to have anything in common any more. We have gone off in different directions.
* I’ve met someone that makes me feel alive again. I haven’t felt this alive with my husband/wife for years.
Generally, I attempt to see whether these two individuals once felt in love and passionate about one another. More often than not they did. What’s more, frequently the individual on the phone with me trusts these emotions can’t return, particularly on the off chance that he or she has met another person.
For example, Brandon consulted with me because he was thinking of leaving his marriage of 18 years. He still cared about his wife, Jennifer, but he was no longer in love with her. He had recently fallen in love with Chandra, with whom he now had all the passion he previously had with Jennifer. The reason he hadn’t left was he was deeply devoted to his and Jennifer’s four children.
I asked Brandon not to make any decisions about leaving until we had a change for work together for a few months.
It soon became evident that, while Brandon was deeply desirous of having an intimate relationship, which he believed he had with Chandra, he had no intimacy with himself. By this I mean that he had lived his life ignoring his own feelings and needs.
Brandon was a nice guy who was there for his wife and children, but never there for himself. He was completely out of touch with his own feelings and needs. He had abandoned himself. He was often judgmental of himself, which led to his relying on others’ approval for his sense of himself. He would care-take others in the hopes that they would give him the love, attention, and approval that he was not giving to himself.
Love and intimacy almost always disappear in a relationship when we abandon ourselves by judging ourselves, by ignoring our feelings, and by making others responsible for our sense of worth. Because Brandon had been abandoning himself for years in his relationship with Jennifer, he was a sitting duck for an affair.
Chandra and Brandon were in the same profession and they met at a national sales meeting. Over dinner, Chandra gave Brandon the attention and approval that he was not giving himself and that Jennifer was not giving to him. Jennifer, an executive in a large company and a busy mother of four, did not want the responsibility of taking care of Brandon. The problem was that Brandon had not wanted the responsibility of taking care of Brandon either.
As Brandon started to learn how to attend to his own feelings, and how to give himself the love and attention that he needed, he started to feel much better inside. He discovered that the more he learned to value himself, the more he started to reconnect with Jennifer.
I have often found in my work that as a person starts to treat themselves with the love and valuing that they have always sought form others – when they become intimate with themselves – they find themselves experiencing intimacy with their spouse. A marriage they thought was over becomes renewed with the love that they had been seeking from someone else.
Before you leave your marriage, especially if you have children, do your inner work and learn to have intimacy with yourself. You might be surprised at what happens with your marriage.