I get a lot of consultations from members, and it gives me a vital insight into the state of marriages and where couples are encountering sticking points.
Feelings, the power of them (and sometimes the lack of them) are powerful things, and when we combine these into the fast pace of a modern marriage, it comes as little surprise that things come off the rails!
All too often we get caught up in the details of what hurts us and we forget to love.
I want you to read through the following email from a member and my reply to her:
"I just signed on for the course and wanted to tell you a little about my situation and see what advice you can give me. My husband had an affair a year ago that lasted for about a year and a half. He fell in love with the woman and out of love with me.
He still loves me he says and cares about me but he says he is not happy without her. He has said he will stay because I asked him to but it is not what he wants and he is not happy. Our problem is everything is a catch 22 with us. He expected me to be okay and happy again in time after he left me and our family.
Therefore i expect him to be okay and happy again in time if he stays. Right now the "arrangement" for lack of better word is the he is here he is not happy and is in "mourning" and is not going to do anything to help our marriage at this point. He states that he will forever live with the fact that he wasn't strong enough and he failed himself because he didn't leave. He states he will live the rest of his life with her memories.
How do I make my marriage better and how do I make my husband happy? How is it that I make this home and marriage something that my husband wants and is happy with. Our situation is a chrisis but I don't want to loose my husband and I don't want to loose my family unit. "
Thanks for your email and the work that went into your written submission.
What I can see here is a lot of talk about love and feelings, and very little understanding from either of you what love actually is or what it takes to achieve it.
At the beginning of a relationship or a marriage, it's easy to love someone. It's new, exciting, a little exhilarating, and the benefits of that love are quite tangible. However, over time, routine and ritual sets in and it becomes easy to take one another for granted. You stop seeing the special things and start noticing the little things that annoy you. You start to realize that the person you have committed to is not perfect.
If you take a look at Chapter 7 of Book 2, you will see that love is much more than just a word or a feeling. It's an action. Your husband has stated that he loves you, but that staying with you is not what he wants and he's not happy.
If your husband has decided to stay, mourning for the other woman is a torturous and unproductive pastime. Your husband is not a matyr, no matter how much he may believe this is so. In making a conscious choice to stay, he also makes a choice to be happy or commit to being some kind of victim.
The problem here is that your husband is neither a matyr nor a victim. Wallowing in self-pity and his memories are fine if he wants to live on his own, but in choosing to come back it's unfair that he should subject you to such self-indulgent fantasy.
Your husband is not a child. As an adult, he is responsible for his actions and the consequences that arise as a result of those actions. You are not responsible for his happiness any more than you can be held responsible for his affair.
His happiness was not tied to you, nor was it tied to the woman he had the affair with. He fell in love with a misguided notion that another woman found him attractive, though the fact that the relationship has now ended would suggest the notion he had was less romantic than imagined hence why it's over.
It's easy to fill your life with "what ifs" and "what could have been". Each day is filled with a hundred decisions to make, and any one of those decisions can have a profound effect on your life. Instead of focusing on what might have been, it's safer to focus on what's right in front of him... YOU.
My challenge to you in affecting change in your marriage is to challenge your husband's behavior and his victim mentality. Love your husband using the suggestions outlined in Chapter 7 of Book 2, and challenge your husband to do so as well. Without some level of effort, the love is not going to magically come back. It's not some invisible thing that comes and goes.
Set yourself a goal of finding a way to love him today. It could be a hug. It could be cooking his favorite meal. It could be surprising him with a favorite dessert after dinner. It could be renting a favorite movie and watching it together.
Either way, it needs to start somewhere. Small actions. Small ways of showing him that you love him and care for him. Those actions will be the one thing that sustains your marriage during this uncertain time.
He may not want jump straight back in to being your husband again, but he can be your friend. And you can be his.
Love is something we work on every day of our married lives. Even couples with successful marriages, those who have been married 20, 30, or even 40 years are continually finding new ways to love one another and understand each other on our life's journey.
Your husband made a choice to come home to you. That's a start. Now its up to you to challenge him to continue what he started. He has a choice: To either live in love and understand and learn more of what it takes to be married and living in love, or to wallow in self-pity and be a victim.
That's where you and our course can help. You are being challenged to guide him and show him love. Lead by example. He will either choose to be inspired by you and follow, or he will leave.
Be the best wife you can possibly be. In times of crisis, your leadership is more important than ever before. If both of you sit and wait for the other to make the first move, your marriage is going to suffer.
You are being called to truly love. Lead by example and show him the way to a renewed, more loving marriage.