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Here is a common story I hear from women in an empty relationship.
“I tried so hard to make this relationship work. It often felt like I was doing the work of two. I guess it was okay at first because I figured he’d come around. But when he didn’t I started feeling concerned. Every time I talked to him about my feelings I was never taken seriously.
Rejection set in. Later it morphed into resentment. For awhile I just dealt with it. I tried to ignore my feelings hoping things would get better on their own. But it didn’t.
Then it happened. Something inside of me shifted. My feelings died. I started grieving the relationship. I stopped trying to make the marriage work. Instead, I began thinking about how my life could be better without him in it. I decided to tell my spouse that my feelings are dead. Our marriage is about to be over.
Suddenly, he is alarmed. He wakes up. Now he wants to save the marriage. Everything I asked for in the past is now his top priority. He is “all in” to prove he can be “that guy” again. In fact, he announces that he is willing to go to marriage counseling.
It feels like too little too late. I can’t feel the love anymore.
Can I resuscitate my feelings?”
The Straight Answer
The straight answer is – maybe
. I know it’s not a definitive yes or no. When it comes to a person’s heart it is a subjective process. So many factors come into play. I see individuals who were successful in resuscitating feelings. Sadly, I also witness those who could not.
If your heart has any hope of resuscitation it’s going to take a lot of work and time to recover. So, what does it take? Here are 5 key decisions.
It takes a willingness on your part to allow your spouse a chance to earn his way back in
This is hard because it may feel like you are setting yourself up for more disappointment and rejection. I know it is a risk, but you won’t know if your heart can open up again unless you try.
It takes a commitment by your spouse to focus primarily on your heart
Attempts to by your spouse to win your heart will not be easy. He will have to work hard and long to resuscitate your heart. Some guys give up early when they realize it will take a lot of work. Many are not capable of weathering the resistance they will likely face from you.
If your guy stands a chance of winning your heart back he must understand what you endured all these years. He needs to focus on your heart and exhibit sustained empathy.
Now for the confusing part. As he starts giving you attention, it may make you angry and resist it. Why? Because he waited until you shut down before he decided to work on the relationship. Suddenly, he starts doing all things you begged for before and expects you to be happy. When you resist his effort he feels rejected. If your heart stands a chance of being resuscitated he can’t give up.
It takes set timeframes to see if resuscitation is working
So much is at stake here. A willingness on your part. A commitment on his. Now you need a set timeframe to see if the heart can respond. When I work with couples in situations like this I suggest a timeframe of three months to start. We measure progress along the way.
Rebuilding of trust takes time. Here’s my formula. Trust = behavior over time
. Is your man consistently showing you love and attention? Does he show thoughtfulness and flexibility? Has he met resistance with consistency? If the answer is yes then you may decide to go another three months.
If resuscitation is not working, accept the reality that your feelings are unrecoverable. You tried but it wasn’t enough. Your marriage is dead. It’s time to grieve and end it.
On the other hand, if the process is working and it is clear he is truly changing, you have another decision to make. Here’s what it will take.
It takes a risk on your part to open your heart again
The heart moves slower than the head when it comes to trying. Use your head to acknowledge his effort. This signals to him that you recognize he is trying. Yet, let him know that your heart moves slower and needs time to feel safe.
“I see the effort you’re making and it shows me how much our relationship means to you. However, my feelings aren’t back yet. Please understand, my heart moves slower than my head.”
This will be another test for him. He has to remain loving, patient, and consistent. If he does, it may signal your heart that it is time to open up some. Why? Because the pattern of his behavior appears more authentic. It’s not scripted or rehearsed to get what he wants. Rather, it becomes about you and what was lacking in the marriage.
It takes time to fully recover
There are four seasons in a year. If you show progress in each season over the course of a year the probabilities of recovery are good.
This will not come without setbacks. As you start feeling close it may be followed by distancing on your part. Vulnerability will trigger fear of rejection. Don’t be too alarmed. This is normal in recovery from emotional pain.
Try to remain open to his attempts to express love. Over time, the heart should recover. The marriage may become stronger than it was in the past. Hard work pays off.
Now it’s your turn
As you can see, resuscitating dead feelings is not easy work. Unfortunately, the probabilities of recovery are low. In the end, it takes two people committed to the process over a long period of time.
Your chances increase when you seek help with a professional couples counselor. If your heartbeat is low but you want to see if it can recover, reach out for help. I can be reached on my contact page