Have you ever known a couple who decided to reconcile after one of them had an affair? They even went to amarriage counselor and everything! Yet they just spun their wheels and never could really get ahead, and they ended up divorcing even though they really tried?
Or is that maybe where you find yourself today? Your spouse had an affair -OR- you were unfaithful, and the two of you made a choice–a decision–to reconcile, but it just isn’t working? Oh you are going to marriage counseling and the counselor told you to “try dating” but how in the world do you DATE someone who tore your heart out? How do you DATE someone who gave you the silent treatment when you desperately needed and wanted their attention? You’re trying…and I mean really trying, not that faking it stuff… and yet somehow you get no traction and your marriage just is not recovering. You worry if you will ever feel loved again and wonder if you’ll just end up divorcing even after all this effort.
Today is the final in our series examining why some couples have so much difficulty reconciling. (If you want to catch up, here is Part 1 and Part 2.) There is an uncomplicated reason, but in order to understand the explanation, you need to understand our Basic Concepts here at Affaircare. Let me summarize:
To keep it simple, envision that the love in your marriage is like a campfire. There are actions that people do to stoke the fire of love and make it hotter–those are Love Kindlers (we will be going over the Love Kindlers over the next week). Much as adding fuel to a fire keeps it burning, makes it brighter and warmer, so concentrating on Kindlers, making them part of your daily interaction, builds the fire of love in your marriage. There are actions that people do that are like putting water on a fire–some are like dribbles out of a holey bucket, and some are like dumping a big bucket of water on the fire. Smothering a fire will eventually put it out. Actions that kill the fires of your love are Love Extinguishers.
When you go to marriage counseling, and you’re told to “try dating” …what the counselor is focusing on is the Love Kindlers. But what happens is that the husband tries to think of some nice “kindler” to do for his wife but picks the wrong love language, so she doesn’t notice or if she does notice…she’s underwhelmed. Well hey–it didn’t mean love to her in her language! So he gets upset that he put ALL THAT EFFORT into it, and got no benefit, no brownie points, no passion…and he starts finding fault with everything she does, and one step forward just became three steps back! Or the wife tries to win her husband with his favorite meal and a ticket to the ballgame (what guy wouldn’t love that?) but she works herself into a frenzy that he’s going to meet “her” at the game and ends up bringing up the affair and making several disrespectful judgments about why he’d rather go to a sporting event than be with her. One step forward…three steps back!
Love Kindlers are lovely. They are! They are what make us fall in love with each other, and we often call them “romance.” But we can not fall in love with each other if we are sabotaging the relationship with LOVE EXTINGUISHERS. So before you can get to the rather fun part of adding Love Kindlers, it is vital to first look at yourself (not your spouse, and I don’t care if they were the Disloyal or not), and be honest. Have you been doing these things? If you have, forget the Kindlers for now and practice stopping these Love Extinguishers!! Last week, we looked at the first four extinguisher: Emotional Neglect, Spiritual Neglect, Physical Neglect, and Financial Neglect–and today we address the final three Love Extinguishers: Family Neglect, Social Neglect, and Security Neglect.
- Refusing to Leave and Cleave–Are you still a ‘Mama’s Boy” or do you still run to your Mommy every time you two disagree? Do you drag your In-Laws into your marital business?
- Not Making Time for Personal Adult Time–Do you go to the gym, PTA, board meetings, church activities, and out with friends…but make no adult time for your spouse?
- Not Making Time for Each Child-Child Rearing–Do you have so many activities so that you are neglecting spending time with the children? Do you just let your spouse do that stuff with the kids and shirk that parental responsibility?
- Inequitable Distribution of Household Chores–Do you expect your spouse to do all the household chores (like vacuuming, laundry, dishes and mowing) and never notice or thank them, while you sit and watch TV or relax? Do you do ever give your spouse a “break” from their chores and do for them what you expect them to do for you?
- Getting Too Comfortable: Giving Up–Have you gotten lax and don’t put any effort into the family, the marriage, yourself or life? Are you a slug that just sits there and won’t interact?
- Irritating Habits (Discourteous)–Do you chew your food with your mouth open? Leave stuff all over the counters? Make piles all over the house? Interrupt? Do what your spouse has asked you a thousand times to stop doing?
- Independent Behavior–Do you ignore your spouse’s thoughts and interests, and just do what YOU want to do? Do your have your own set of friends and do your own activities that EXCLUDE your spouse?
- Not Sharing Activities or Free Time Together–Do you sit at home like a lump and ignore your spouse? Do you ignore your spouse’s need to occasionally see another living being? Do you refuse have any couple friends or do anything with your spouse that you both enjoy?
- The Silent Treatment or Not Listening Actively–Do you give your spouse the cold shoulder for DAYS ON END? Do they try to talk to you and you ignore them? Do you let them talk but they can tell you are just planning what you are going to say and not really listening at all?
- Angry Explosions–Do you ramp up a disagreement until there is yelling and an explosion? Do you try to ‘hurt them back’ or punish your spouse for hurting you? Do you rage at your spouse?
- Attack Dog (Verbal/Emotional Abuse)–Do you “go for the jugular” in a particularly cruel way? Do you use words to just lay them to waste? Do you emotionally DESTROY your spouse just for disagreeing with you?
- Passive Warmonger (Passive-Aggressive)–Do you always say you”forgot” to do the the things you agreed to do? Do you say nasty things about your spouse and then say “It was just a joke! You have no sense of humor!”?
- Physical Abuse–Physical abuse isn’t always “hitting.” Have you ever THREATENED a pet? Punched the wall right near your spouse’s head? Grabbed them? Pushed them? Kept them awake all night arguing? Thrown something at them? Attacked them with a knife or knitting needles or scissors? Stood in the way so they couldn’t leave?
- Not Being a Safe Haven—Can your spouse be their True Self with you and know that they are safe and loved and accepted? When they come to you for support or comfort during a time of vulnerability do you add to the hurt?
To learn more about ending the Love Extinguishers so your marriage can recover, have your spouse take the Love Extinguishers Questionnaire about you–and likewise you take the Love Extinguishers Questionnaire about them. Share your results, knowing that you are going to hear some hard truths. If your spouse is honest with you, even if it hurts to hear it, thank them for their honesty and let them know you will think about what they said. And remember, this questionnaire is not meant to tear your spouse apart or nit pick, but rather to truthfully let them know the actions they are taking that are consistently killing your love for them.