When we feel angry and depleted we stop listening. It happens gradually. It happens carelessly when we are busy and tired. The problem is that everyone is always busy and tired. Relationships are tender, and to all things vulnerable, neglect is the worst fate of all.
If your relationship is lack-luster, boring, filled with arguments, encouraging temptation, or enabling unhealthy habits, you must ask yourself one. simple. question: Am I all in?
How are your needs being met? And by whom?
Several years ago, I discovered I was accidentally cheating on my husband. Not by having a sexual affair, but by getting my emotional needs met by other people. I was emotionally unfaithful. After who-knows-how-long of not checking in with each other, letting our schedules dictate our lives, and letting stress eat away at our real feelings, I started seeking out other people to meet my needs.
I found girl-friends who would build me up. I found happy-hours that would take my mind off of work. I found co-workers who would listen to me vent for days. The more I reached outside my marriage for fulfillment–the farther away I felt–the easier it was to find other ways to fill in the gaps. Yet during the inevitable blow-up argument, I was shocked to find that I already had one foot out the door.
No matter what he said, I wasn’t listening. He certainly wasn’t listening to me. I never felt loved and couldn’t find my love for him–only anger. The solution that felt the closest to me was leaving. How did this happen? Simple. I was already too far away.
Before you make any decisions, ask yourself, “Am I all in?” If the answer is, “NO,” as it was for me, why not give it a try? You can always leave. Really, you can. What would happen if you decided to go full throttle, head-first back into your relationship? How would things change if you always met your spouse with love, always with support, even if felt fake?
As with any situation, you can only control your decisions. Though I cannot predict how your partner will respond, I guarantee you will see results by loving your partner MORE thoroughly than you ever had before. I also guarantee that your partner’s current behavior is based in reaction to your emotional infidelity–even if it is subconscious.
Here’s a guide to re-connecting with your lover by going all-in:
+ Find out what needs of yours are not being met by your spouse, but are being met by other means. Come clean with your infidelity. Stop them immediately. You can’t make changes if you don’t address the issue honestly.
+ Make a the choice to put your immediate concerns (whatever is the root of your fight: money, sex, time) on the back burner. Your needs will be addressed later. This is about loving your partner.
+ Let your partner know you are “all-in” by telling them, showing them, and allowing them time to digest all the love you are giving them.
+ Even if you feel like you are forcing yourself, being fake, or “letting them off the hook” continue filling your partner with love.
+ Think about it from their standpoint. Would you be honest about your flaws or open to making a change in your behavior with someone who didn’t love you? Would you work your hardest to please someone who was, at best, unavailable? No. Focus your energy on loving them the way they need to be loved.
“But what about me!?!” you say. I am happy to report that your needs will be met, in spades, by a new version of your partner, who is ready to listen. You will remember why you fell in love with this person in the first place. You will discover new features in your partner that you have been missing while you were out with your friends. There will be more energy in both of you. This is the place where problems are solved and changes are made. You partner can not listen to you, think about changing anything, or see your perspective if he or she does not feel loved. If your love feels like you are already gone, he/she already feels like it is hopeless, which turns into “why bother.”
Your partner is the first person who should know everything that is going on in your life, not the last. I’m not suggesting that you can’t continue to have friends and connections outside your relationship. I AM saying that those connections should not be fulfilling your needs for affection, connectedness, understanding, validation, etc. That comes from your partner. Everything else is gravy.
Be all-in. For real.
*Special thank you to photographer, Nordia Finegan, whose stirring shots can be seen here!
**Check out the next step in this process: 10 Questions That Will Heal Your Relationship.