Has your spouse told you he/she never really loved you? Have you heard him/her tell you they feel they settled for something less when they got married or they felt pressure to marry when they shouldn’t have?
These are certainly harsh and scary words to hear from the person with whom you expected to be married to forever. You are probably confused and hurt. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the marriage is over. It doesn’t even mean your spouse doesn’t love you and it certainly doesn’t mean they never did. Let me explain.
When someone has been unhappy for months or years in a relationship, the lens in which they view the relationship and their partner gets distorted. Research shows that even our memories change. When your spouse tells you they never loved you, they believe it. But it doesn’t mean it is true. It is rare for someone to marry without feeling love for the other person. They may have had doubts or fears (which is normal) but they did feel love in the beginning. Dr. John Gottman calls this phenomenon, Negative Sentiment Override. Eventually, the unhappy person can’t see or acknowledge anything positive about the relationship. Eventually they are convinced they never loved enough or in the correct way.
I experienced this with my house. My husband and I bought what we thought was our dream house. From the very first day we moved in, our dream house proved to be a nightmare. Four years later I hated the house and I couldn’t remember what I thought was so special or charming about it. Friends would tell me what a great house it was but all I could see were the problems. I actually still live in the house and I still struggle with a love/hate relationship. It’s getting better every day but at least now I can remember what first attracted me to the house. I’m in the process of moving away from Negative Sentiment Override.
When your spouse says they never loved you or they settled for less when they married you, they are expressing months or years of unhappiness and feelings of hopelessness. It is a protection mechanism that allows them to begin to disengage without feeling too much guilt. Disengaging gives them hope they will be happy again.
Part of what we do at The Marriage Place and Engage With Love is help you begin to make yourself emotionally attractive to your spouse again. Until this happens, your spouse will not see hope the relationship can be healed or believe they can be happy with you. Hope is the key here! It is likely you have made promises to change things in the past and have not been able to sustain those changes. Each time you reverted back to old behaviors, your spouse lost hope and incentive to stay in the marriage. Your actions now are way more important than your words. That’s why it is so important to start changing your behavior now!
I know you must be worried that you have waited too long and it is too late to save your marriage. But I promise you it doesn’t have to be too late. Your spouse may be telling you it is hopeless but that’s because they have lost sight of what the relationship used to be and what it can be again. Let us help you figure out what your next step needs to be. We specialize in these situations and we know how to help you get your spouse re-engaged. What you have been doing hasn’t been working. Unless you do something differently, you are going to lose your marriage. It is time to try something new.