Question: “What If I Don’t Feel Love?”

A while back, I wrote a post about two feelings necessary in a marriage. It has gathered several comments. One was a question that was a bit off the subject, but very relevant. I decided to make the question and my response a separate post. First, the question:

“Hi Lee,

I ran across your site totally randomly while feeling desperate about my marriage. My wife and I are in counseling right now and have been off and on with counselors for the last year.

I don’t want to be in this marriage. (No there is no one else, no affair, etc.). There’s more here than I can explain so let me just get to my question or thought.

How can I help what I feel? Because I am religious, I am told that feelings don’t matter. So it doesn’t matter if I don’t want to have sex with her ever and I don’t want to be in the marriage and I don’t feel like I love her anymore. Love’s not a feeling it’s a commitment. That’s what I hear all the time. But trying to have sex with someone you don’t want to have sex with is awful. Saying I love you when you don’t feel it seems hypocritical. This has been going on for years. But if feelings don’t matter, then what else is there to do?

I feel lost and confused!

Thanks”

And my response:

Thanks for the questions!

First, let me be clear that in this post, I am talking about two specific feelings (feeling wanted and feeling accepted). I am not addressing the feeling or emotion of love.

I do not agree that feelings are unimportant, and there is only commitment. I do believe, however, that commitment should lead the day. Feelings are an important part of the relationship.

But feelings come and go. Commitment is the glue that holds the relationship together. “Love” is choosing to love someone, not just a feeling. I cannot create emotions, as you note. But I can choose to act lovingly when the emotions aren’t there.

And I can work on what is getting in the way of emotions. Often, what is getting in the way is one of several possibilities:
1) Anger and resentment built up over time, and not addressed.
2) Not staying connected, and therefore allowing the initial feelings to abate.
3) Someone else drawing attention away.

The solution depends on the problem. If there is built up anger and resentment, then it is necessary to deal with those feelings (which is why I have addressed this specifically in my system).

If it is about disconnection, then there is a need to reconnect (again, I cover this in the system).

If it is someone else, then it is important to stop that relationship. First, it is a violation of the vows you made. Second, relationships built on deceit are unlikely to survive. And third, you can’t resolve the situation with someone else present.

Are feelings worthless? Absolutely not! But feelings and emotions are fickle. They come and go. The marriage vows are built on commitment through thick-and-thin. We don’t make a promise to “love as long as I feel that emotion.” We promise to love through good and bad times, up and down times, healthy and sick days. . . there is not much left!

We make those vows because we know the emotion will not always be there, so we promise to work through that.

The question, then, is how to work through them!

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