Can I Develop Love When I Don’t Feel It?

Dear Neil: I am in dire need of your help. I am married to a wonderful man for 5 years who loves me, but I have always struggled with feeling love for him. Mentally I have compared him negatively with others a lot.

I was scared and anxious when we were engaged, and constantly thought of breaking off the engagement, but I couldn’t. After we were married, I was still anxious about whether I made the right decision, so I thought about getting divorced. I am Christian and very religious—and I don’t believe in divorce, so the fact that I always think about divorcing him plagues me. I believed in waiting until I was married to have relations with my husband, but I was so afraid that I had made a mistake that I had to wait almost 2 years before I could be intimate.

I was head over heels with my ex-boyfriend, and I wanted to marry him, but he wasn’t good for me, and the relationship didn’t work out—but I still think a lot about what it would be like to be married to him. My husband is so much better for me. He is so good to me and I feel so safe with him, so I want it to work out and feel wild about him. I feel horrible for having these feelings—because he could be in a relationship with someone who loves him. Is there any way for me to love my husband? I want to give him my whole heart, but I don’t know how.

Completely Lost

Dear Lost: The reason why your question is difficult to answer is that you actually can’t force yourself to have emotions you don’t feel. You can’t make yourself love your husband, and he can’t make you love him either, no matter what he says or does.

That being said, there might be a few things you could do to open yourself up to him. First, you could examine your feelings of not being worthy of love, or of having a close, loving relationship. Could it be that you don’t feel worthy of having a wonderful, safe husband who is good for you? Perhaps you find such men boring, and you prefer “bad” boys, or unavailable men that you have to “win.” Look at this carefully. You might be on the verge of throwing away the right guy simply because you didn’t have to do a lot to win him.

Second, you could commit to letting him in. Letting him in means that you would commit to sharing your hopes, goals, disappointments, vulnerabilities, fears, failures and dreams. I’m talking about really letting him in—really opening yourself up to him. You might address such questions as: “One of the things I wish you better understood about me is…,” or “I have been hiding or protecting myself from you by…,” or “When I get withdrawn, you could pull me back by….” By sharing your inner self, you just might succeed in opening yourself up to him.

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