Love Requires Heart and Vulnerability

Dear Neil:  I’m wondering why I cannot trust my heart.  Ever since marrying my husband four years ago, I have known something was wrong.  After a year of searching, I have finally figured out that I married him based on “cognitive” things that I thought would make a good marriage.  The problem is that I’ve never loved him in my heart.  We have a two year old daughter and I don’t want to break up our family, but I can’t imagine being married to someone I now know I never loved.  My instinct says to take accountability and move on, but my head says to try to fall in love with him to keep our family together.   Do you have any advice?

Unsure in New York City

Dear Unsure:  It sounds as if you have developed a habit of keeping your heart under wraps—safe, protected, armored, insulated—so you won’t get hurt.  Perhaps you’re being too safe and emotionally protected.  Falling in love is about opening your heart, soul, gut, trust and spirit to another person.  There is no magic to the experience if you keep yourself emotionally removed.  You’ll then be safe, but you’ll never be happy, but you’ll miss out on perhaps the sweetest experience life offers us.

Examine what’s in your way in order for you to become more emotionally vulnerable to your husband, and then tell him what you need in order to feel closer.  It’s in your self-interest to see if you can make things right—in your marriage, for your family, and for your self—before you consider leaving.

Dear Neil:  I have been dating a great guy for fourteen months, and broached the subject of us living together.  He is hesitant, and is not ready to give a commitment yet.  We have both been separated for two years, and we each have two children the same ages.  How can I best help him feel great about the decision of us living together?

Wanting More
Christchurch, New Zealand

Dear Wanting More:  You can’t.  He has to be emotionally ready, willing and able to make a greater commitment to you.

You say you’re both separated for two years, but you don’t say if the two of you are divorced.  If he isn’t yet divorced, perhaps he isn’t emotionally completed and at peace with the ending of his marriage.

Healthy people need to cleanly and fully understand what went wrong in their previous relationship, what their role was in causing the problems in their marriage or in contributing to the relationship failing, what they could have done better, and what they need to be watchful or careful about in the future.  It takes time, energy and work, and it can not be rushed or forced.

It’s wise for him to be prudent about subjecting his children to living with another family unless he feels pretty confident about his decision.  He may also feel as if you’re trying to control him, which may cause him to want to go more slowly and cautiously around you.

Ask your boyfriend what his hesitations are.  Then decide whether you wish to wait things out until he is ready.

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