We hadn’t spoken since noon the day before when I had told him I was done.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I’d tempered my declaration to a slightly more reasonable level, “but I am done trying to connect with you!”
He opened his mouth as if to respond but closed it again without speaking. I watched him take a breath, clench his jaw, and shove down any signs of anger or understanding. And then, with a single word, he lowered the cone of silence.
Shortly after that he left to spend the afternoon with a friend, and I settled into losing myself in motherhood and housekeeping. When he came home we moved in our own wide circles around the kids, overlapping with restrained civility only when absolutely necessary. The next morning he left for work without saying goodbye.
My heart broke.
Yes, I’d technically been the one to use the D word – but he was the one who was executing it so easily. He was the one pulling away effortlessly. He was the one holing up and refusing to reach out when he knew that I was hurting. I was the one he’d rejected!
Our perceptions can be so, so stupid. And blinding. And fickle.
Just a few days earlier I’d been telling a friend of mine the story of our marriage. I’d told her all about the things I learned from almost getting divorced and the horrific behavior Jared had put up with and forgiven while I was “finding myself”.
“Wow. You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you,” she’d said.
“No,” I’d agreed, “he definitely has proven his love.”
But now I was saying I was done. Now I was saying he didn’t care. Now I was saying I was the only who tried and he was the one who needed to… to… to love me better?
You can’t ever say he doesn’t love you.
With my friend’s words echoing in my head, I struggled to make sense of what I was feeling and who was to blame. Finally, I summoned my courage and sent him a text.
“I know in my head when I think about our entire history together that you must love me. But when I don’t feel loved right now, it’s really hard to hold on to that.”
The standoff was over.
With that one admission I had reopened the lines of communication and we did, eventually, find our way back to each other.
There are few things scarier or more painful than thinking the person you love most in the world doesn’t love you back. Unfortunately – as my own recent marital breakdown demonstrates – it is surprisingly easy to find yourself thinking exactly that, no matter what your loved one actually feels or thinks about you.
But there is hope.
It’s never too late to turn things around and start feeling the love you need. These steps can be used over and over again to pull you and your relationship back on track.
1. Stop trying to guess how your partner feels.
One of the lessons I’ve learned repeatedly in my almost 15 years of marriage is that how I feel has nothing to do with how Jared feels about me. Whether or not Jared loves me (he does) is not the point.
Focusing on how Jared feels is a convenient way for me to shirk responsibility for my own happiness.
It’s also a really good way to tick off my husband and close down communication – because there are few things more infuriating than being told by someone who is not you how you feel.
Don’t let yourself get distracted by this non-issue. Instead…
2. Figure out how you want to feel.
OK, so you want to feel loved. What else? What does feeling loved mean to you?
Love to me is about being seen, chosen and cherished.
Love to you might be about being protected, respected, valued, or desired. The more you understand about what other feelings are tied up in love for you, the better you’ll be able to…
3. Identify specific actions that help you feel loved.
This is often the hardest part of getting the love you want, but it’s also the most important.
That doesn’t mean there is one universal list of behaviors that make everyone feel loved. We interpret and respond to actions differently. We have unique triggers.
It’s your responsibility to know what your triggers are.
If you don’t know what actions make you feel loved, start with this free quiz to identify your love language.
4. Share those actions with the person you love.
I used to think that if Jared loved me enough he would automatically know what I needed.
Because apparently love makes us mind readers.
Except, it doesn’t.
The only way for our partners to know what they can do to make us feel loved is for us to tell them. The more specific we can be, the better chance they have of meeting our expectations and our needs.
Of course, this is also terrifying.
Hi, I’m feeling unloved and unloveable! Let me beg for your affection by telling you exactly what you have to do for me!
And a little embarrassing.
I really feel loved when you tell give me a specific list of things that you love about me.
It’s no wonder I tend to resort to my love-inspired-mind-reading theory.
In recent years, I’ve been able to use my history with Jared to bolster my courage in these moments. I also remind myself that I am absolutely loveable and so of course he is going to want to love me.
Ultimately, finding the courage to be vulnerable comes down to having faith that you can survive the consequences of that vulnerability – even if that includes rejection.
5. Ask the person you love how they feel love.
This serves two purposes.
First, chances are that you and your partner speak different love languages. That means that he is probably trying to love you in ways that are meaningful to him – and possibly wasted on you. It helps to be able to recognize these well-intended behaviors for what they are:
- proof that you can trust this person enough to reach out.
The second reason to learn your partner’s love language is so that you can…
6. Practice loving them in their love language.
One thing I’ve learned from my own experiences and from coaching others is that we tend to turn inward when we’re feeling insecure. When we are too focused on ourselves, we become like blackholes where love and light go to die. No matter how much love someone is throwing our way, we are blinded by our self-centered perspective.
The solution is to turn our attention outward.
And when we do, we’ll inevitably see that loving someone else well helps us to experience love ourselves.
Bonus: the more loved your partner feels, the more motivated they’ll be to listen when you ask for what you need.
It’s like an endless, awesome loop of love!
And you can get it started.
But be careful. You can’t love someone well with strings and expectations attached. Avoid the trap of thinking that you can skip open and honest communication if you just make your partner happy. Remember:
- You cannot make someone else happy.
- Being happy won’t transform your partner into a psychic.
The best way to reconnect with your partner and recharge your relationship is to rely on personal responsibility, self awareness, vulnerability, and courage. It’s with those strengths that you’ll be able to identify what you need and ask for it.