Dear Dr Elia: I have no feelings for my spouse anymore. I try to, but we have grown apart.
I am trying to be more interested, spend time and try to feel how I once felt. I am frustrated that I feel empty inside.
Is there any way back? It would be a relief to not be married anymore, but I want to try before I go there. — Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: Can love be rekindled? The answer in most cases is a resounding YES!
However, we need to examine first what has brought you to this point.
I will deal with the "why" couples grow apart and eventually feel disconnected and empty. Over the past 20 years I have worked with many couples that have faced your current predicament.
In her book "And They Were Not Ashamed," author Laura Brotherson shares the following on this subject:
"While divorce destroys about five in 10 marriages, many of those couples who stay married settle into the emotional emptiness of marital mediocrity, creating what is called a parallel marriage. Couples in parallel marriages may share a house and a life, but they don't share their hearts. These couples often appear to be doing fine from the outside, but they are merely going through the motions"
The emotional and often physical emptiness in a marriage can be reversed if both parties make it a priority.
Imagine for a moment that every marital relationship has its very own savings or checking account. Every day as husbands and wives we go to "work" to earn a paycheck, which we'll deposit into this account.
At the same time we may find ourselves making withdrawals from the marriage account for a variety of reasons. The health of our marital checkbook will depend on the difference between these deposits and withdrawals. What you described is in essence a marriage account that has no more funds in it.
I'd like for you to reflect back to that very special time when you fell in love with your current spouse.
Is it not true that during your courtship and all the way to your wedding day, the deposits into your love account were clearly more plentiful than the withdrawals?
Even if it was not all smooth sailing, I'm pretty sure your account was in the positive. Why was that? Because we all do things differently when we're trying to make a relationship blossom. When we fall in love, a curious state of mind and being exists — and that's true for all of us.
The greatest feelings in the world are upon us — the flowers smell better, the sky is bluer than ever, we have an abundance of energy. Euphoria is our middle name. Everyone around us notices that our skin glows, our eyes sparkle, our smile is brighter than ever.
There is a discernible countenance that everyone sees and sometimes envies. The deposits are plentiful and the withdrawals few, to the point that our "bank account" is full.
We do that by opening doors and being polite, taking showers before our dates and smelling like a rose. We stay up talking until the wee hours of the morning and, even more impressively, we listen attentively to every word.
We can't wait to reunite, so we can do this all over again. The deliveries of our deposits to our relationship bank are plentiful, so we proceed to make the most important decision of our lives: to get married.
Unfortunately, by confirmation of numerous couples I've interviewed, something happens soon after our wedding and honeymoon comes to an end.
Sometimes it begins slowly, at other times it's quite surprising and abrupt. You begin to hear things like, "He/she changed after we got married," or "It wasn't the same," or "I'm not really sure what happened exactly. We started drifting apart."
If any of those sound familiar to you, well, there's a very logical explanation.
Typically, withdrawals start to increase and deposits start to decrease. Again, it doesn't happen overnight, necessarily. It is, however, a steady and progressive depletion of the bank account.
Eventually, but not surprisingly, we find ourselves and our marriage living "paycheck to emotional paycheck" if you will.
When the deposits and withdrawals cancel each other out, all the good will is replaced with a feeling of "we're just surviving." Divorce is almost always the result of emotional, physical and spiritual bankruptcy.
Next week I will discuss specifically how couples can reconnect and even reinvent a passionate and loving marriage.
Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship expert and author of "The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Surviving to Thriving."