helping people connect & discover true intimacy

Finding that Loving Feeling

Will I ever be able to feel love again? In some form or fashion, I've been asked this question hundreds of times by those who had been deeply hurt by someone they loved and trusted. In most cases, they had endured pain and rejection for a very long time.

Usually when a couple gets to the point of coming to see me, their relationship, by all intents and purposes, is almost non-existent. Each has logged countless hurts and grievances over the years. Still many stay in the relationship, not out of a commitment or dedication to the other, but due to a commitment of constraint. They feel they should stay in the marriage for the sake of their children, the shame or embarrassment of divorce, or fear of failure.

When a relationship is based on a commitment out of constraints rather than one of dedication, sooner or later the "loving" feelings will fade. If the underlying problems in the relationship are not addressed, negative feelings will then arise. One woman stated, "I'll be a mother, but I don't want to be a wife." Another said, "I'll just stay in the relationship because I don't have anything else to do but I don't want anything to do with my husband." When a relationship reaches this point, can feelings come back? Can a couple actually "fall in love" again? Can they feel again for each other what they once did? Can they create new feelings of attraction, passion and love? Absolutely. But it takes time.

There is one main premise I base my work on as a counselor: God brings life out of deadness. God can take a dead relationship and bring it to life. The only condition is to let God do it His way.

God is the One who does the work in restoring a relationship, but there a few things each person must do to prepare. Each person should focus on where they are in their life. Take stock of what has gone before. Determine what they want. Be honest. If they are Christians, they should commit to developing a dedicated relationship with the Lord Jesus. The key word here is "relationship." I'm not talking about going through the motions or seeking spiritual moments or adhering to religious constraints. Seeking and developing a relationship with Christ is, in essence, falling in love with God.

Over time, as intimacy with God is cultivated (through reading His Word and asking Him to develop that special love with Him), the result is a softened heart. As we let Him, the spirit of God massages the hardness away. It is impossible for someone to have a hard heart and a softness toward God.

At various times during this process, I've seen people become impatient when things don't seem to happen quickly enough. "I've had it." "I want out," they say. "I can't deal with this." Actually this is a very understandable reaction. Sometimes it's difficult to see what God is working in our lives. We may become weary or discouraged.

When we've been hurt by another's betrayal or indifference toward us, our heart is broken. The original love relationship has died, it seems. The innocence is gone, so we must grieve. As is so often the case during the grieving process, our hurt turns to anger. It's so important that we not let our anger turn to bitterness, resentment and revenge—these only lead to hardness of heart. Instead we must give our anger to the Lord. In this way, the other person's sin will not continue to haunt or destroy us. Christ died to break the power of their sin over us. We allow that sin to control us when we don't give the hurt and anger to God.

What if our heart isn't hard, but we just feel numb or indifferent? Sometimes we're not dealing with anger but with feelings of indifference. Here too, if we seek a relationship with God, He can soften and warm our heart. In the soil of a softened heart, God can rejuvenate new feelings of love in our relationships.

After many years of marriage, John* suddenly moved out of the house he had shared with Amy* and their children. He wanted a divorce. Although John had grown indifferent toward Amy, she was in no way prepared for this.

A few years before, John had been involved in a serious car accident. Amy was there for him every step of the way during the long recovery process. Looking back, Amy realized that this was about the time John seemed to drift away from the family. By the time he moved out, he had even stopped being involved with his children. Then the truth came out, John was having an affair.

In the past, Amy had gone many times outside of God's way of getting her needs met and ended up in affairs. But this time she sought the Lord and what was right. It turned out to be a yearlong process for Amy. At times it was hard. She was angry and wanted to give up. But we continued to work on her heart not becoming hard or indifferent.

Amy came to the point where she was no longer angry or bitter toward John. As painful as it was, Amy turned him over to the Lord, knowing that if he didn't return she could survive with the Lord.

What happened next? God had been working in John's heart too. He came back home and confessed to Amy about his long-term affair. In the counseling room, I had the privilege of witnessing a miracle—God restoring their marriage. In the process, they discovered they still had feelings for each other. Over time, God rekindled their love. They now share a more real and deeper relationship than they had ever known.

*not their real names

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