Times-Call (Longmont)

If your heart’s not in it

- Editor’s note: This column was originally published Aug. 29, 2020.

A client of mine has been trying to decide whether or not to stay in a seemingly loveless relationsh­ip. They share a child, which adds a layer of complexity. Does she stay and remain unhappy and settle for mediocrity, or does she leave now and find love somewhere else? Her ideal scenario would be to have that love with the father of her child, but she’s been unable to see how it’s possible. Not an easy decision to make, but during a recent session we discovered something that brought her some much needed clarity and hope.

She has been in this relationsh­ip for five years, but three years ago, she left it.

She remained, but her heart made a run for it.

At the beginning of their relationsh­ip he had been unkind with his words. She would feel pain and she didn’t feel safe, so in order to protect herself, she closed her heart to him. When they discovered they were pregnant and decided to remain together to raise their child, she longed for feelings of a family, but found herself experienci­ng feelings of loneliness, isolation, complete lack of sexual desire, and constant conflict. For three years she has believed that the problem was that he was not a good partner for her.

However, she realized that in truth, she was the problem. She has been unable to receive love from him, or see any of his good qualities, because her heart simply wasn’t in it. She had been going through the motions, trying to make things work, but hitting the same lonely wall over and over. In closing off her heart to him, she thought she was protecting herself, but in reality she was creating a relationsh­ip where it was impossible to experience love. She was unable to see all the ways he was showing up in the relationsh­ip to meet her needs and be a good father and partner. She could not receive the love that was there.

We need our hearts for love. We have to be vulnerable in order to bring our hearts into a relationsh­ip. We cannot receive love when we are unwilling to be vulnerable.

When we have been hurt, it can be easy to withdraw our hearts in an effort to not get hurt again. We know how to behave as if we are in the relationsh­ip, we remember anniversar­ies, we raise kids, we go on vacations, we may even continue to have sex, but without our hearts involved, it can feel empty and lonely.

When we feel disconnect­ed, our brains search for evidence as to why. It offers us things like: he’s unkind, he’s not present, he’s gained weight, she drinks too much, he is stingy with money, she’s too negative, etc.

Before we know it, our vision is clouded. We become blind to all of the

ways our partner is the perfect person for us. We miss the small things, him bringing a cup of coffee, her asking how the meeting went, him making sure the kids pick up their things because he knows you like the house tidy.

How do we bring our hearts back into the relationsh­ip? It depends on the reason they left. Awareness is the first step. In my client’s case, she realized when she retreated, so she’ll be able to begin the process of forgiving him and letting go of the past hurts. She’ll need to communicat­e to him that she wants to be vulnerable and she needs help feeling safe.

The biggest takeaway, though, was the empowermen­t of recognizin­g that she was creating the distance, therefore, she is able to create intimacy again. As she opens back up, she’ll begin to see and receive the love that is all around her. No partner is perfect, but if we see with our hearts, we will not miss all the ways they might be perfect for us.

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