Avoid Pretending to Feel Loved When You Do Not
Here's my take on how to enjoy being married. You don't work on the relationship. You work on enjoying it.
Remember when you enjoyed it? Remember when you were thrilled about getting married? Remember those times you felt so close and so in love that you spent half the day thinking of ways to delight your mate? It wasn't work then, was it?
Well, that's what I mean when I say Enjoy Being Married.
So, when I say Assume Love, you can be sure I do not mean ignore that awful, frightening doubt and act as if you feel loved, respected, safe, or happy.
Assume Love is a technique you can use when you stop feeling that way. And I offer it to you because you will not get back there by accusing your committed life partner of causing those awful feelings. If it was his or her intention to make you unhappy, the accusation won't lead to change. And if it was not his or her intention, you have evened the score by pulling your mate down to your unhappiness level, and you have done it intentionally. Not helpful!
You will also not get back there by being extra sweet, helpful, generous, or sexy while you feel unloved, disrespected, unsafe, or miserable. You are the one who feels awful. You will feel more awful, increasing your resentment level, unless your spouse feels inspired by all these extras to do more for you. Each bit of additional resentment raises the bar for what he or she will need to do in return to please you. At the same time, the resentment leaks out between efforts, demotivating your mate.
Working at being married fails miserably unless the two of you are working with a therapist who makes sure you can both see and appreciate each other's efforts.
So, please do not pretend to feel loved when you feel unloved, unsafe, unhappy, or disrespected. When you feel this way, your very human mind will take the very human precaution of watching intently for all other threats to your very important relationship, which will keep it from noticing most of the love, caring, and respect sent your way.
Instead, Assume Love. Take a few minutes to look at what's happened through a different set of eyes. Instead of asking if this situation is bad or dangerous, ask how it might happen even if your partner, your husband, your wife still adores you.
Don't worry. You cannot explain away truly unloving behavior. You won't buy a story that it's OK to love someone but allow yourself to lose control over what you do that harms them. You will still protect yourself from the sociopath or narcissist or drug addict. But you may well change your view of the spouse whose intense lack of respect at work leads to hypersensitivity about respect at home or the spouse whose early childhood association of lima beans and death leads to a stinging rejection of your delicious lima bean casserole.
You may check the calendar for possible explanations and correlate your guy's new interest in porn with the date of his vasectomy. You may check the 5 love languages for explanations and notice his upsetting lack of affirming words for the difficult journey you are on is accompanied by a big increase in hugs, hair stroking, and shoulder massages.
And since the most likely reason you are so fiercely affected by any loss of love is that you love your mate and value your relationship, you will not need to pretend to care when an explanation suddenly fits.
If you suddenly feel closer and more connected than you have in months after you Assume Love, your spouse may reap some benefits from this. But do not Assume Love for his or her sake.
Assume Love to help you check whether your anger or hurt comes from something real and dangerous to your relationship or from your brain's early warning system jumping to conclusions to protect you. Assume Love for your own release from the pain of these inaccurate thoughts about a situation. Assume Love for the possibility that you may feel suddenly and intensely in love again and actively enjoy doing wonderful things for your husband, wife, or life partner.
Remember that Assume Love is a technique (assume there is no doubt about your mate's love or character while you look for possible explanations). It is not an instruction to act as if you feel loved.
Your brain is hugely self-protective. It will not let you get away with pretending for very long. Once alarmed, it will keep looking for danger until you ask it to take a break and look for loving explanations. It knows you were promised lifelong love, so it will accept this as a safe possibility to explore, but it needs a plausible explanation, not just an assumption. You must use the technique, not pretend you feel loved, to change the chemical soup in your brain and let you enjoy being married.