“My heart skipped a beat.” “My heart was racing.” These are the comments of someone experiencing excited new love or infatuation. But these feelings don’t compare with the strong, steady heartbeat of a stable, loving marriage.
What about spouses who fall out of love? Sometimes a couple loses all but a glimmer of hope and thinks it won’t be possible to work through a stalemate that is blocking all loving feelings. Yet, bypassing the hurt can often be a much better strategy than working “through” it.
My father had open heart surgery last week, following the urgent discovery of two badly placed blockages that closed 95% of two arteries. His surgeon didn’t fix the arteries by clearing the blockage; instead, he stopped the heart, grafted a new vein around the blockage and restarted the heart. Through miracle of technology, divine intervention, or the good fortune of his 63-year-old genes, he was sitting up and talking the next morning. The doctors said working through the blockages was not a successful strategy, but the workaround was a success.
Michele Weiner-Davis, a progressive marriage counselor and author of the very popular book Divorce Busting, explains this “bypass” strategy in her book and in various writings. Whereas some therapists, especially in decades past, focus on a couples' hurts and the deeply rooted causes and effects of negative behaviors, Weiner-Davis advocates a couple change strategies entirely to focus on a time when they were happier and on behaviors that they know in the past made their spouse happier.
For example, a wife might recall that in their newlywed years they took off for fun weekend excursions, so she might plan a similar getaway to reconnect. A husband might recall how much his wife appreciated it when he paid her more attention and was a more active father. Then, he might choose to adopt those behaviors and not focus on a conflict they were having or a negative trait he sees in his wife. Soon, the feelings are following their actions.
The sad fact is many conflicts we have with our spouse will NEVER be solved. (That's true of all marriages.) But if your marriage is 95% blocked and you see no way out, find a work-around; don’t throw in the towel. If your life were on the line, you’d find a skilled surgeon. You’d take risks. You’d try experimental treatments. You might even change your lifestyle.
You can indeed restart the loving feelings if you reach down to locate the fond memories and experiences of your past, and use them to graft a bypass around your problem.
I’m celebrating my 15-year anniversary this month to a guy who isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty close. We have, of course, had our problems and frustrations. But I have such a wellspring of positive experiences with him from which to draw upon.
I can cause myself to have more positive feelings toward him when recall the great days—strolling through Paris, exploring wine country, dancing with our children, celebrating in Vegas—than when I think about our struggles or his perceived faults. In actuality, thinking of these positive times makes my heart skip a beat.
If you’re having a rough time or a difficult conflict with your spouse, change strategies and work on a bypass. Have you ever tried this? If so, was it successful or not?