I have had many clients over the years come to my office, sit on my couch, and quietly sob while sharing the pain they feel because their spouse has told them that they do not love them anymore. The wife sitting on my couch saying, “I just don’t understand. I have done everything for him, I have lived my life for him, and now he says he doesn’t love me.” It’s painful to watch, and it is even more painful to look at this person in so much pain and ask them, “But tell me, what is left of you to love?”
It sounds so harsh, but in therapy it is imperative to be honest. You cannot change what you do not know needs to be fixed. The wife in this scenario has spent years and years losing herself in the marriage. Each day she felt her husband pull away, she has tried to be more and more what she thought he wanted her to be. She takes up Pilates because she thinks her husband wants her to be more active, she starts to volunteer more because she thinks he will be proud of her accomplishments, she tries to make sure things in the house are exactly how he would want them to be when he gets home so he will be happy. Some spouses (because yes there are many husbands out there doing this same thing) will do this until literally all that is left is a sliver of who they used to be. There is nothing left of them to be loved, because their life is only about others.
One part of this that is important to mention, is that it is not just the marriage that has allowed this wife (or husband) to get completely lost. Not every wife who has a husband that pulls away will lose herself trying to please him. Most people that do this were never really whole to at the start. Something in their childhood didn’t allow them to develop a good sense of self. Having an overbearing parent, an absent parent, or being expected to take care of adult issues at a young age are just a few of the issues that can cause a person to not develop a good sense of self as a child. If this is not developed properly it is easy for any sense of self that does develop to be quickly lost.
If this is you, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you have an amazing journey in front of you! You for probably the first time in your life, get to learn about who you are, what you like, and what you want your life to look like. Together, we can help you discover your sense of self and make your life about you. It’s amazing! The bad news is that it is a painful and long journey. The end is worth the pain and the wait, but the journey is a hard one. Learning about yourself and making your life about you after all of these years of feeling like that it is not ok, is not an easy task. The journey starts today. Start small, and you will be amazed about how different life will look when you take this self discovery journey.