Falling Out of Love ... and Climbing Back In

Name Withheld

The key to fixing my marriage was to learn to see my husband as the Savior saw him.

"Falling Out of Love ... and Climbing Back In," Ensign, Jan. 2005, 50
By worldly standards falling in love is an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, falling out of love can be easy as well. But falling back into love after falling out is extremely difficult. People don't fall back into love; they climb back in. This can be a long, difficult journey, but it is extremely rewarding. I know from experience.

"Heavenly Father, I don't know what to do!" I had stormed out of the house after a particularly nasty argument with my husband. It was November and very cold. I left without shoes or a coat, but I was so upset I hardly noticed. Our marriage wasn't physically abusive, but it seemed we fought all the time-or at least whenever he was home, which wasn't very often. He stayed late at work almost every day and seemed to spend the rest of his time at the golf course. I couldn't blame him. Home was just as miserable for him as it was for me. So there I was in the cold, wearing just a thin T-shirt and jeans, pouring out my misery to Heavenly Father. As I prayed I realized I no longer loved my husband. I didn't particularly like him either.

It seemed I had two options. I could leave and get a divorce, or I could stay and be miserable. Neither option seemed very inviting. If I left, my marriage would fail and I would have to give up my hope for an eternal family. I would force my children to suffer because of my decision, and they would spend their childhood in a home with only one parent.

On the other hand, if I stayed, I would be ignoring the fact that we were failing anyway. I would not have an eternal family, because we certainly weren't heading toward the celestial kingdom. I would be forcing my children to live in a very unhappy home because Mom and Dad didn't like each other and could barely look at one another without taking offense.

"Heavenly Father," I prayed, "neither choice is good. Please tell me what to do."

That's when a new thought entered my mind. The right choice was one I had ignored. I could stay, love Mark (name has been changed), and be happy. That seemed a much better choice. Although I had no idea how I was to accomplish such a thing, the thought of having my happy family back made me feel I could turn around and go home.

During the next few weeks I tried to fall back in love with Mark but found only frustration. My best efforts seemed to fail. I tried to be nicer to him. But when I cooked him a fancy dinner I knew he liked, he showed up late. When I did small things for him that I thought showed love, he didn't notice, which upset me even more. Despite all my efforts, he didn't experience the miraculous transformation I was hoping for. After three weeks I was closer to giving up than ever before.

I returned to Heavenly Father in prayer. I'm ashamed to say it wasn't the most humble of prayers. "It won't work," I informed Him. "Mark's too much of a jerk. I can't love him if he's not willing to help me out a little. I tried and it didn't work.

"Can't You help me?" I asked. "Can't You make him a little nicer? Could You please just fix him?"

Almost at once came the strong impression: "Fix yourself."

"I'm not the problem," I thought. I was sure of that. I started listing all Mark's terrible traits that just couldn't be overlooked and that were, most definitely, the problem.

Again inside my troubled mind I felt, "Fix yourself."

"OK," I prayed more humbly now, "I will but I don't know how. Please guide me. Please tell me what to do."

Each day I prayed, pleading with the Lord to guide me. I knelt in many lengthy prayers, informing Him how important this was, trying to convince Him to help me, but it seemed nothing came.

Insight finally arrived through our Gospel Doctrine teacher. During class we read Moroni 7:47-48 [Moro. 7:47-48]: "But charity is the pure love of Christ. ... Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ."

We discussed what charity is. It is love that Jesus Christ has for each of us. I learned that the Savior knows what is good in each of us. He can find something worthy of loving in every person.

The teacher referred us back to the scriptures. "It says in verse 48 that charity is a gift from the Father that is bestowed on you. Charity is not something you can develop on your own. It must be given to you. So there's a neighbor who makes you angry or someone you don't like. What's the problem? The problem is you don't have charity, the pure love of Christ, toward him or her. How do you get it? You need to 'pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart' and ask Him to give you charity toward that person. You need to ask to see that person through the Savior's eyes so you will be able to see him or her as good and lovable."

This was my answer. If I could see Mark from the Savior's perspective, I couldn't help but love him. It seemed such an easy thing to do, much easier than anything I had tried so far. I would just ask for charity, God would give it to me, and that would solve my problem. But I should have known Heavenly Father would require at least a little work from me.

I knelt in prayer that night and asked for charity toward my husband. I asked to feel a portion of the love that Jesus Christ felt for Mark, to see the good things about him that He could see. Then the thought came to me very strongly that I should already know good things about Mark and I should name them. I thought for a long time. I hadn't focused on good things in quite a while. Finally I said, "He looked nice today." I was prompted to say another thing. "He takes out the garbage when I ask." Another. "He works hard." Another. "He's good with the kids." Another. I couldn't think of anything else.

The next night before bed I asked for charity and was again prompted to say good things about Mark. This was hard work. I wasn't used to focusing on the positive. I was used to cataloging all his faults so I could correct them.

I soon realized I would be saying good things about him each night for a while and decided it would be infinitely easier if I paid attention throughout the day. The next day I watched closely and came up with 10 good things about him-a new record! This became my goal: 10 good things before I went to bed. On good days it was easy. On bad days the last three were along the lines of "His hair looked good" or "I liked the jeans he wore." But I did it every night.

After a while I started making myself name 10 positive things each time I had a negative thought. With those odds, I didn't let myself dwell on Mark's faults very often.

Slowly something wonderful was happening. First, I began to realize that Mark wasn't the big jerk I thought he was. He had many wonderful traits that I had overlooked or forgotten. Second, in the absence of my nagging, Mark started fixing a lot of the bad habits I had hounded him about for so long. As soon as I stopped feeling I had to be responsible for his actions, he started taking the responsibility upon himself. I was enjoying my time with Mark, and there was more of it because he stopped working so many hours.

We had come so far, but there was still one problem: I felt no love for Mark. It just wasn't there. I longed for that feeling of connection, the feeling that we belonged together. I had been praying every day for five months now, asking to feel the love that Christ felt for him. I pleaded with God even harder to give me love for Mark. "I am happy with our progress," I told Him. "Our family is much stronger than ever before. If this is the best I can have, I will be satisfied. But if I could just love Mark, even a little, that would be the most cherished blessing I could receive."

I remember vividly the moment that blessing was bestowed. We were playing games at my parents' house one evening. I looked across the table at Mark, and suddenly, out of the blue, the strongest, most vibrant, most intense love I had ever felt hit me almost like a physical force. My eyes welled up with tears, and I was awed by the strength of my feelings. There, sitting across from me, was my eternal companion, whom I loved more than words could express. His infinite worth was so brilliant I couldn't believe I had ever been able to overlook it. I felt to some degree what the Savior felt for my Mark, and it was beautiful.

It has been several years since that special evening, and the memory still brings tears to my eyes. It's frightening to think I almost gave up, almost missed this experience.

My marriage is very good now-not perfect, but very, very good. I refuse to let my love slip away again. I make a conscious effort each day to nourish the love I have for Mark. And I feel the deepest gratitude to a patient, loving Heavenly Father for helping me fix myself.

Gospel topics: Jesus Christ, charity, forgiveness, marriage

[illustrations] Illustrated by David W. Meikle

[illustration] Detail from Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann, courtesy of C. Harrison Conroy Co., may not be copied

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