I have the most loving husband who is an excellent father to our three teenage boys. Following a very stressful period where I had made a few mistakes, I had a terrible thought that I didn’t love him anymore. It has left me totally broken, off work for months, on anti-depressants, insomnia meds, Valium, and seeing various therapists/psychiatrists. I have lost a lot of weight and even tried hypnotherapy. We’ve have been married 20 years and I can honestly say the last 10 have been the absolute best. I’m totally devastated by this horrible thought which attacked me when I was feeling really down on myself.
My rational head is telling me the thought is nonsense but my anxiety (chest pains, hair falling out, digestive issues, etc.) is screaming at me telling me I don’t love him and need to leave. We have a lovely home and great boys. I have nowhere to go, and I could not leave my boys, but I simply can’t go on like this. I dread every day. I am simply existing and have no joy in anything. Normally I am a really bubbly happy teacher and mum who loves all sports and life in general.
If you have any advice at all I would be so grateful as I’m losing my will and cry most days and I’m not someone who cries easily. My boys have noticed their mum is unwell and are upset which ultimately is killing me.
I wish I had words that could lift the heavy emotional, spiritual, and physical burden you’re experiencing. The punishing outcome of this sequence of events and resultant thoughts is hard to comprehend. You’ve wisely sought help from a variety of sources, and I can only imagine how discouraged you must feel with the lack of relief from your efforts. Even though you’ve been diligently searching for solutions, I will do my best to offer ideas, encouragement, and hope.
It’s common to feel conflicting signals from our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our spirits. This can often leave us feeling crazy as we sort through the involuntarily input we receive. For example, we’re reminded in Matthew that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”[i] When we experience this disconnect, it’s important to slow down and look more closely at the intersecting conflicts so we can make sure to stay anchored to our deepest values. It’s risky to automatically accept thoughts and impulses that would steer us away from those things that matter most.
We are repeatedly warned about this in the Book of Mormon by different prophets such as King Benjamin and Alma. They taught that “the natural man is an enemy to God” and that it’s important to “bridle all [our] passions.”[ii] Marriage and family life is full of impulses and thoughts that need to be examined and redirected if we are to experience true joy and harmony. My friend, Wally Goddard, once said to me, “anything that has ever come naturally to me has never been good for my marriage or family relationships.”
You’re wise to recognize this sudden reversal of admiration and love for your husband as suspicious. You have enough awareness to recognize that history simply doesn’t support the feelings you’re experiencing. We’re complex creatures who can rewrite history, project new narratives, and completely deceive ourselves in the face of overwhelming evidence. While I can’t claim to know the origins of our capacity to do this, I do know that we are programmed with weakness from a loving Heavenly Father who longs to help us turn weakness into strength.[iii]
I hope you’re opening up to your husband about your internal struggles. Even though he can see the outside struggle, does he know the range of thoughts and emotions that are swirling inside? You might be tempted to conceal your inner reality out of embarrassment, fear, or shame. However, remember that we are not only our thoughts. Our true selves direct and guide what we do with the thoughts and emotions that surface. The Lord taught that the “spirit and body are the soul of man.”[iv] We are fully our true selves when we are grounded in our bodies and our spirits. We can listen to our bodies and our spirits to determine the best course of action. Just because your mind thinks it, doesn’t mean it’s true. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminded us to “doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith.”[v] You have hope that what you’re feeling isn’t real. Let your husband see your soul. Let him know the inner battle between your body and spirit, even if you worry he’ll feel hurt by the unwanted thoughts you’re having about the marriage.
It’s also important to let your children know, in an age-appropriate way, what’s happening to you. It’s not healthy to tell them about your feelings about the marriage. Instead, you can let them know that you’re battling unwanted emotions and thoughts that leave you depleted and troubled. It can be helpful to let them know that what they’re experiencing is real. If you play it down and pretend that you’re fine, they will learn to not trust their own feelings. If you had a serious illness, such as cancer, you would want them to understand your condition. You would let them know that you will do everything you can to fight to be well. Mental illness is no different than a physical illness. Just because you don’t quite understand it doesn’t mean that you’re underserving of support and love. Let them know you’re working hard to be well and that this family is important to you.
The only way we really get through physical or mental health crises is with community support. We are not designed to heal in isolation. Hold tight to your husband, your children, and your community. You can let others know that you don’t need more scrutiny or judgement. Just let them know you don’t want to be alone in this struggle. Perhaps your body and spirit can begin to recognize the goodness of your support system and begin to accept what’s real and secure. Continue building memories by doing those things that you can do with your loved ones. Don’t stay in isolation trying to will yourself out of this place. Spend time with these people and let them influence your mind, body, and spirit.
Remember that the first thing Satan did when Adam and Eve found themselves naked in the Garden was to split them from God and from each other. He commanded them to hide and believe that they were broken and defective.[vi] Shame convinces we’re not worthy of being loved, but it also convinces us that we can’t love others. It burns bridges both directions.
I don’t know what mistakes you made that convinced you that you weren’t worthy of love or that your husband wasn’t worthy of love, but I suspect that you know this isn’t based in reality. Can you trust the foundation you’ve built with your husband and children over these past 20 years? Can you let them stay close to you until you can see more clearly? I hope you can continue seeking professional and spiritual support as you hold fast to the memories and truths about your marriage and family experiences until this fog lifts.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
[i] Matthew 26:41
[ii] See Mosiah 3:19 and Alma 38:12
[iii] Ether 12:27
[iv] D&C 88:15
[vi] Moses 4:13-19