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Question 

I dated on and off throughout my early 20’s, but I never seemed to meet a guy who would stick around. I had become okay with never finding someone and I went on with my life not really looking for anything meaningful. Then, I met my fiancé. The first time we met we talked all night. There was no going back after that.

As in all relationships, we had our “honeymoon phase”. This was so great and I was really beginning to think I had found the man I had never known I needed. However, as the relationship progressed, I started letting my mind get the better of me.

I somehow got it in my head that he was way out of my league. I couldn’t understand why this man who was so wonderful and handsome would choose me over all the other options he could have. I started to convince myself that there was no way he wasn’t looking for somebody better than me.

Unfortunately, this led to accusations that he wasn’t into our relationship as much as I was. I was constantly on alert because I felt like it was only a matter of time before he would move on like everybody else had done in my past. I started to say things that pushed him away. Eventually, this is exactly what happened. He admitted that he created a dating profile and wasn’t sure he wanted to keep dating me. He said that he didn’t know if he loved me anymore.

I can see that I had been so wrapped up in my fear of him looking elsewhere that I completely gave up on nurturing our relationship. I had pushed him away and made my worst fear come true.

We’ve had an honest talk about what each of us was feeling and we decided that we both wanted to fix our relationship if it isn’t too late.

Is there anyway this can be salvaged? Can our love be nurtured back to life? I appreciate any input you may have.

Answer

Your relationship doesn’t have to automatically end just because you made these mistakes. There is work to do, obviously, but if you are both willing to stay with it, it’s likely you can build a strong relationship.

First, the fact that you are willing to step up and take an honest look at how you contributed to the disconnection in your relationship is an important first step in repairing things. You had your own insecurities and shame that told you there was no way he could possibly love you. The rejections of the past felt like a life sentence for you, so you couldn’t imagine any other outcome for this relationship.

Even though you recognize this as a problem that caused this crisis, it’s not enough to recognize it. I encourage you to continue getting help for this insecurity so it doesn’t hijack your thinking and damage your relationship. If you continue to believe this, it won’t matter how loving and reassuring he is toward you. You have a responsibility to eliminate any intimacy-blocking beliefs that make it impossible for you to receive the love he’s freely giving you. Most people find it helpful to work with a professional counselor who can help identify and change these shame-based beliefs about one’s worthiness to receive love.

Please be aware that any insecurity you had about his ability to love you before this meltdown will now be heightened by the fact that you’ve now given him an actual reason to leave you. This additional vulnerability will threaten to sabotage your relationship if you can’t accept his choice to try again. Be gentle on yourself when you feel that additional emotional turbulence.

Remember, he chose you the first time and he’s willing to choose you again; even after your insecurities overwhelmed both of you. You will be tempted to believe things about him that could set in motion unhealthy behaviors. Do your work to challenge these beliefs while remembering that there is nothing wrong with asking for occasional reassurance instead of guessing what he’s thinking.

You are nervous about starting your marriage with this messy situation firmly planted in your relationship story. Please know that messy relationships can, with lots of work and patience, produce strong relationships.

The ancient Nephite city, Ammonihah, was rebuilt and fortified after the Lamanites exploited its vulnerabilities. In fact, the Lamanites were astonished at how much stronger this city was after it was destroyed and rebuilt under the direction of the military general and prophet Moroni.[i]

Intimate relationships expose our blind spots and vulnerabilities. It’s not until we give ourselves to another person and rely on them completely that we see more clearly our shortcomings and fallen nature. It’s precisely in these moments that we can choose to do the individual and relationship work to build a relationship that will last, or make excuses and give up. The entire plan of salvation is based on the truth that change is a necessary part of our eternal development. Any relationship can be changed as both people submit to the Great Physician and ask for healing.[ii]

You and your fiancé have discovered your vulnerability of not trusting he wants to be with you. Your willingness to own and explore this discovery creates conditions that reinforce the strength and integrity of the relationship. This isn’t the first and won’t be the last discovery you make in this relationship. If you’re both willing to do the work to build on these discoveries, this relationship has beautiful potential.

I want to conclude my response by sharing an analogy Dr. Brent Barlow, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, used to encourage couples to do the difficult work of building and rebuilding their relationships. He shared:

As I looked at the [Salt Lake] Temple late at night I wondered why it was that the construction took 40 years to complete. Given the fact that we now have more modern construction techniques, I also realized [something else]. At least twice the Mormon pioneers had to start over on the construction project. This occurred once during the Utah War of 1857 when Johnston’s Army threatened to enter the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young ordered the workmen to cover the foundation and encouraged the saints in Salt Lake to vacate the valley and move south.

After the Utah War Crisis was over, the soil was removed from the foundation and construction on the temple was started once again. Not long afterward Brigham Young determined the foundation was insufficient and once again ordered the workmen to reset the foundation. He announced the Temple must stand for a thousand years, even through the Millennium. So once again, they started over.

Things of lasting value usually take a long time to build. And the same is true of marriages as it is of temples. If they are endured they should be built on a solid foundation and the construction of both will take skill, time, effort, knowledge and patience. It may be that after a few years of marriage we also may face difficult times and be tempted to give up. But like the Mormon pioneers and the Salt Lake Temple, we may have to start over working together on the marriage.[iii]

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

[i] Alma 49
[ii] Mark 2:17
[iii] http://brentabarlow.blogspot.com/1983/05/building-things-of-lasting-value.html