My wife and I agreed to a summer-long sabbatical from our marriage so that we could work on our individual issues. We lived separately with virtually no contact. Now she says that the marriage is fixable, but she is not in love with me. I feel like she could love me romantically if she opened her heart to the possibility. She says that after five years of settling for less than she needs, she’s done. Yet I have an endless font of passion and romantic love for her. We’re still in couples’ counseling and have agreed, for the time being, not to attempt reconciliation or divorce. I’m taking good care of myself, but still have a problem: I have all kinds of little hopes. I hope that we will stay friends, that my flashes of peace will last longer, that I find this kind of love again, etc. The big hope is to hold her in my arms again and know that there is nowhere else on earth she’d rather be. When I let myself feel this hope, I feel sad, because it probably won’t ever happen. Then I feel foolish because I think I’m lying to myself. Without hope, I am awash in despair. Is it wrong to hope?
No, but be certain that hope is what you’re engaged in. As Sandra Lommasson, a spiritual director and the guiding light of the Bread of Life Center in Davis, points out: “Hope sees truth clearly. It is not optimism because it acknowledges that now we see only a part of things and because it holds the cup of tears (from our grief). Hope is connected to the goodness of God in us. Hope is stronger than confidence or trust because both confidence and trust can be broken.” So while you hope for something different than what is, you must be fully accepting of the present.
Here’s a Ripley’s moment: The internal voice that insists you are lying to yourself is really just trying to help you. Believe it! Beneath the extravagant criticism is an invitation to be pragmatic. The critical tone is intended to get your attention, not distract you.
One last thing: Pop psychology, in its loose cannon fashion, recently co-opted the word “sabbatical” for use as a replacement for the word separation. After all, from a public relations standpoint (which the ego adores) doesn’t it sound better to say, “I’m taking a sabbatical from my marriage,” rather than “I’m separating.” But which is true? Sabbatical is derived from the Hebrew word sabbat, to rest. To the ancient Jews, one day a week—the Sabbath—was set aside for reflection, prayer and, this is key, time with family. A sabbatical was a time when land lay fallow, usually every seven years. Does that sound like what you and your wife were doing?
My heart is broken. I have been totally rejected by someone that I love very much. I cannot eat or sleep, I cry all the time and I feel punched in the stomach. How do I feel worthwhile again?
If you gave more of your time and life energy to the relationship than you gave to the Divine or to your own life, you will feel like you are dying. It is the relationship that is complete and with it, one possible vision of yourself and your future. That means there is a new direction waiting for you. Allow yourself to grieve and commit to counseling and bodywork through this period of transformation. You will feel worthwhile again when you realize that this experience is what spiritual teacher Don Bisson calls, “a comma, not a period” on your life’s journey.