When I asked Jennifer how she was doing, she said, "Okay, I guess."
"If you're guessing whether you're even 'okay,' you must not be doing all that well."
"I suppose not."
When people "guess" and "suppose" a lot, it almost uniformly means that they're afraid to commit to any decision at all—any action, any declaration of how they feel, any description of an event, and so on. Why? Because if you make a real decision, if you commit to something, you can be WRONG, and then people can criticize you. And then you'd feel stupid and worthless and unlovable, which would be completely unacceptable.
I knew that Jennifer had read several Real Love books, but it didn't sound like she was feeling the love she needed. So I asked, "Are you making calls to people who can love you?"
"Well, not really."
"And you have a Real Love group there in your town. Do you attend that?"
"No, Ronnie [her husband] doesn't really like it when I spend time on the phone away from him, and it's even worse if I go to group without him."
"Do you have enough love in your life?"
When people are afraid, they're often afraid of a great many things. Jennifer was afraid of being wrong, afraid of displeasing her husband, even afraid of admitting that she was empty.
"From what you're saying, and from your tone of voice, it sounds like you're pretty empty. True?"
"And have Real Love and happiness ever fallen magically on your head, like rain?"
"So you'll have to find Real Love, yes?"
"Is it likely that you'll get what you need from Ronnie?"
"Nope. You know Ronnie. He's never been loved, and he has no idea how to love anybody else."
"But it remains true that you need it. So if Ronnie can't give it to you, who will?"
"I don't know."
"Sure you do. You've felt loved by people on the calls, right? And in the group meetings?"
"So that's where you get the love."
"But Ronnie will be mad."
Long silence. "Ronnie said that when I leave the house—for group meetings or just about anything—or if I spend time on the phone, I make him unhappy."
"When you make calls or attend meetings, what are you trying to do?"
"So you will be . . ."
"So you're saying that Ronnie is unhappy that you're doing what it takes to be happier yourself?"
"Ouch. I guess that is what I'm saying. That's not pretty."
"You're worried about pleasing or displeasing a man who doesn't want you to be happy. How do you think that's going to work out?"
"I won't be happy, and he won't be either."
"Exactly right. If you wanted to express that mathematically, that would be zero plus zero, which equals . . ."
"Doesn't seem like a great sum to me. If you do what it takes to find happiness on your own, though, at least we have a score of one. That's infinitely better than zero. And if you're able to bring that love back to your marriage, you'll have a greater chance of exposing him to happiness than if you did anything else. If you can do that, and if he can feel what you're offering him, you'll have two people who are happy."
"That makes perfect sense."
"Right now you're afraid of what he thinks, so you're living in fear, which is a kind of death. So stop living like that. Do what makes you happy. Get the love you need."
"What can I do when he gets mad about it?"
"Tell him some version of what I just told you. Say, 'Ronnie, I know you don't like it when I'm on the phone or going to meetings. But it's the only way that I know to find the love and happiness I need. If we're going to have a happy marriage, at least one of us has to change the way we're living, so I choose to make the change. What you do is up to you. Right now you're not happy whether I go to meetings or I don't, so I'm really not responsible for your being unhappy, even though you blame me. I recognize that you're unhappy, but I can't control that. Nor am I responsible for it. I can only make my own choices about finding love, and that's what I'm going to do.'"
"I don't know how he'll react to that."
"Doesn't really matter. You need to understand that even though you care about his happiness, you're not responsible for it. I repeat, you are NOT responsible for his unhappiness. He was raised in an unloving, frightening home, where he learned that the world is a dangerous and lonely place. He believed what he was taught right down to his bones. What child could resist the teaching of the people who were all powerful in his life? And now he is still responding to the world in the way he was taught. As a child he learned that people make you happy or unhappy, and he still believes it—all the way. He's also determined to make you believe what he does. Then he doesn't have to learn anything, he doesn't have to face the core lies of his world, and he doesn't have to be responsible for his behavior. And all that has nothing to do with you. If you can believe what's true, you can lay down all the guilt you carry around, the guilt he uses to manipulate you to do everything."
"That would be very nice."
"Oh, it's better than nice. It's utterly liberating. It opens the door for you to find the happiness you've always wanted. Really. "
Jennifer began to make calls and attend groups to find the Real Love she needed. Ronnie was furious, but Jennifer calmly responded in the ways she'd learned. She became much happier and began to love Ronnie in ways he'd never known.
As he felt her love, he became curious about the principles that had obviously changed her life. He read Real Love in Marriage with her, and they began to grow much closer together.
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