Linda: Lilly knew that there was something missing in her partnership with her husband. But it was hard for her to define what it was that kept her from feeling connected to him and fully loved. When she talked with her closest women friends, they couldn’t understand either. They thought Mitch was a terrific guy. He was funny, happy-go-lucky, and upbeat. He obviously cared for Lilly, showing his concern by being considerate. He never forgot to give her a card and a gift on her birthday, Mother’s Day, or their wedding anniversary. He was patient, supportive, understanding, and listened attentively to her struggles and challenges. Her women friends wished that their own husbands were as protective and comforting.
Mitch was consistently showing up as a nice guy
He was a thoughtful, attentive spouse, yet he was disconnected from his own emotional life. He was not giving Lilly what which she most longed for. She consistently exposed her vulnerable side, her fears, needs, insecurities, sadness, and joys, but Mitch didn’t expose his tender feelings to her. They went along in this lop-sided fashion for years, until a dramatic shift took place. Let’s hear it in their own words.
Mitch: It was during a demanding period of months at my job, where I was treated unfairly. I wasn’t certain if I was going to be able to stay with the company. I lived in such chronic stress that I got worn down. One night, I did something that was completely out of character. I broke down sobbing in Lilly’s arms.
Lilly: As I held him while he cried, I was so happy that I could comfort him. He had been there for me so many times, and finally, I felt that he was letting me into his life. I’d known for years, how much I needed Mitch, but for the first time, I felt that he needed me too. I felt respected and loved in a whole new way.
Mitch: When Lilly told me she was so full of love for me that she thought her heart would burst, I was shocked to hear it. I feared that she would think I was weak and unmanly. I hadn’t been aware of how I had been keeping myself hidden away from Lilly and everyone else in my life. I hadn’t shared my fear of failure, inadequacy, and hurt with anybody. I had no idea that my lack of willingness to get vulnerable was hurting Lilly and our marriage.
Lilly: I felt so strong, valued, and important. Mitch could never be seen by anyone as a cold person because he was so friendly and funny, and yet the way he had kept his feelings protected had an icy feel to it for me. That night as he cried in my arms, his tears were the ice of his heart-melting and he felt accessible in a way he hadn’t been before.
Letting go of the image
Mitch: I could no longer keep up the image up of the nice guy who had it all together. It was a major turning point in my life. Instead of me being the only supporter and protector in our marriage, a shift took place where we could both be in those roles. I realized that the best way that I could show Lilly how much I loved her was to show her all of myself.
Lilly: I didn’t want to be taken care of a child. He's exposing his needs to me leveled the playing field. It was a lengthy process of many months for Mitch to become more comfortable expressing his deeper feelings and needs to me. But he never did lapse back into the old protected ways. Now we both rejoice in being fully known.
Mitch: I hadn’t seen myself as an icy hearted guy, and others didn’t see me that way either. But looking back on how I lived my life all those early years we were together, I can see that there was a part of me that was frozen. It was Lilly’s consistent love and care for me that allowed me to thaw out. It took a lot of practice, but I have now become pretty good at showing my tender side. My sensitivity and vulnerability have always been inside me, but now I can feel more at ease in showing it, and that feels wonderful. Our partnership is the best it’s ever been; it’s been like falling in love all over again.
Lilly was instrumental in gently drawing Mitch out over time. Finally, a huge breakthrough took place where he became more comfortable with his tenderness and she rejoiced in finally knowing him at a deeper level. It was a big win for both of them.
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