When you first started your relationship the idea that you might fall out of love probably seemed impossible. The love was so strong that it felt like nothing could, or would, ever shake it. But what happens if you or your partner start feeling like you are falling out of love? It can be one of the most painful and confusing times in a relationship.
Falling out of love is a common problem for relationships that are in trouble. When it happens, it's easy to jump to a lot of conclusions about what that means. You might assume like most people that it means the end of things and there is no hope. What people don’t realize is that the feeling of falling out of love can occur for many reasons and not all of them have to mean an end to the relationship.
Let's look at some excerpts from my Google+ Hangout on Falling Out of Love and see what falling out of love can really mean:
Our topic this week is falling out of love. It's a follow-up from our discussion last week where we talked about when you’re loving somebody who's not loving you. This is a little bit of the flip side of that, where you actually fall out of love with the other person. It is actually fairly common that this happens at some point in some way or another. It happens to all of us. The relationship kind of lessens to some degree and then for some of us we actually do fall completely out of love with the other person. So it's not uncommon whatsoever.
One of the things that we really need to understand about love is that it's not a constant thing. Love is something that really does come and go and varies depending on what the status of the relationship is. A lot of relationships go through stages that affect how we feel about our partner, and that's normal. To expect that level should stay the same throughout our relationship is actually really problematic, and that is one of the expectations that gets people into a lot of trouble. They get into a situation where they fall out of love because they think that it should always stay the same.
So the first thing that can get us into trouble when we, or our partner, are falling out of love is the expectation that it should never happen. Wrong. Relationships go through phases and love can change over time.
You Fell In Love, You Can Fall Out Of Love – Unless You Choose Not To
That's the first thing that we really have to kind of recognize: that it is normal to have some give-and-take and ebb and flow to how we feel about our partner. It is common for relationships to grow and to change and, to some degree, for us to grow apart if we are not intentional about growing together. Because if we are not constantly nourishing and growing our relationships, we do at times feel like we are falling out of love with our partner. It is important that we recognize that that is normal and it is okay.
The most important part is that we actually do something about it. This is where a lot of couples miss opportunities to be able to keep the relationship together because they are not working actively at engaging with their partner and identifying this when it starts to happen.
The next thing to note is that we shouldn't be surprised when falling out of love happens, but actually should expect to fall out of love if we're not both working to grow the relationship. We're either growing together or growing apart, and which one you’re doing is within your control.
Many assume the love they start with in a relationship is all they need for the relationship to last forever. That’s simply not true. In order for a relationship to grow both partners need to put time and effort into it. It’s fairly common for couples not to realize that because in the beginning love comes so easy. When that starts to change, and when each partner starts to change, is when you need to work together to keep the love and your relationship strong.
Falling Out Of Love Is Normal, But It Doesn’t Have To Be The End
So the first thing is to recognize is that this is normal and the second part to be aware of is actually addressing it. This is where a lot of people really fall apart; they make assumptions when they are not feeling that connected to their partner, when they are feeling that they are not loving them anymore or are not in love with them. That is a common phrase that I hear a lot in counseling, particularly from men: they still love their partner, but they are not in love with their partner. A lot of guys really make a distinction there, and this is where some of the assumptions get us into trouble.
We assume that we should still feel the same way about our partner as we did when we first met them, and that is just not going to be practical. The awareness of loving the other person, but not being in love them is one of the things that often happens around feeling like we are falling out of love. Too many people feel that when they reach the stage where they are not loving their partner that it means the relationship should be over; that is just not the case. Again, it is typical that this can happen, and it really comes about from us not addressing some things and actually nourishing the relationship. It can get corrected if we will actually address it.
The biggest, and easiest, mistake we can make when falling out of love is to believe that it means the relationship has died. We must remember that just like there were things we did and did not do that caused us to fall out of love, the same is true for falling back in love. The difference now is that you have to be much more deliberate and focused about regaining that feeling and making things strong again. Falling in love in the beginning is fairly effortless. In fact, some people will say they never wanted to, or weren’t even looking for love – it just happened. The problem is that staying in love and creating a long lasting relationship doesn’t “just happen” and most people don’t get that.
You Have To Work To Keep Love Alive
The problem that I run into with a lot of people that actually come to see me for counseling help is that they have reached a point where they have just decided that this means the relationship should be over. A lot of people at that place have actually already checked out of the relationship; they actually take the feeling of not being loved anymore or loving their partner and they cheat on the spouse or relationship and get their needs met in other ways. This is where affairs often happen and originate out of how we reach out and get over-focused at work and hobbies and other things that get us distracted from having to focus on our partner.
A common thing for people is that they really avoid this issue. A lot of times this is originating from us avoiding addressing our feelings and sharing it with our partner. I want to add this point: love is a feeling that changes. It's not a constant, and that's okay and that's normal. It's just important that we do something about it. When we're not feeling as connected with our partner, we need to address trying to get reconnected and grow back together. Falling out of love is normal. The real key is what we do with it.
Read those last two sentences again. The truth is that falling out of love is normal and happens in all relationships. The most important thing is what we choose to do about it.
Relationships and people change. Who we are at 25 and what is important to us then is likely not to be the same when we’re 40. The same can be said for your partner. When you add to that the many things that life can hand us - family, kids, job and financial stress – it’s no wonder that many couples find themselves feeling as though they’ve fallen out of love. More than likely what has happened is that for a long time they’ve failed to maintain their love as they were dealing with day-to-day life. This isn’t uncommon at all. And like a car (or nearly anything else), if you don’t pay attention to it and do regular maintenance, it’ll stop working properly. Sadly, in many of these cases couples just call it quits.
As discussed above, ending the relationship because it doesn’t feel the way it used to isn’t the answer. Feeling different isn’t the same as being over. If you look hard enough you may even realize that what you have is actually stronger than what it was in the beginning. That fun, romantic, “in love” feeling may have actually grown into the kind of love that sustains a family and home, and weathers life’s good times and bad. With time and effort the original “in-love” feeling you recall can come back.
So if you feel like you’re falling out of love, stop and ask yourself some questions. Do you really want to be without your partner? And have you really done everything you can to help you and your partner stay in love? If the answers to those questions are no, it’s probably time for you to do some work.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published October 26, 2013. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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