He loves me, he loves me not, we say. But relationship experts have long pointed out that love is not a binary experience. Neither is it a static one. Our definition of love changes over time, as does our experience of love. You must understand this before worrying about the question of falling out of love in a long-term relationship.
“I am not into you.” “I love you but I am not in love with you.” “I am losing feelings for you.” “I am growing out of love.” We utter these dreaded words to our romantic partner who is taken aback and often has no clue that we have been feeling these things. We use plenty of euphemisms to deal with the pain of verbalizing the unmentionable. But what ‘are’ we trying to imply?
We have all been there, dealing with diminishing passion as life takes over. Which is why we pitched these questions to our relationship expert, Ruchi Ruuh, (Postgraduate diploma in counseling psychology) who specializes in compatibility, boundary, self-love, and acceptance counseling, and asked her if falling out of love was normal and what to do about it.
What Falling Out Of Love Feels Like
But first, a moment for love. And what does love feel like? Author and social activist, Bell Hooks, in her splendid work on love – All About Love – quotes American poet Diane Ackerman: “We use the word love in such a sloppy way that it can mean almost nothing or absolutely everything.” No wonder the feeling of falling out of love is equally elusive and confusing.
It’s sometimes easier to understand love by describing what it feels like instead. Ruchi says, “Love, at least in the honeymoon phase, feels like any other substance addiction. Euphoric!” She adds, “However, every relationship hits a plateau after the initial honeymoon period is over. Once this chemical reaction in the brain subsides, we either settle into a loving, steady relationship or feel uneasy with loss of ‘euphoria’ or that ‘loving feeling’.”
Which is why before seeking ‘falling out of love’ advice, it is important to ascertain whether what you are experiencing is a regular transition from a heady, passionate honeymoon phase to a more grounded companionship, or a true dissolution of intimacy and commitment. This brings us to the most important question. How to recognize this difference? How to recognize what falling out of love in a long-term relationship feels like?
A fascinating study tries to describe the metaphor of ‘falling out of love’. It compares it to “the sensation of falling off a cliff. As one falls there is no control, no way to stop… It is a sensation of crashing and crushing upon impact.” Followed by “an empty, hollow, brokenness.” In a nutshell, falling out of love feels painful, helpless, shocking, and tiring. Identifiable falling out of love signs and symptoms are probably more beneficial in understanding this feeling.
Signs You Are Falling Out Of Love In A Long-Term Relationship
There is no better way to understand concepts as elusive as ‘love’ and ‘loss of love’ than to look for their signs and symptoms. You know you are in love when you feel physical and emotional intimacy with your SO. You can be sure it is love when communication with them feels easy, when you feel excitement toward shared goals in a common future, when you derive happiness from their achievements.
Similarly, what about falling out of love or losing feelings? What are you experiencing when you are falling out of love with your girlfriend or boyfriend? Here are five signs you or your partner is falling out of love in a long-term relationship.
1. You feel resentment toward your partner
Often called the silent relationship killer, a build-up of resentments does not happen in a day. Resentments are an accumulation of all the unaddressed conflicts in a relationship. Putting it in an emotional vocabulary, resentments feel like anger, bitterness, injustice or unfairness, and frustration. If you wonder, “Did I fall out of love after being hurt?”, chances are it happened because you and your partner did not address the cause of your hurt.
“Once you start feeling unsupported, unloved, and unheard in the relationship, the negative voice of the relationship goes up. This means that you constantly and repeatedly find yourself holding a grudge toward your spouse, trying to one-up yourself in arguments instead of understanding your partner’s point of view,” says Ruchi.
To the question “How did you fall OUT of love?”, a reddit user responded, “If they disappoint you enough times, you start seeing them differently.” Repeatedly feeling negative emotions creates a negative sentiment override. This is why resentment is one of the topmost signs your partner is falling out of love with you. Or you are.
Related Reading: 8 Types Of Intimacy In A Relationship- And How To Work On Them
2. All kinds of intimacy diminish when falling out of love in a long-term relationship
When growing out of love, you no longer feel inclined to share an intimate relationship with your partner. Ruchi says, “You no longer find your spouse as beautiful or attractive as you did at the beginning of the relationship. Little things like the smell of their body, their hairstyle, and their facial expressions may begin to annoy you. You are no longer sexually attracted to them.”
However, it might be a premature assumption that loss of spark always means loss of love. Every relationship goes through sexual ebbs and flows that can be traced to various other causes. Which is why it is important to see intimacy more inclusively. Think, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, spiritual intimacy. If you have grown distant, these statements will resonate with you:
- I don’t feel like sharing the highlights of my day with my partner
- We don’t talk about the future anymore
- My partner is not who I want to discuss the book/TV show/movie I read/saw with
- I feel awkward and uncomfortable in shared moments of silence
- I don’t think I can trust them with the truth
- We bore each other
3. You don’t spend time with them
Lack of intimacy and trust naturally means that you stop spending time with your partner. “All the date nights that you initially experienced, the desire to spend every waking hour with them suddenly goes away. You run away from conversations and deliberately try to spend time away from them,” says Ruchi.
When you feel more at ease away from your partner than in their company, you should be wary of the state your relationship currently is in. It is not only natural but ideal to want and nurture individuality and personal space in a relationship. However, you shouldn’t be trying to run away from your partner all the time and rather spend it with other people.
Related Reading: Quality Time Love Language: Meaning, Ideas And Examples
4. You create emotional connection elsewhere
Michelle Janning, a professor of sociology at Whitman College, Washington, US, points out here, “Historically, a spouse wasn’t expected to meet their partner’s emotional needs. Marriage was often based around economic security, geography, family ties and reproductive goals. (…) But throughout the past 200 years, our understanding of relationships has changed. For the first time fulfilling a third party’s emotional needs could be seen as a betrayal.”
Now, if there is a lack of emotional intimacy in your current relationship, you are naturally led elsewhere trying to fill that void. Ruchi says, “This new emotional connection could be your children, your family, co-workers, friends, or another romantic interest.”
Some people would rate emotional infidelity as being more hurtful and damaging than physical infidelity. Couples falling out of love in a long-term relationship report feeling equally resentful toward their partner for sharing more of their lives and having a stronger bond with their mothers, or a friend, or children instead of with them. This shows how love is linked to emotional connection and how the lack of an emotional bond can indicate loss of love.
5. You badmouth them in front of others
Do not mistake this one as an occasional vent-out about your relationship to a trusted friend. Or lightheartedly complaining about an annoying quirk. Everyone does that once in a while. However, if you find yourself regularly badmouthing your partner in front of others, it shows that you do not respect them anymore and do not mind causing them hurt.
Ruchi says, “Once you start complaining about your partner to others even before you address the issue with them, it’s a serious sign of lack of communication, mistrust, and resentment. This is a clear indicator that your relationship is in serious trouble.”
Can You Stop Falling Out Of Love?
Well, the short answer to that question is yes! The long answer, however, calls for sincere introspection and answering the following question – do you want to? When love starts to fade, it is entirely possible to stop the process in its path and reverse it. But only when both partners share the same goal and are equally committed to it.
Ruchi says, “Understand the fact that in long-term committed relationships, such as a marriage, you are inevitably going to experience highs and lows.” Thanks to life milestones like giving birth, raising children, dealing with empty nest syndrome once they leave, newly gained illnesses and disabilities, changes that come with aging, career, securing the future, and new liabilities. In a long-standing relationship, there is a lot that is thrown at a couple. What you make of it and how you handle it is what decides if you can really fix a relationship when losing feelings for your partner.
This is why Ruchi adds, “Your ‘feeling’ graph will fall many times. And you will make the relationship work each time. A rupture or a setback in a relationship doesn’t mean it can not be repaired.” Now that we have set that straight, Ruchi makes a few suggestions that may help you navigate turbulent times in your relationship. Not just a temporary fix, she says, they might come in handy several times in the course of your relationship.
Related Reading: 20 Ways To Make Your Husband Fall In Love With You Again
What To Do When Falling Out Of Love In A Long-Term Relationship?
Before reading any further, take this moment to take a breather and ask yourself, “Am I truly committed to this process?” Here are a few questions that may help you evaluate your level of commitment:
- Am I invested in this relationship?
- If everything were to become okay, do I feel excited about sharing a future with them?
- Am I willing to be vulnerable?
- Am I ready to make compromises where necessary?
- Am I ready to take accountability in my relationship for my shortcomings?
- Even if it is going to be difficult, it is going to be worth it! Do I agree?
If you answered yes to most, if not all, of these questions; if you often say, “I am falling out of love but don’t want to break up”; we think you are ready to take necessary steps, fix the relationship or marriage crisis, and bring the spark back.
1. Tackle resentment right away
The number one falling out of love advice would naturally be in service of the number one sign. Remember accumulation of unaddressed issues leading to resentment? “Bitterness in a relationship can spread quickly, so work on resolving the issue before it becomes a whole marriage crisis, too big to handle,” says Ruchi.
For example, if one person is spending too much time at work, it’s natural for the other partner to feel left out. If you see the resentment building up, have an honest conversation about the issue. Your partner should ideally take you into confidence, make you feel better, and spend quality time together. “If you give your relationship the first-aid it requires, it will never turn into a festering wound,” Ruchi sums it up rather deftly.
2. Rebuild trust in each other to fearlessly communicate issues
Needless to say, if you were to put the first point into practice, you would need to rebuild trust and make efforts to nurture an environment in your relationship that promotes uninhibited communication. This is especially true if the predicament you find yourself in is: “Did I fall out of love after cheating or after being cheated on?”
When you are falling in and out of love again and again, it can be difficult to put trust in the process. However, you must. But here comes the tricky part!
Broken trust can only be mended by the practice of putting your trust in each other and seeing it through. By committing to actions, by keeping your word, by not adversely reacting when your partner shares with you their concerns. Like a chicken-and-egg situation, you must show trust to rebuild trust.
Related Reading: How To Regain Trust After Cheating: 12 Ways According To An Expert
3. Accept repair attempts from your partner
It is not that emotionally intelligent couples or couples in a mature relationship do not face conflicts/challenges, or do not argue over them. The truth is that they are quick to course-correct. Both partners make equal attempts in this direction.
With such couples, American psychologist Dr. John Gottman noted a pattern. He noticed that during a fight, one partner always makes a slight attempt to throw a life jacket. This gesture of reconciliation can be in the form of a joke or a statement, or even an expression. But more importantly, the other partner is quick to recognize it, grab hold of the opportunity, catch the life jacket and use it to stay afloat, to lighten the mood and get back to normal.
When in deep argument with your partner, you must be willing to let your anger go and to see things from your partner’s point of view. It is equally important not to stay transfixed at the problem at hand and to accept repair attempts made by your partner. This might sound too simple, but it is important – accept your partner’s apology when they say they are sorry.
4. Create rituals and routines to fall back on
Routines are habits performed every day, while rituals are routines that have been created intentionally for a positive purpose. Rituals and routines create a zone of familiarity and comfort that you can fall back on in times of crisis. During conflict and crisis, routines turn out to be just the raft one needs in turbulent waters.
This study suggests that “relationship rituals are effective because they signal partners’ commitment to their relationships.” Moreover, “rituals are associated with more positive emotions and greater relationship satisfaction since sharing an experience is particularly important in making interpersonal rituals an effective social cohesion tool.”
“Having something to lean on can do wonders for a relationship that’s on the verge of a breakdown,” says Ruchi. “For example,” she adds, “a quick check-in at the breakfast table, a hug/kiss at the time of leaving, rubbing your partner’s back each night, to bigger rituals such as Friday date nights and ‘caring days’ can become your ‘normal’.” When it’s difficult to show love, but you would still like to, rituals will come to the rescue.
5. Seek outside help, preferably couple’s therapy
“Going for therapy when you witness the first signs of a developing crack can save a lot of damage from happening,” says Ruchi. “Many times, we need an unbiased ear to open up to. We need professional guidance to learn how to respond to conflict, how to work on our personal triggers and refrain from projecting the hurt onto our partner.”
Learning what changed from what initially attracted you to each other, to how you are seeing each other now can be an eye-opening experience for both partners. If you are looking for an expert’s guidance, Bonobology’s panel of trained counselors might just be what you need.
- Every relationship hits a plateau after the initial honeymoon period is over. Before jumping to conclusions, it is important to ascertain whether what you are experiencing is a genuine crisis or not
- When you feel resentment toward your partner that you cannot communicate and you feel the need to badmouth them in front of other people, it is evident that you relationship is in crisis
- Other common signs of falling out of love in a long-term relationship include lack of passion, loss of intimacy, shifting emotional attention elsewhere, and unwillingness to spend time with them
- When both partners share the same goal of reawakening dormant desire or fixing loss of love, and are equally committed to it, falling back in love becomes a real possibility
- To repair your relationship, it is important to tackle issues as they come, to rebuild trust for honest communication, and be willing to compromise and accept repair attempts
- Routine, habits, and rituals of love can prove to be your safe zone in times of crisis
There is no doubt that life is going to come in the way of love. But long-term relationships are not just about love. What one needs from a long, happy partnership is a sense of stability, commitment, security, joy, friendship, and so much more. A reddit user puts it aptly. “I think true and lasting love supports the continued growth of both people as individuals and with that growth comes respect and thus, a deeper love.”
It is absolutely normal to feel like love is fading in your relationship. But if you are committed to seeing your companionship with your better half through, you can reverse the falling out of love process and fall right back in!
People may grow apart for various reasons. A monumental incident can sometimes cause irreparable damage, for instance, in the case of infidelity or their child’s death. It is also possible for this feeling to build up gradually. As individuals in a relationship grow, instead of growing together they may grow apart. Changes in respective values or divergent vision of the future can cause incompatibility.
It depends on what you mean by falling out of love. If your relationship is going through a general loss of excitement and passion that happens as relationships move through different stages, you should consider it normal. However, if it is a result of unresolved issues that have accumulated over time, or due to changed priorities or changed life goals, then you should take action to restore love in your relationship.
Yes, if a couple feels inclined to reawaken a dormant relationship, they can take concrete steps to fall back in love. If you understand what happens when you fall out of love, if you are able to look at your issues objectively, it can be pretty straightforward to make amends and rekindle love.
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