Relationships are a dance of recurring ebbs and flows. This predictability is mostly comforting – knowing that each fight will be followed up by a fairly long streak of love and understanding. But what if there are no fights? What if a spell of silence and distance has taken over, and there are no feelings left in the relationship? What to do then? How to fix a relationship when one is losing feelings?
You too might have wondered:
- Why do I feel I am not in love anymore?
- Is it normal to lose feelings for your partner?
- Can lost feelings come back?
- How do I save my failing relationship?
This study that explored the “lived experience of falling out of romantic love” says that the “gradual decline of the relationship resulted initially from a collection of subtle, almost imperceptible changes in the relationship. As these factors grew, they eventually became large-scale destructive experiences that ultimately depleted romantic love.”
We take the help of counseling psychologist and researcher Megha Gurnani (MS Clinical Psychology, UK), currently pursuing her second masters in organizational psychology in the USA, who specializes in relationships, parenting, and mental health, to answer the above questions. Megha is here to offer some tips on how to save your struggling relationship.
What Causes Loss Of Feelings In A Relationship?
As per the study mentioned above, “causative factors of falling out of romantic love with one’s spouse are criticism, frequent arguments, jealousy, financial stress, incompatible beliefs, control, abuse, loss of trust, lack of intimacy, emotional pain, negative sense of self, contempt, feeling unloved, fear, and infidelity.”
The loss of feelings in a relationship almost never happens all of a sudden. It brews over time as partners ignore red flags and the health of the relationship takes a back seat. Pointing at its main cause, Megha says, “People start to lose interest when they are dissatisfied or are being let down repeatedly.” “Repeatedly” being the key word here.
“You begin to lose feelings when you have too many negative experiences one after the other and it’s hard for you to have faith,” she adds. When you repeatedly feel rejected and taken for granted by your partner, it is understandable why you would begin to emotionally withdraw and feel like the connection is lost.
Another reason that people lose interest in the relationship is when they realize that there is a major conflict in their values. Similarly, if their future goals and paths diverge significantly, a person may begin to feel lost in the relationship and gradually disconnect.
However, one thing that is important to note here is that all relationships go through phases where you get more comfortable and feel less passionate than you did before. Megha advises you to not mistake the ending of your honeymoon phase for your relationship withering away. “If the heightened level of emotions that you experience early in the relationship lowers a little bit as life takes over, it doesn’t mean that you have started losing feelings,” she says.
Related Reading: 9 Sexless Relationship Effects No One Talks About
How Do You Know If You Are Losing Feelings For Someone?
A feeling of emotional detachment can manifest in ways that may be easy for you to recognize. Megha advises you to notice if you have started seeing the following signs you or your partner are losing interest in your relationship:
1. You feel that you don’t trust your partner anymore
These are some of the responses from the participants who shared their ‘fallen out of love’ experiences from the study mentioned earlier in this article.
- “That loss of trust right there has diminished everything. If I can’t trust you, I don’t want to have that relationship with you”
- “Now I question everything”
- “When you are just together (without romantic love), and you may have that sense of comfort, but you don’t have reliability. Trust is usually gone by that point as well”
Loss of trust can happen in either of two ways. A. Like an exquisite china vase thrown to the ground. B. Like a tiny chipped spot on your car windscreen that you ignored for months and drove around, letting it bear the brunt of unfavorable winds. Day by day, it grew into a full-blown crack until it shattered completely.
Think of the first one as a harsh, traumatic incident, for example, you found out about your partner’s affair. And the second one is those countless little promises your partner has been breaking – not showing up on time, not following up on an apology, not keeping their word. No wonder you feel like you can’t depend on them anymore, causing you to withdraw.
Related Reading: When To Walk Away After Infidelity: 10 Signs To Know
2. You feel you have to filter your thoughts
Do you feel like you have to constantly filter what you are saying to them? That you can’t be open with them about what you are thinking and feeling? Is there a loss of harmony in what you think, say, and do in your relationship?
Either you and your partner haven’t developed a judgment-free and honest communication channel or your partner has given you reasons to be fearful of your thoughts. How does one emotionally connect when there is a block in the channel of communication?
If you are worried about how to fix a relationship when one is losing feelings, remember that lack of open communication is a rot in the foundation of a partnership and will surface over and over in several ways.
3. You find intimacy with your partner uncomfortable
The study mentioned above described the experience of losing feelings for one’s partner as “the sensation of falling off a cliff. As one falls there is no control, no way to stop. Pivotal moment of knowing is the sudden, abrupt stop when one hits the ground. It is a sensation of crashing and crushing upon impact.” Followed by “an empty, hollow, brokenness.”
When partners are not tuned to the same note, what comes out is noise, not music. Emotionally distant from your partner, you might be finding it hard to connect with them both physically and mentally.
Megha says, “Conversations between disconnected partners are mostly superficial.” Either you are going through a dry spell in your relationship, or moments of physical intimacy feel intrusive, or unwanted. With loss of mental and intellectual intimacy, you find it difficult to open up.
4. You feel uneasy in their company
With a partner who you feel detached from, two is no more a company, it’s a crowd. You find it hard to share the same space, and are constantly trying to manipulate your schedule so you don’t have to hang out with them much.
You two have nothing to share, no plans to look forward to. Your partner might not be consciously trying to make your life miserable, but if there is an emotional disconnect, the vibe in your home would generally be off. Like the Chinese saying goes, “With a congenial friend, a thousand toasts are too few; in a disagreeable company, one word more is too many.”
5. You don’t feel much else
“Even if you are angry at your partner for letting you down, there are still feelings left in the relationship. But if you have repeatedly communicate your needs, but your partner hasn’t demonstrated any effort to fix it, you reach a stage where you don’t feel anything”, says Megha.
Even though it is you who feels tuned out, your behavior toward them might be bordering on emotional abuse and you will not be able to escape the emotional effects of stonewalling. When you are so disappointed that you feel numb toward your partner, that is when you know something is seriously wrong and your dying relationship needs immediate intervention.
Related Reading: 5 Reasons Why Intimacy Among Couples Fades And How You Can Prevent It
13 Tips To Regain Lost Feelings And Save Your Relationship
Psychologists have invariably impressed upon the role of “repair” in relationships. Dr John Gottman in his book The Science of Trust says that both partners in the relationship are emotionally available only 9% of the time, implying that, in a way, we are all set up for failure. But many partnerships thrive, which means the disconnect is not as important in deciding the future of your relationship as is what you do with that information.
Not all is lost even if you find that there has been a loss of feelings between you and your partner. Once you recognize the signs that something is wrong, you have already taken the first step toward repairing your relationship. Read ahead for our expert’s advice on what to do to get the spark back in a broken relationship.
1. Reflect on your feelings
When asked how to fix a relationship when one is losing feelings for their partner, Megha recommends patience. “Do not act impulsively or come to a desperate conclusion. Sit down and reflect if the loss of feelings is momentary or a phase or a much longer spell,” she says. Some questions you can ask yourself to rule out false alarm are:
- Is what I am feeling the end of our honeymoon stage?
- Am I feeling disappointed with the new routine of life?
- At what point in the past can I place this feeling? Was there a traumatic event?
- Do I feel detached from other relationships, or work?
2. Reflect on the past for an objective analysis of your relationship
Megha advises to look back on the good times so that you don’t lose perspective on the scale of damage. During times of trouble, people tend to downward spiral, forgetting the good times. “It was not always like this” can be a helpful clue to locate the origin of the problem. It also puts you in a better state of mind to deal with the issue.
Objectivity is crucial to conflict management. This in-depth academic study published in the Journal of Family Psychology on the effects of attribution (attributing a cause to an effect) on marital conflict demonstrates that couples who generalize about things going wrong, instead of personalizing it, tend to be happier in their relationship. Seeking objectivity may help you find the real root of your problems.
Related Reading: 8 Conflict Resolution Strategies In Relationships That Almost Always Work
3. Get an outsider’s perspective by talking to people who know you both
Another thing you can do to seek objectivity is to talk to people who know you and your partner, and have seen your relationship closely. Megha says, “Sometimes, when we are in a situation far too deep, far too long, it becomes harder to be objective.”
An outsider, who – be careful – is a well-wisher, can help you see if your partner has been distant because they have other commitments to look after, or are themselves undergoing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, or something that can help you approach them with sensitivity.
Megha clarifies, however, “I am not trying to preach toxic positivity here by forcing you to look for good if there is none. The idea is to be objective so that you can be realistic about where the relationship stands.”
4. Talk to your partner
Have a conversation. Megha says, “There are different layers to romantic feelings. Tell them whatever it is that you don’t feel. Tell them if you don’t feel sexually attracted or if you don’t feel cared for. Tell them if you don’t feel like you are a priority in their life.” If you have also been thinking to yourself, “What to do when someone is losing feelings for you?”, we would ask you to do the same thing – talk to your partner about it.
But Megha suggests that you use ‘I’, instead of ‘you’. So, instead of beginning with, “You are pushing me away”, try saying “I have been feeling distant.” She adds, “You don’t want to indulge in blame-shifting and start an argument when you are looking for solutions. Own up to your feelings, talk about them.”
Related Reading: 35 Questions To Ask Your Husband For A Heart-To-Heart Conversation
5. Revisit things that once connected you
“As a couple you must have done things in the past that made you come closer. Try to have a chance at them again,” says Megha. Think of the dates you went to repeatedly. Did you enjoy going to the movies at a drive through, or were you theater lovers? A fun routine, a song, an activity, anything that will make you feel right at home with your partner is worth doing again.
This will also alleviate boredom in the relationship. This exhaustive research study published in Psychological Science as ‘Marital Boredom Now Predicts Less Satisfaction 9 Years Later’ shows how today’s boredom is directly related to tomorrow’s dissatisfaction in a romantic partnership. This appears to be due to “boredom undermining closeness, which in turn undermines satisfaction.” Additionally, you could try new things to bring the spark back.
6. Keep the communication open
Can lost feelings come back? They can. After you have had “the talk”, commit to keeping the communication channel open. This is the part where you do the real foundational work. It is only through this hard work that you can be sure about how invested you and your partner are in the process.
Make sure to do the following:
- Promise each other a safe space to talk about your feelings
- Show acceptance to each other’s ideas on how to make the relationship work
- Do not stonewall or shut each other out
- Do not dismiss each other’s feelings. Let the other speak
7. Hold yourself and each other accountable
To allow real change, you must offer your utmost sincerity to making things work. This means accepting your share of responsibility. Your partner is going to have their side of the story which you need to be prepared to acknowledge and listen to, so you can commit to change.
Since you already acknowledge that you have been going through a loss of romantic feelings for your partner, it must have reflected in your behavior. Have you been stonewalling your partner, dismissing them, snapping, nagging, defending, blaming? Accountability in a relationship is paramount as it allows one to become aware of their behavior and make changes.
At the same time, give each other permission to hold each other responsible. Set goals together and let your partner gently know when they are straying from the path. Be patient and supportive in the process.
8. Practice gratitude and appreciation
Count your blessings, they say. Positive psychology studies put a lot of emphasis on gratitude and appreciation. Consider this study which concludes from its findings, “(…) grateful disposition was significantly related to one’s own grateful mood and perceived grateful mood of spouse, both of which predicted marital satisfaction.”
Jotting down things that you are grateful for can put you in a better state of mind. The study found out that “thoughts-of gratitude by keeping a private gratitude diary alone seemed sufficient to induce some desirable effects on marital satisfaction”.
Begin with a gratitude list. It might not feel natural or easy in the beginning, but try it like a bitter medicine. To make it easy, keep your list general before you make it more specific to your relationship. This will make it easier to truly appreciate the things in your life, things about your partner that you can then compliment them for. Since you are in a thankful mental state, your appreciation will come off as genuine.
9. Be willing to make compromises
Even with the best of intentions, it is possible that your partner might not be able to fix everything that they are responsible for. You might have to make some compromises. And, so should they. Think of compromise as a way of respecting your partner’s feelings and not an unfortunate sacrifice.
This does not mean that you have to let your emotional boundaries be trampled with. But you must be willing to find that balance. What is it that you wish to hold on to for your happiness, and what can you let go of for your partner’s? Think.
Related Reading: 27 Ways To Tell Someone You Love Them Without Saying It
10. Stay away from mind games
Making snide comments, testing your partner’s integrity, keeping a tab on their shortcomings, waiting for them to make mistakes, beating around the bush are all terrible ideas. If you don’t want your relationship to fail, why hope for it to fail just to prove yourself right?
Just be honest with your intentions. Try to say how you feel, at the right time. Do what you said you would. And refrain from mind games. Mind games are manipulative and plain toxic to relationships.
11. Nurture individual growth
When working at your bond again, do take time out to take some pressure off of your relationship by focusing on yourself instead. Find time for yourself. Learn how to love yourself. Revisit old hobbies, or friends. Seek therapy. Keep promises to yourself. Treat your body right. Eat well. Move more often.
This is not going to be the same as the time you unwillingly spent time with yourself, feeling like a victim of your circumstance. It will be different this time around – a conscious effort at healing your bond with yourself, filling the aching void with love and compassion.
If you have been saying, “I am losing feelings for my boyfriend but I love him” or “Why do I feel emotionally detached from my girlfriend even though I love her?”, spending time with yourself positively can give you the space to reflect. Maybe all your relationship needs is the perspective of space and time.
Related Reading: How Much Is Couples Therapy?
12. Rebuild trust
The loss of trust is often one of the most glaring signs of a relationship in crisis, and heal it you must. We have dealt with what broken trust looks like earlier in this article. Let us look at a few ways to rebuild broken trust in a relationship. Both of you must commit to the following:
- Address the cause of broken trust. Fix responsibility wherever it may lie
- If it is a case of infidelity in relationship, seek support through a therapist to overcome this challenge
- Keep your word. Do what you said you would do
- Ask for what you need
- Give your partner what they need
- Create new experiences to build trust anew
13. Seek professional guidance
Depending on where you stand in your relationship and your emotional health, these steps may come easy to you, or they may overwhelm you. If you find yourself still struggling with how to fix a relationship when one is losing feelings for their partner, do not shy away from consulting a professional counselor.
A therapist can help you in identifying the problem and providing guidance. Should you need that help, here is a list of Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors who can advise you with ways to fix your relationship problems. You can approach them for individual sessions or sessions with your partner.
- It is normal to experience diminished passion in a relationship as it moves out of the honeymoon stage. This should not be equated as a loss of feelings in a relationship
- The loss of feelings in a relationship brews over time as partners ignore red flags and the health of the bond takes a back seat
- Lack of trust, feeling uneasy in your partner’s company, finding intimacy uncomfortable, and feeling numb, or having an “I don’t care anymore” attitude are signs the relationship is in crisis
- To resolve this emotional detachment, try taking a step back, reflecting, and seeking support from friends and professionals for much needed objectivity
- Talk to your partner, revisit old memories, commit to open communication, practice gratitude and appreciation and refrain from mind games to get the spark back
Megha acknowledges that what we have advised is easier said than done. “It takes more hard work than you realize, because when you are upset with someone, or worse, feel like you don’t care, you really don’t want to plan a picnic with them, or appreciate that they folded the laundry,” she says. Moreover, most of this advice only works if your partner acknowledges your feelings and agrees to work with you.
But since you have already taken the first step, and it looks like you do care about the loss of feelings in your relationship, just hold on a little tighter, a little longer. Only after you try would you know if your relationship is worth saving, or if you should ready yourself to let it go. For now, take a leap of faith with us by your side.
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