That feeling of “love” is a funny thing.
I remember about a year into my first serious relationship, being stunned that I had suddenly gone from believing I was madly “in love” to a kind of ho-hum, flat-lined feeling that I couldn’t explain. I had zero understanding of anything having to do with intimate relationships and figured that this must mean he was the wrong person for me, so I bailed.
Then it happened again. High. Low. Gone.
When I began Coaching with the organization, “Save the Marriage” a few years back, I began reading summary after summary from new clients who were discussing what it was like when they were first together.
They read like this:
“We were soulmates! I fell in love immediately.”
“I knew I’d finally found real love.”
“We had a love that was more intense than anything I’d ever felt before.”
“We could talk for hours and never wanted to be without each other from the first day we met.”
The second part of what we asked these clients covered “What’s going on now?” In stark contrast to what they had written about their deep feelings of love in the beginning, they now shared things like:
“ I think we may simply be incompatible.” (Even after 20 years of marriage!)
“ I love her, but I’m not ‘in love’ with her anymore.”
“ I think we’ve just ‘fallen out of love.’
“We’re like roommates. We like each other but don’t feel the ‘love’ anymore.”
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because in any long term, committed relationship, you are going to hit a place one day (or week or month!) where you simply don’t “feel the love” and wonder what the hell has happened.
What most people don’t understand is that this is a normal part of an ongoing intimate relationship.
Not only are there clear stages of intimacy, the first being a shift from looking only at how you are “the same” to beginning to see how the two of you are “different”, that a couple transitions through over time, there are things that just naturally effect the connection.
(To learn more about the various stages of intimacy, get a copy of my book, This Nightmare Called Marriage: Finding Your Way Back To The Dream.)
Things like having the “newness” wear off and no real experience of seeing and appreciating an imperfect partner. Things like not speaking up about what you really need so that resentments start to form. Or having little walls of protection begin to build because you’ve set expectations in the relationship that aren’t realistic or being met.
The most important thing any couple can do when they realize they are not “feeling the love” is to start right here, with these three key things:
1. Do NOT immediately head down the path that something is desperately wrong or that you are falling out of love. That’s fear talking and will only have you start looking wildly for evidence that your relationship is coming apart. What we focus on expands. Instead, stay calm, take the feelings seriously and commit to finding a time as soon as possible where you and your partner can lovingly talk about the fact that you are feeling disconnected and miss the closeness.
2. Be brave. Share with each other both your intention to reconnect, along with anything you believe is getting in the way of that connection. This has to be done without blame, with genuine kindness and by being vulnerable. Remember, it’s the level of “emotional connection” between two people that dictates how strong the feelings of love and intimacy are. When a couple tells the truth with love, holds the space for their partner to do the same and works as a team toward regaining an emotional bond again, loving feelings automatically get released.
3. Make this a daily mantra – “Love is an action, not a feeling.” When we truly love another, we “act” loving toward them, regardless of how we “feel” at any given moment. If you save acting loving for when you feel a huge swell of love, you will forever be on a roller coaster, riding the high and low of emotions. Mature love requires that we understand the difference between being a loving presence because we have chosen to be, versus acting loving toward another because we suddenly feel the rush. Interestingly, when we focus on loving words and actions, regardless of our current feeling state, we usually begin to feel more loving, and loved, as a result!
Which of these things are you willing to try in your own relationship when that “in love” feeling wanes? Do you do something to come back to love that isn’t on this list? If so, please share them in the comments below!