In my counseling office, I frequently deal with people who’ve heard the dread phrase, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” How can it happen that a couple who were once thrilled with each other can fall out of love? It seems like a mystery, but it’s not. And, it’s frequently fixable.
Couples fall out of love for three main reasons:
• They don’t understand the difference between infatuation and love,
• They aren’t don’t understand how to grow their love for each other, and/or
• They don’t know what partnership is, or how to do it. Without partnership, there can be no lasting love.
Couples who become competitive and fight about who’s right or wrong can destroy the love they originally had for each other. The partnership way is to focus on cooperatively fixing the problem. What makes love last is an attitude of “I want both you and me to get what we want” in this relationship.
The quickest way to destroy love is to hold on to resentment. Allowing old hurts and grudges to go unresolved is corrosive. Resentment is like rust that eats away at the bonds of your relationship. It’s important to learn to clear up resentment by first recognizing it in yourself, then confessing it and learning to solve the problems that caused it.
Men and women have different reasons for falling out of love. Husbands often disconnect from their wives when they don’t feel the wives are interested in them anymore. Because men often have a difficult time with intimacy, someone at work who is sympathetic and doesn’t make demands can be very tempting.
Wives disconnect because they feel unloved or taken for granted. They complain for a while, then withdraw. Once she gives up on getting caring from her partner, a masseur or yoga teacher who is attentive can make her feel wanted.
Either spouse will be tempted to cheat if the marriage is disconnected, or has sunk into friendship—affection without sex. To mend the relationship, both spouses need to be willing to make it work, to talk openly about what went wrong, to take responsibility for what they did or didn’t do to make the marriage work. This takes emotional maturity, which is the ability to rise above your immediate wants and emotional reactions in order to have a reasonable discussion rather than a fight. Married couples also need support for their marriage—other couples who can help them through rough times.
Love also changes over time, and if you don’t understand the change, it can be scary. It’s easy to feel romantic when you live separately and date each other, because every moment spent together is special. From the moment you begin to live together, such romantic moments are no longer automatic. Instead, much of your time together is spent on more mundane things: doing laundry, washing dishes, paying bills, and going to work. Although this can be new, exciting and fun at first, as soon as the initial newness of living together wears off, such everyday things cease to feel exciting and romantic, and you may find yourself feeling worried that your partner no longer cares as much or is as excited to be with you.
If you react negatively to the changes instead of handling them, you can damage your relationship beyond repair.
Dr. Romance’s 3 Signs You’re Headed for Divorce
1. You aren’t fighting—but you aren’t communicating. If you’ve been fighting, or dread fighting, moving into a phase of not talking meaningfully at all can feel like a relief—but it could be a sign that you’ve both given up on being understood. When this happens, divorce is often the next step if you don’t get counseling and figure out how to talk to each other without fighting.
2. No sex. While sex in long-term relationships isn’t the easy, self-igniting excitement it was in the beginning, it’s still the heartbeat of your relationship. If you haven’t learned how to keep your sex life alive, and it sputters out, you open a wound in the relationship that invites an affair. If you haven’t had sex with your partner in a while, start talking about what’s not working—or divorce could be the solution.
3. You’re only parents, not partners. If you have focused so much on being a family and raising your kids, and let your couple relationship go, you may find that you’ve lost your couple connection completely. This is why so many couples break up as soon as the kids are grown (or even before) Your man and wife relationship is vital—it’s the foundation your family is built on. Don’t get so into your role as parents that you forget to be partners.
There are ten most common ways couples behave that ruin their relationships. The following list shows you what not to do.
Dr. Romance’s 10 ways to ruin your relationship:
1. Pick the wrong partner for the wrong reasons: No matter how charming your partner is, if he or she’s a player, an out-of-control spender, a con artist, an alcoholic/addict or violent, no amount of love on your part will fix the problem. Don’t try. The minute you find out there’s a Fatal Flaw, end it. Find a less charming, but more upstanding, healthy person to love. If you’ve been with this person a long time, you might not want to give up. You can try an intervention, but it’s tough.
2. Nag/scold/bitch/yell when things don’t meet your expectations. You have to take care of yourself, and find a way to solve problems and motivate your partner to work with you. Partnership is the name of the game, not “I want you to take care of me, and I’ll throw a temper tantrum if you don’t.” You’ll get a lot more of what you want if you ask directly and simply, and motivate with affection, humor and fun. Celebration + Appreciation = Motivation.
3. Do it all yourself. Lots of people try to fill in all the gaps by doing whatever their partner isn’t doing—all alone. If he can’t keep a job, getting successful on your own could be a good thing for you, but it won’t save the relationship. If she won’t be responsible about money or discipline, doing it all yourself will work for a while, but you’ll wind up being seen as a control freak, and hated. If your partner won’t help around the house, or with the kids, doing it all yourself (plus your job) won’t save the relationship either. Very early in the relationship, give your partner the room pitch in and help. If nothing is forthcoming, ask directly (don’t just whine or hint) for what you want. If your mate doesn’t step up, and won’t discuss what would help, then you’re probably the only one in the relationship, and it’s not going to work.
4. Make assumptions that your partner thinks the way you do, and then get angry when he or she doesn’t. If you don’t learn how to communicate, and find out what your partner thinks, you won’t be able to get along. The three most important words in a relationship are: “tell me more.”
5. Blow sex out of proportion. If sex is either too important, or not important enough to you, the relationship won’t have any juice, and won’t last. Sex is one more form of relationship communication. You and your partner need to work it out together. If you have hang-ups or unrealistic expectations about sex, and won’t address them, you won’t have a lasting relationship.
6. Be out of control with money. If you’re either too controlling or too out of control with money, you’ll wind up fighting endlessly about it, and the arguments will suck the joy and love right out of the relationship. Money is an important, inevitable part of a relationship. It’s just math. Get over yourself and learn to deal with it like a grownup.
7. Hate yourself and be too self-conscious. If you don’t like yourself, your partner will feel it, and eventually get tired of trying to love you when you feel unlovable and fend off affection and compliments.
8. Keep going out of bounds: If you’re struggling with compulsive behavior such as overeating, gambling, drugs, alcohol or spending money, and you keep breaking promises, you destroy the trust in your relationship, and eventually the love. Get it under control, or get proper treatment before getting into a relationship.
9. Be miserable, negative and critical. If you whine, complain, are depressed or feel sorry for yourself too often, you’ll be too much of a downer for your partner to handle. Learn to count your blessings, give compliments, and look on the bright side at least 75% of the time. You’ll get what you focus on, and if you focus on misery, you’ll be miserable alone.
10. Don’t listen. If you don’t care about what your partner thinks, wants and feels, you’ll cut yourself off from being loved. Listen to what your partner says, and learn to recognize the other person’s style (even non-verbal.) If you just go on what you’re thinking and feeling, you’ll be missing all the clues about what makes your other half happy. Both of you need to be happy for it to work, and both of you need to cooperate to make a successful relationship.
If your sex life is dying or dead, it doesn’t have to be fatal to the relationship. You can re-invigorate it.
Dr. Romance’s 4 Tips on Jump-Starting Your Sex Life
Has your sex life gone to sleep? No matter what the old wives’ tales say about it, there’s no reason not to have sex in long-term relationships. Sex not only will keep your love energized, it’s also fun exercise, a great stress-releaser, and aerobic: it raises your heart rate and your respiration—and you don’t even notice you’re working hard.
Here’s how to make it easy and fun:
Relaxing allows you to be more aware of your sexual energy, enhances sexual feelings, and frees you up to respond sexually. If you’re too stressed or tired at the end of the day, Allow time for morning sex when you are still relaxed from sleep, or after a nap.
2. Lighten Up
Because of media influence, most couples have an exaggerated, stressful image of sex. To have more fun, focus on having fun, instead of meeting a goal. Some sex encounters go well, some don’t, so have a sense of humor. Spend more time giggling, talking and being silly and less time under pressure. A lighter attitude makes sex more fun.
The best beginning for a lovely sexual encounter is a good, honest and open conversation. When you were new lovers, you talked and sex was easy. In a busy life, it’s easy to get disconnected. Frequently make time to “catch up” with each other over an unhurried dinner or breakfast. Express your hopes and dreams, clear the air, and you can both relax. From there, it’s not such a long distance into the bedroom.
4. Be Flexible
Physical agility can be helpful, but emotional flexibility will really improve your sex life. The longer you and your partner are together, the more you need options like: A Quickie, Stealth Sex (hiding out from the kids or roommates), Romantic Sex, Nostalgic Sex (recreate early dates) Make-up Sex (after an argument), Comfort Sex (when one of you is sad or stressed), Relaxing Sex (no pressure, no hurry), Reassuring Sex (when a partner is insecure), or Fantasy Sex (playacting)
Intimacy is the art of making your partner feel understood and accepted. When this feeling is created, barriers fall. Gentle touch, eye contact a gentle sense of humor and the right words all create the atmosphere. Positive comments on your partner’s looks or the day’s activities positively will also help. Couples disconnect when they don’t feel interested in each other anymore. To reconnect, make an effort to listen and understand each other’s’ needs and wants.
The most powerful thing you can do to keep a marriage strong is form a partnership, a team, where both parties feel respected, cared about and needed. If you really want to restore the marriage, begin not by complaining, but by seeking to understand your partner. Once the connection is there, you can begin to work out the issues.
It’s pretty common these days for couples to sign prenuptial agreements, but I’d like to see a new trend of couples making the following promises instead.
Dr. Romance’s recommended relationship promises:
I agree not to argue, yell, shout, or fight with you. If we have a disagreement, we’ll discuss it like a business deal, focused not on who is right or wrong, but on what will fix the problem. If there’s any problem we can’t solve together in three days, we’ll go see a marriage counselor.
I agree to be honest, even if I know you won’t like it. There’s a kind way to say what I need to say, and I’ll figure it out.
I agree to work with you and view you as my equal partner. We will focus on partnership, cooperation and team building.
I wish you a loving relationship that will make all your dreams into reality.