Marriage and Family Therapist Kelly Hoffman had advice for what to do if you fall out of love.
Believe it or not, falling out of love can be a GOOD thing. Too many people think that when the "magic" dies, the relationship is dead as well. This simply is not true. Believe it or not, relationships can become more wonderful, more gratifying, more fulfilling, and more intimate after partners fall out of love.
Most people when they meet and fall in love are "projecting" their very best selves, trying their hardest to do everything right, to "make it work". We are not lying to one another when we do this, those best parts of our self are truly who we are.... when we are being our best self. The problem is the more you live with someone, the harder it is to always be your best self around them. We start slipping, and the less pretty parts or our personalities start showing. Instead of feeling angry or betrayed, make the decision to learn and grow from this experience.
1. I hear it all the time "I want/need the chemistry". While I agree people need to feel attracted to one another, I do not believe it is a 24/7 pre-requisite to a good relationship. Often the Chemistry is produced by being good at the "seduction" part of the relationship, but after a while, everyone needs more than chemistry to keep a relationship vibrant and alive. I agree that chemistry should be part of the relationship, but I know from professional and personal experience that periods of "low to no" chemistry do not mean the relationship is over. On the contrary, this is where the relationship is actually FORGED! Anyone can be a fair weather friend or lover, but it is someone worth keeping that can ride out the low points of the relationship. That is the type of person you want, and the type of person you want to become if you want a shot at a long term happy relationship.
2. Instead of freaking out or detaching because you have lost some of the spark, its time to shout HOORAY! You are now capable of seeing your partner as they really are, not as you want them to be or as you think they are. Sometimes this can be a delightful surprise. Sometimes it is a real shock and disappointment. Remember, you can not be mad at someone for being who they really are. They didn't try to fool you on purpose, just like you weren't trying to fool them. You're both human, and you are now looking right in the face of one another's humanity. Its unsettling, but imagine, if this person can see your worst side and stick with you, remain loyal, what an amazing friendship that can become. And if you return the favor, I DARE you to try not to have chemistry with one another. If you think the initital heat and passion is good, just wait until you feel completely loved, safe, and cared for by the most loyal friend you've ever had. Its hard to keep your hands off each other with that kind of commitment. People who have learned how to love each other after they fall out of love have incredibly fullfilling sex, and they get a best friend in the bargain! What a win.
So how do you do it?
So how do you do it, how do you know that this is something to ride out, and not a sign that you're not meant to be together? First requirement:
1. Is the commitment still there? If not, put it there.
Now, you may be fighting more than you ever have before, You may be looking at the other person thinking " I just did not know you like I thought I did". This is often normal, especially when life derails us. Maybe the person you married was a Harvard Grad and you started your own business. When you first got together, you thought you had life by the tail, but the business failed, the Harvard Grad is unemployed, and you wondering how you could have been so mistaken. You weren't mistaken; life happened. If you are both still able to want to be together, start there. Get counselling, read every relationship self help best seller you can get your hands on. You have some work ahead of you, but just like everything else, if you work at it, it pays off.
2. Are you both still trying? (you had better be)
I'm not saying you are succeeding, but are you trying? Do you still make attempts to understand each other, to make things nice for each other? To do little things that show you care? Big BIG emphasis on trying. Your partner may be trying to show they care and their efforts annoy the heck out of you. That is NOT a reason to break it off. If they are trying, they are still on your team, and you do not split up a team with history like yours. You work through it together, and you become amazing, together. So if they are trying, and you are willing to try, hang in there, good times are coming.
3. Are you willing to listen to one another? (not nod angrily, really listen)
Big success with partners who listen to each other. Really listen, not just hear the words so that they can throw them back in each other's face. Listening when you are "out of love" can sound something like this "you are talking to me with anger, and I am really sorry for anything I did wrong, please help me understand, I want to make your life better". Even if they don't get it, the willingness to listen will pay off eventually
If these three elements are present in your relationship, you didn't fall out of love, you are just going through hard times. Its not going to be easy, but if you keep trying in they ways I just outlined, and your partner keeps doing these things, not perfectly for either of you, but just trying, you can work through your feelings and end up more deeply committed, happier, with better marital intimacy than ever before.
There is no easy button for keeping a relationship going when people fall "out" of love. But with a willingness to commit, understand one another, continue trying and working to make life better for EACH other, you will be able to have the kind of relationship that other people look at as an ideal.