What to Do When You Are Falling Out of Love
The alarm rings and you turn over to look at the same man you have woken up with for years. No longer do you wake with a smile, but an annoyance. He promised he would walk the dog, but again he doesn’t move. Nor does he help fold the laundry, empty the dishwasher, or bring you flowers. The list goes on and on and on.
Perhaps, you have developed a low tolerance for any behavior less than what you deem perfect. You rarely talk about anything of substance and you find yourself not wanting to talk. Why bother after all. It usually leads to an argument and you find yourself distancing even more. He complains that you rarely have sex, but who would want to since you feel taken for granted and no emotional connection.
You have time invested in this relationship and are not sure that you want to leave it. In general, he is a good person and you did once love him. When you find yourself here, there are things that you can do recapture the love you once had for your partner.
First, let’s look at your own behavior. John Gottman, of The Gottman Institute, determined that there are four negative patterns of communication that couples engage in, leading to the demise of a relationship. They are: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. It is important to understand that these behaviors begin internally without expression, and ultimately lead to the negative communication pattern.
Here is a short explanation of John Gottman’s Four Horseman, as he calls it:
Criticism- This often involves blaming and accusing. Instead of thinking and communicating that you are disappointed at an action or non-action, you blame and accuse.
Contempt- You treat your partner with disrespect, use sarcasm or ridicule.
Defensiveness- You take any communication of a want, need or request and feel as if you are being blamed for not providing it. You then turn the table and shift the responsibility to them.
Stonewalling- The listener withdraws from the conversation either emotionally, physically or both. Oftentimes busyness is an excuse used here, when in reality, you are avoiding your partner and/or situation.
If you identify that you have been engaging in these patterns, you may need assistance from a qualified therapist to change them. However, you can begin now with recognizing and shifting your behavior.
It is important to realize that relationships have phases. The “Limerence Phase” (romantic love) as coined by Dorothy Tennov in 1979, lasts for about 18 months to three years. During this phase, a person may experience excitement, intrusive thoughts about their partner, sexual desire, engagement, intensity, fantasy and a desire to be with them constantly. This is the feeling of falling in love and being in love may be accompanied by pleasant physical feelings as well.
After this stage passes, the relationship may feel more ordinary, less exciting, and routine. Some say their relationship has lost its spark. Relationships take work to maintain their vitality. Here are some things you can do to re-establish your connection.
Spice it up- Like most relationships over time, routine tends to take over. Commit to a date night once a week or twice a month. Have new and interesting experiences. Do not talk about problems or routine logistics during this time. Get to know each other again.
Open communication- Ask questions with genuine curiosity. Get to know him better. Often times, this is best done during an activity like taking a walk or exploring at an event.
Showing genuine interest- Even if you are not interested in the same things, if it is important to him, make an effort. Remember when you first dated, you found everything he said interesting.
Appreciation- Show appreciation for what he does. This genuine appreciation goes a long way and will warm your heart and his. You must look for things to appreciate if they are currently not obvious to you.
Admiration and respect- Remember what it was like when you fell in love. Have you stopped showing love for each other? Remember how you felt when you first met.
Physical touch and sexual intimacy- This is very important for the health of the relationship. It will become easier as you engage in the above and re-establish the emotional intimacy. It can help to remember that males and females are wired differently. Men feel they need sexual intimacy to connect and women need to feel emotionally connected to engage in sexual intimacy. Perhaps, begin with holding hands and non-sexual touching, which may open the door to further exploration.
Positive focus- Expect that a shift in the relationship can happen with effort and professional help if needed.
You will need a willing partner to also give effort to this relationship. If he is not willing, perhaps another road will be taken by you. Life is short and you deserve to be happy.
Lisa Angelini, MAPC,LPC