A woman lies in bed next to her partner representing why people fall out of love

Why do people fall out of love?

I can’t tell you how many couples counseling clients have asked me that question over the years. They remember the powerful feelings of love they felt in the beginning of their relationship — how giddy they were after their first date, how they used to fantasize about each other when they were apart. How every joke was hilarious and every quirk was adorable. 

As they sit in my marriage counseling office a decade or so later, they wonder what happened to those loving feelings. At best they’ve been replaced by a warm, comfortable feeling of secure attachment. At worst they’ve been replaced by resentment, annoyance, or the crushing boredom of routine. 

Some people believe they’ve fallen out of love because their partner has changed. Others blame themselves and want to know why they’re struggling to feel love for their partner. 

Luckily, I can help these folks. Spending two decades as a marriage counselor (and as a married person) has taught me a lot about the nature of love, how love evolves over time, and the relationship mistakes that destroy love. I’ve learned how to appreciate the seasons of love in my own life, and I’ve helped many couples who are feeling disconnected from each other reignite the proverbial spark and fall back in love

If you are here because you’ve fallen out of love with your partner, I would like to help you, too. 

Falling Out of Love in a Long-Term Relationship

Is it normal to fall out of love? Or is there something wrong with me? Why do I fall out of love so easily? Am I with the wrong person?

I can assure you: It is 100% normal and expected to be absolutely obsessed with your partner during the honeymoon phase… and it’s also totally normal for those feelings to settle down over time.

Our brains reward us with a flood of dopamine when we’re falling in love. This is the all-important relationship “chemistry” that we hear so much about. Under its influence, we are in an altered state that makes our whole lives feel more vivid and exciting. We want MORE of our person, much like an addict wants more cocaine. We see our new partners in an idealized light. We find it easy to be generous about their imperfections. We also feel optimistic about the relationship’s potential, sometimes to the point of overlooking red flags.  

The evolutionary purpose of this process is to help us form strong, enduring emotional bonds  that will keep us paired up for long enough to have children and care for them together. As relationships mature, dopamine is gradually replaced by oxytocin, which creates stable feelings of contentment, safety, and comfort. 

The more mellow effects of oxytocin are easier to take for granted. You might miss the exciting zing of dopamine and wonder if you’re still in love. But trust me, your love for your partner is as real as ever, and you will feel it acutely if you ever lose your relationship, or if it feels threatened.

What Is Love Anyway?

This is the biology of romantic love, but true love is much bigger than chemicals in your brain. It is a choice that we can all make to prioritize the wellbeing of another person, regardless of how we feel at any given moment. 

In fact, acting with love often doesn’t feel good. When a man makes a counseling appointment so that he can connect more deeply with his partner — even though the thought of talking with a couples counselor makes him feel queasy — he is acting from a place of love. When a mom stays up late caring for her sick child, even though she’s exhausted and she just wants to sleep, she’s demonstrating true love. 

Real love is much more than a feeling. Yet, I’ve worked with people who chased the feeling of “love” to their own destruction. They may have turned to physical or emotional affairs that tore their families apart, or threw away a loving marriage for a meaningless crush, all because they longed for the high of new love. When that feeling fades, as it always does, these clients will find themselves “falling out of love” once again. 

Why Do People Fall Out of Love? 

But, let’s be real. It is also true that not every long term relationship is as loving or satisfying as it could be. I’ve met couples who’ve celebrated thirty anniversaries and never even considered separating, but can hardly stand to be in the same room. I would not wish that on you. If the love in your relationship is beginning to deteriorate, I hope you will act, and sooner rather than later. 

Keeping romance alive for decades requires effort. It does not “just happen,” no matter how much passion you feel for each other at the beginning of your relationship. And when serious problems in your relationship are left unresolved, you can bet that your loving feelings will begin to fade away. 

In my experience, there are a few reasons people fall out of love:

  • Unresolved conflict — Conflict is healthy, but only when you have the tools to work through it in a way that’s respectful and productive. If you’ve been having nasty, destructive arguments for years, you may have lost love and respect for each other in the process. On the other hand, if you’ve been avoiding conflict completely, and instead growing resentful toward each other, that will also damage your emotional connection.
  • Avoidant attachment — People with an avoidant attachment style often lose touch with their loving feelings for long-term partners. To reconnect with those feelings, they need a lot of space, both literal and emotional. You can learn all about this pattern in my article and podcast episode on anxious-avoidant relationships
  • Major values differences — If your relationship started on the basis of physical attraction and chemistry, without a foundation of shared values, there is a risk that you won’t find much to love about each other once infatuation fades.  
  • Hormonal changes — Hormones can affect your feelings of love and attraction. Sometimes people believe they’ve “fallen out of love,” when the problem is really tied to menopause, pregnancy, or age-related hormone changes. 
  • You’re not friends — Good friends have emotionally intimate, courageous conversations. They encourage and support each other. They do fun things together. And not begrudgingly! If you and your partner haven’t been good friends lately, it’s natural to feel like you’re falling out of love. 
  • You’re not growing together — Long-term relationships can get a little stale and predictable. When you intentionally grow together by working on yourselves and your relationship, you are doing something new, and strengthening your love for each other in the process. This is the key to keeping a marriage loving (and interesting) for a lifetime. 

Have I Fallen Out of Love or Am I Depressed?

Finally, “falling out of love” with your partner can be a warning sign that you’re suffering from depression. 

Depression causes emotional numbness, lack of energy, loss of interest in activities, and irritability. These symptoms make it pretty difficult to enjoy anything, including your relationship. If this is the issue, getting treatment for depression can help you feel more connected with your partner as well as other important people in your life. 

To figure out if this is what’s happening, consider whether the shift in your feelings is only attached to your relationship, or if it applies to other things. If you are also feeling bad about work, withdrawn from your friends, and “blah” about your hobbies, it would be wise to see a therapist who can assess you for depression. 

Support for Close, Loving Relationships

Feelings of love ebb and flow, but love itself is a choice. When you choose to work on your relationship for the benefit of your partner, your family, and yourself, you are expressing love at its very best.

And if you would like support along this journey from a couples counselor on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — For more advice on keeping your love healthy and strong, check out our “Growing Together” collection of articles and podcasts. 

Music in this episode is by Savage Blush with their song “Coming Down.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://thesavageblush.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

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Why People Fall Out of Love

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. If you’re worried that you have “fallen out of love” with your partner, today’s podcast will help you get clarity and direction. We’re going to talk about why falling out of love happens and what you can do about it in order to restore the love and confidence in your relationships.

We are enjoying mood music from Savage Blush with the song “Coming Down.” One of my favorite bands. You can learn all about them on Bandcamp, thesavageblush.andcamp.com.

Why do people fall out of love? What happens to the magic? More importantly, what can we do about it? Can it be revived? I cannot even tell you how many of my clients over the years in couples counseling, marriage counseling, relationship coaching, they come in for a variety of reasons. Our communication needs improvement, or we need to get on the same page, solve problems.

But then when you drill down into it, many times, sooner or later I hear stories where people have begun to question, sometimes, the relationship itself. Not because the relationship is terrible, mind you, but because they don’t feel the same way they used to. And this is hard. And if you’re in a long term relationship, I’m sure you can relate. Like we have ups and downs, right? But this can also be very confusing and very distressing.

But it can also shift. Sometimes we can change the emotional experience that we have in our relationships and sometimes we can learn how to understand what’s happening in a different way so that we can really feel confident and connected with our partner in the absence of the excited love feelings that maybe we used to have years ago.

And in today’s podcast, we’re going to be talking about all of those different aspects of this very common experience. And I hope that by the end of our time together, you’ll have a different understanding of what’s been happening in your relationship and also some concrete direction and things you can try even today to shift the way you feel in your relationship and about your relationship.

So, lots of good stuff planned for us today. Plan to take notes and write down all the actionable strategies I will be sharing with you. So I wanted to make a podcast about this subject in particular because I get so many questions about this clients and couples counseling certainly. But also you guys have reached out to me through Instagram, Facebook, leaving questions on my website, growingself.com and there’s so much heartache in there and fear too.

It’s like I love my partner, I care about them, they are good people, we have a shared life together, we have these beautiful kids. But I am afraid I’ve fallen out of love with them and I don’t know what to do. So much anxiety there. So let’s dive into this. One of the things that’s really important to understand — just conceptually — is about the nature of love. I’ve talked about this on other episodes and in different contexts.

But it’s very important to revisit this idea because it’s really important to understanding this whole topic. And I’m a huge believer in this idea that knowledge is power. When we understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, we become empowered to manage it in a different way. And so just to recap if you’re a new listener or if we need a refresh, romantic love is a biologically powerful experience that exists for the purpose of emotionally welding two people together.

Love is a natural phenomenon that we go through as part of this evolutionarily based pair bonding process. Human beings are built to bond and there is a nature of love component that does things to us particularly in early stage romantic love.

When two people first meet each other, it is intense. You have powerful feelings of attraction, infatuation, you’re thinking about the person all the time, you feel nervous when they’re around. You may have a lot of sexual interest and energy towards your person. And when people are in kind of dating mode they’ll often term this as “chemistry.” There’s chemistry in this relationship and it is exciting to have chemistry. It’s fun, it feels good and it’s there for a purpose.

While it is absolutely possible to have intense feelings of chemistry and attraction for somebody who’s actually not a great partner for you long term like in terms of their character, their personality, their values, their ways of operating in the world, chemistry does not have anything to do with that. It’s like its own thing. And chemistry is for the purpose of that welding process.

Chemistry bonds you to another person and it creates this much deeper and more enduring attachment bond. And we hear about attachment. It’s in the news, it’s all over the place. But attachment bond, it is the force that keeps people together.

If you’re a parent, you have this for your children. You’re not romantically infatuated with them and yet you have this powerful connection. You would do anything for them. That love is visceral. You can feel it and whether or not you know it, if you have gone through this bonding process with your partner you have an adult attachment bond to them that exists in the absence of big, intense chemistry feelings.

Going to get all nerdy on you for a second. I was a biology major in college and it helped me in some ways, probably damaged me in others because I have a tendency to go on like sciency tangents to explain things sometimes. So thank you for indulging me. But what’s true is that there are different operating systems in your brain, there are different structures in your brain that are all about this bonding process. And the way they work is different.

The chemistry inducing romantic love infatuation part of your brain it runs on like dopamine these neurotransmitters that create feelings of excitement that have like a stimulating effect. You get amped up, right? And there’s this whole other operating system in your brain that creates attachment and that’s actually similar to opiate receptors. It runs on a different set of neurotransmitters and it tends to have a calming, soothing effect on people. So it sort of feels like the opposite of romantic attraction.

And so what happens in normal relationships is that two people come together. It is exciting, they like each other, there’s chemistry, they bond and then if they do a good job, they create a life together. They become attached to each other. And the experience of attachment is soothing, it’s quiet, it’s a lot of comfortable coziness. Cohabitation developing a shared life together, it’s stable is probably the best way to describe it. And there is nothing in our culture or our life experience that prepares us for this actual process of falling in love and then being in love with somebody.

And so if you don’t understand that that is actually the way that humans work when it comes to feelings of love, it’s very easy to worry that something is wrong. I don’t feel the way I used to in the first few years of our relationship, so something must be wrong. I don’t have these visceral feelings of love and I don’t feel like having sex with this person as much as I used to.

So this is telling me that there’s a problem in my relationship and that’s not true actually. This is not a bug, it is a feature. This is what happens in long term human relationships. Of course, there are all kinds of people who want to chase that dragon and do serial relationship kinds of things. They find somebody that they’re really excited about for a year or three and then that starts to get a little bit boring and then somebody else cute comes along and the cycle starts all over again and they kind of just hop from one exciting thing to another.

Or another way of finding a loophole is by staying married to the same person or having affairs. You could do that too. Feed that monkey. It’s a strategy. Not one that I would advise though, because of the destruction and damage that it will do to that primary relationship, to your family. And also it deprives you of this amazing growth opportunity which is learning and developing emotional maturity around what love really is

And so I also want to say, if you’re listening to this and thinking, well, that all sounds fine, but also boring, I want to feel in love with my partner. When are we going to get to that part? We can talk about that as well because there are things that you can do to reignite some of those old feelings. Maybe not the same way they were the first few months you were dating, but we can certainly reconnect with our warm feelings, our feelings of attraction and enjoyment and even some excitement in a long term healthy relationship. And I’m going to tell you how.

But the first thing if you want to really do this work and fall back in love with your partner, in addition to everybody calming down and understanding that just because you’re having this experience does not necessarily mean that there’s something profoundly wrong with your relationship — that would be step one.

But then comes the opportunity to do some growth work and that happens in two different dimensions. First of all, if you’re not feeling in love with your partner, it is worth exploring whether or not there are obstacles to your positive feelings about your partner. Because if there are, those really need to be addressed and corrected in order to make space for these positive feelings to come back in. So we need to talk about that first.

But then on the other side of it, even in the absence of problematic things that are happening in a relationship, if you are not very intentionally attempting to create positive feelings, positive experiences, putting energy into your relationship, you will also have that experience of falling out of love. Again, not because anything is wrong, but because the relationship isn’t being attended to in a way that generates that new fresh energy. So we’re going to talk about both of these dimensions.

So first of all, let’s talk about removing the obstacles to feelings of love. And one of the biggest ones that almost always needs to be addressed in couples counseling is the presence of unresolved conflict. And unresolved conflict can be dramatic. People can be having big, intense, ugly fights about all the things that are wrong and toxic communication cycles and all of those things.

But it can also be much, much quieter if there is unresolved conflict. So things that are happening that don’t feel great to one person or the other, but maybe they’re not even big enough deals to rock the boat and have conversations about, right, that creates conflict, talking about stuff.

But the problem is that if you’re not having courageous conversations about things that don’t feel good to you in the short term, sure you will stabilize the relationship. You’re not talking about hard things, nobody’s going to have a fight, you can deal with it, it’s fine. And long term it begins to create these feelings of resentment because the stuff that doesn’t feel good keeps happening.

Because either you’re not talking about it and working on changing it, or even if you do talk about it, either your partner doesn’t fully understand the significance of it or, as is often the case, they legitimately don’t know how else to be or what else to do to create a different experience that would feel better for you.

And so relationships can get kind of stuck in this and again does not have to be dramatic, right? No big screams and fights. It’s more like just kind of an atrophy because when you feel resentment or when you’re not getting important needs met and I’m talking about needs like feeling emotionally connected, feeling like you can talk to your partner in meaningful ways about things that are important to you, feeling understood by them.

That is an important, often quiet point of disconnection that turns into an unresolved conflict. There can also be a lot of unresolved conflict around things like sexuality if you’re out of sync or your sex drives are different, which is very common. But it can create this distance in a relationship where it becomes sort of fraught and it’s easier to just watch another episode of whatever you’re watching and then go to sleep than reach out and potentially get rejected or maybe have a very difficult feeling conversation about how that’s actually going for one of you, particularly if the other person is in a very different place with that for a variety of reasons. And I’ve done podcast episodes all about differences in sexual desire if you want to dive into that one a little bit more deeply.

But another source of unresolved conflict in my experience that can really begin to just drag everything down is around this experience of having a relationship that is out of balance. Like one person either is or perceives that they are putting in a different amount of energy. Sometimes this can be that emotional labor experience where one person is really like legitimately doing more work around the house to keep the wheels on the bus and the laundry is folded and the kids and the food and all the things.

And so when unresolved conflict is doing that thing it’s just kind of it’s like energetic gunk in the relationship. It’s emotional gunk and it also creates distance, it creates separation, it creates this kind of feeling when you’re in each other’s presence. And it can also start to create withdrawal over time particularly if it feels like the problem is unsolvable.

And again, we’re not talking about like a nuclear threat type of problem. This is just garden variety stuff. But if you’re not fully aware that it’s happening or fully aware of the real risk and danger of just allowing these things to fester without resolving them productively once and for all, the fruits that you will reap from that choice, the natural consequences of that resentment, that drifting, is that experience of falling out of love.

That’s, many times, how it manifests. And that people start to distance distance and then realizing that over time their feelings for their partner have changed. They feel kind of low grade, either neutral or mildly irritated or sometimes okay pleasant. But it’s not like how it used to be and really don’t understand the long term toll that tolerating all that unresolved conflict has created.

So that is something really important to look at if you feel like you’ve fallen out of love with your partner. It can take a lot of courage to open the door and have those conversations. And if it’s hard to do that or if it’s hard to keep that door open, that would be a point where relationship counseling could be very, very helpful.

Particularly too, if you’re trying to talk about how you feel and you feel like it’s not going anywhere, either you’re not getting heard. Or if you guys do try to do something different to change it, like you try something for a couple of days and then it falls back to the way that it was, that’s a sign that you might need an accountability partner. And if you are sincere, if you’re motivated in falling back in love with your partner, that would be something to try.

Another really important thing to consider that’s kind of along the same lines that can also block those positive feelings of love are old wounds which are different than unresolved conflict. So unresolved conflict is like points of contention. Those are things that we can do differently if we learn different skills, different ways of being, whether it’s emotional intelligence or communication or kind of rebalancing our workload or finances.

Those are all solvable problems that can be healed oftentimes by understanding them but then taking action differently. But old emotional wounds are a different thing and need to be handled differently in order to be resolved. So old wounds can be obvious. Like if we had a massive relationship ruptured in the case if there was an affair or another kind of betrayal trauma, we can’t just get over that and move on. There needs to be a full recognizing and a healing process in order to recover from those.

And there can also be, and often are in many relationships, much more subtle kinds of emotional wounding that can happen through just emotional invalidation that happens a lot. Feeling unheard, misunderstood. Many times there can be these small moments that are easy to miss but are actually important milestones and opportunities for support and connection.

So things like having a child or in the first few years of parenting or other significant life events like losing a parent or going through a job loss, any moments in time where you or your partner was really going through something and really needed you, needed your support, needed that connection, that “I’m not alone” in whatever this thing is.

And if that was missed or mishandled in a big way, it can create an attachment trauma that needs to be repaired and healed. And if it isn’t, that too can create a real obstacle, a barrier to feeling in love with your partner. Because even if it was five years ago or ten years ago, and even if you don’t think about it all the time on an emotional level, we don’t forget. And especially if the source of our pain is that other person right there who wants me to feel in love with them. There’s some work to be done. So I just wanted to point that out.

And again, if you can have that conversation with your partner and say, you know what, I was listening to this podcast and I think the reason I’ve been feeling the way I have is that you remember that thing that happened, I still hurt, I still feel bad about that, that was never resolved. And if you can have that conversation and have a good cry and your partner understands and it’s like a bonding moment that just it’s like it’s all wiped away energetically and, and those feelings of love can come back in.

But I will also tell you if that conversation is very hard to have. If your partner gets defensive or minimizes what you’re trying to say, or if you’re struggling with being able to have that conversation. If you’re minimizing yourself like, well, it’s a long time ago and I shouldn’t feel this way anymore, if you’re doing those things that’s going to keep you stuck. And my advice would be to connect with a good MFT who could help you stay in that ring, dig into the stuff, clear it out and have the corrective emotional experiences with each other that will set the stage for the restoration of your feelings of love. So there’s that.

A couple of other things can get in the way of your feelings of love that just need to be considered and I won’t go into them as deeply. But we have talked on previous podcasts about differences in attachment styles and if in your own personal growth work or listening to podcasts like mine or others you have become aware that you have a tendency towards an avoidant attachment style that is going to show up in the way that you feel about your partner.

People with an avoidant attachment style often lose touch with their loving feelings for long term partners because to a degree, the kind of the way that you were built to relate to other humans is to be very self contained. And so there are different strategies that can help you manage that.

First of all, acknowledging it, saying it out loud to your partner, making sure that you do have time and space in the relationship and that the dynamics between the two of you are in a healthy place. If you’re in this anxious avoidant kind of spiral, that’s also going to make it difficult to feel emotionally safe enough to connect with your partner the way that you’d like it to.

But the key here though, I think is self awareness and emotional intelligence skills and emotional maturity so that you are able to understand yourself and behave with love, recognizing the fact that you might experience love differently than some other people do. And that’s okay. You can still have a fantastic relationship. I will direct you back to the podcast episode I made not too long ago about When Anxious meets Avoidant for more on that subject, if you’re interested.

Another thing that does need to be addressed to restore feelings of love is if you guys have maybe either grown in different directions over the years as I would say most couples do, right? I mean you marry a young person and then decades later you are not married to the same person anymore. We grow and evolve and change and that there has been a gap that has grown that maybe you don’t really know this new person that well anymore because there has been distance and not through anybody’s fault, not necessarily through resentment or unresolved emotional trauma but because life gets busy.

You have jobs and stuff and houses and kids and all the things and friends and it’s very very easy to let days and weeks and months and years go by without really having connecting conversations with this new person that your partner has grown into. And so it’s important to understand that feelings of having fallen out of love can indicate the fact that there’s this new person to get to know.

And also it can point to the fact that maybe through that evolution there have been changes in interests, in even sometimes values, ways of being that are different than the ones that currently or I should say formerly attracted you to your partner. And this is actually, I will say, a real real risk for people who over-indexed chemistry at the beginning of a relationship.

So if the first stage of your relationship was characterized by a lot of sexual chemistry, sexuality, sexual interest, it was very flirtatious and kind of vibey and that is where your love for each other grew from. Nothing is wrong with that.

But if you were over-indexing that experience of chemistry over things like values, personality, character, shared hopes and dreams, even communication or the things that you prioritized in your life when those intense sexual chemistry feelings fade because they always will, you have a lot of not rebuilding to do but kind of building for the first time.

Because if you didn’t set that foundation in the beginning of your relationship once that chemistry feeling is different. Like oh, what do we have? And also too, it doesn’t just have to be sexuality but in earlier stages of life our lives are organized around different things. We are going to music festivals and hanging out in bars and going and doing fun stuff and going skiing every weekend, going on trips and it’s also very easy to organize a whole relationship around these shared interests.

And then fast forward 15 years and you have kids and a house and a mortgage and demanding jobs and nobody’s gone to a music festival since 2013, right? And what do you have? What do you have so that obstacle to feeling in love can oftentimes being a reestablishment or a creation from the beginning of these foundational experiences, these parts of a relationship that do endure because it’s not shared interests and it’s not chemistry. Those things are dust in the wind, right?

So sometimes that process involves getting much deeper than maybe you did in the beginning. So it can be an exciting time for many couples. But I just wanted to share that.

Okay. And then one other thing I’m just going to mention as a perimenopausal woman, I do think that it is important to add just for the purposes of this conversation that hormonal changes at different stages of life can also have big dramatic impact on the way that we feel. And it’s not just perimenopausal and menopausal women. Women who are taking hormonal birth control can sometimes have different emotional and sexual experiences in relationships.

As a result, hormonal changes that happen around pregnancy and really in the years right after that can really change your relational experiences. A lot of energy and that attachment drive gets focused on children and it shifts the way that you had felt towards your partner. That’s a common experience. And then of course later in life perimenopausal women typically want to kill everybody, including their partners but certainly not limited to that. Typically anybody within 10ft of you is at risk at that certain time.

So that can be a factor. And again I’m making light of it. But the reason that I wanted to say it out loud is because it is easy to have an experience in a relationship and jump to the conclusion or the assumption that it’s because of something in the relationship. If I’m not feeling great about my husband and he’s right in front of me, well then it must be something here and not really thinking. I have actually been feeling different in a lot of ways in my life so I need to calm down and not jump to the conclusion that there’s something massively wrong with my relationship anyway. I just wanted to throw that out there.

And then lastly, other obstacles. And really this I think also kind of glides us into where we’re going to shift and be talking about how to be deliberately building in positive experiences that help rekindle those feelings of love and attraction for your partner. This can be an obstacle potentially but it can also be the stepping stone on the area of that opportunity of improvement.

Your friendship. And I know that friendship is like a weird way to talk about a long term romantic partnership but it’s so true that people can get married or begin cohabitating and then just begin running a life, right? And so your partners in the world kind of like tag team. Okay, you got the kids high five. I’m going out the door to work and I’ll come back with dinner. High five. Okay, you make that. I’m going to go give somebody a bath.

And in that, even aside from deep meaningful “Who are you now?” kinds of conversations, people lose their friendship with each other. That very simple. Like “Hi, how are you? I like you. Tell me about your day.” That knowledge of what’s going on in your partner’s life. “How are things going at work today? I haven’t heard you talk about it. Whatever happened with that one weird guy, that project manager who’s giving everybody a hard time? What ends up happening with that?”

The way that you would interact with any of your friends. We’re good at that. We know how to do that. There are these social pleasantries like I share something about myself and then you tell me something about yourself and then we share stories and maybe we go do fun things together from time to time.

And it could be something as simple as going on a walk or going out for ice cream or whatever, but just taking the initiative and making the effort to be a good friend to your partner like you would be to anybody else in your life. It’s interesting the way that the person that we love the most and pledge our lives to, we’re much nicer to our friends, really. We make more of an effort with our friends.

And so just to take a look at that when the friendship at the core of your long term relationship has atrophied, that can also manifest itself in feeling like you’ve fallen out of love with that person just because there’s this loneliness in the center of your relationship.

But that’s where we can also talk about some really simple things that any couple can do starting today to begin to restore the positive elements of a relationship. Just to reiterate, if you have those big harder obstacles that we talked about in the first part of this conversation, it is very important that you try to attend to those first.

Otherwise you can try really hard to build in positive relational experiences and they will help. I don’t want to minimize them. I mean, if you do any of the things I’m about to share with you, it will almost always improve it and it will not change the problems that are kind of generating negative energy. So you have to address those two productively and successfully. But in the meantime, you can still have a better time in your relationship and begin setting the foundation to fall back in love by doing the things that I’ll be discussing now.

And of course, if in listening to this you’ve realized we don’t really have any of those big things in our relationship, we are primarily okay. But I think that we probably have neglected our friendship. We’re probably not talking as much as we do. What I’m going to be sharing next will be enormously helpful for you. And I’m so excited for you to not just listen to these, but think about how you can apply them in your life.

So one of the easiest ways to begin restoring the positive emotional experiences that will, if you apply them, regenerate feelings of fondness and love. And connection is first of all through your friendship. And I think too, before we go further, it is important to add something is that in our culture and the way that we think of love, we often think of it as a feeling.

That’s how it’s presented to us. We have feelings of love that it’s like this emotional experience and it is either there or it’s not. And I would like to take that mindset from you for your own good and replace it with a much more helpful mindset, which is that love is not a feeling. Love is a verb. Love is an action. Love is a choice. Loving someone else is you committing to acting with love, which is how do I take care of this person? How do I support this person? This person’s needs, rights, feelings, opinions are just as important as mine. And because I love them, I want to lift them up, enrich their lives, help them feel good about themselves and their lives.

What do they need from me and what kind of partner am I? How does this person that I’m with experience, love, what do they want? What makes them feel good? And how can I give that to them? That is love. It is like an act of service. It’s so easy for us to think about this as parents, right? To be a loving parent has nothing to do with how we feel emotionally about that child. Of course we can have magical moments and feel love and you’re so cute and I love you and all the snuggles and everything and you are still acting with love when you are furious with your child.

They are being either terrible, but because you love them, you’re holding firm boundaries. You are managing your own emotions in order to have an emotionally safe conversation with that child. You are helping them do the things that they need to do in order to grow and develop because it is the right thing for them. You are providing them with what they need even if they’re not happy about it. And even if you’re not happy about it, right? I mean, you might not feel like making a dinner with a green vegetable, a starch and a protein and not that you have to do that every night.

There are many ways to nourish children without doing that. But you get the point is that we do things that we don’t feel like doing in service of our children. We get them to school on time, we make sure they have their stuff. We take them around to all the different activities. And if we were relying on our feelings of pleasure or enjoyment to do those things as opposed to our decision to be loving and if we weren’t acting on our values, all the children would starve. They would be filthy. They would be, do your homework, don’t do your homework. I don’t care. I’m going to go watch TV.

So we know how to not do that in other aspects of our life. But so the point that I’m trying to make is that with your partner it’s just the same. It’s that the feelings come and go. And the cool thing is that if you commit to being a good partner, to acting with love, to behaving in loving ways, to be a loving person, to be lovable, that is when, because of those actions and those activities, you will have the kind of experiences with your partner that make them feel good and that will also fill up your cup.

And no, it is never going to feel like it did when you were dating for six months. And it can feel fantastically better honestly, because you’re having a positive relationship, you guys are having a good time, you have attraction and joy and all these fun things and maybe some chemistry. But also in the context of this very powerful deep attachment bond of somebody who really knows you, your life partner, you are in this together that it transcends the feelings. The feelings are just the fruit of your labor if you are acting with love.

So how to do that? So first of all, we talked about being friends with your partner. It’s an easy thing to do and it’s just you know how to do this. It’s having emotionally intimate conversations. If conversations are meaningful and important to you, they are not in every relationship.

Some relationships it’s more acts of service or activity based. But thinking about what built and sustained your friendship in those first few years, maybe when it was just the two of you. And how can you, even if you can’t recreate that stage of life, build some of that back in?

I mean, a simple thing is just taking an interest in your partner, being a good listener, initiating conversations and being pleasant to talk to can go a long way. And also just really simple activities, something like going on a walk or hey, it’s Saturday, you want to do something today. Just making a bit of an effort but being flexible and in their direction.

If you’ve made a new friend, think about how nice you would be to that person, how accommodating, give a little bit of that energy to your partner and see what happens. Another thing that is a very reliable way of not just strengthening a relationship but also bringing back some of those loving feelings are going through meaningful growth experiences together where you’re both challenged, maybe to change and grow in new ways.

And the thing to realize is that you’re going to grow and evolve over the years anyway, whether or not you’re sharing that with your partner. And so a very interesting and stimulating point of connection can be to share about yourself like this person that you are now and kind of inviting your partner into your world. This is different. Let me show you what I think about and what I do and who I hang out with and what’s interesting to me.

And to be able to experience some of that together and doing the same with them honestly. And this does require a bit of generosity and not just acceptance, but like appreciation for the way that your partner may have evolved in ways that are different from you over the years. Maybe you didn’t intentionally marry somebody who is going to be really interested in piloting radio controlled airplanes and now here you are.

But it’s a great opportunity to like, what is it about this experience that is so interesting to you? Oh, and tell me, what did you learn? What does this do for you? And use it as this point of connection. But another super cool thing that you can do is if you are able to do growth experiences together, because every long term relationship, even if people are growing individually, it can get a little bit stale and predictable, like in that space in between.

And so when you’re intentionally putting yourself into a growth experience, it means I’m learning something new about myself. This is a little bit vulnerable, maybe it’s challenging. And to be doing it with you, you’re seeing me connect with this stuff. I’m sharing with you as I go. And I’m also seeing you go through this. And it’s like there’s all this fresh energy that comes from the vulnerability, the authenticity, the novelty of it.

And so this can look like a lot of different things. It can look like taking a class or going through a new experience. We’re going to start fostering kittens together. I don’t know what it is. But also, many couples will experience some of this because of getting involved in couples counseling, relationship coaching, marriage counseling. And so the transformation is happening on a few different levels. Yes, we’re talking about the stuff and we’re talking about strategies. And like, here’s what’s working, here’s not working, but on the deep level, that’s like the meta level that goes unspoken.

The very act of doing something that is so weird and talking about very emotionally intimate things with me or another marriage counselor and hearing each other doing that. It’s not even about what each person is saying. It’s about the growth experience and doing that together. That in itself will restore a bond and rekindle these fresh feelings again that are more interesting.

So those are a couple of things that anybody can do that you could do today. And it’s also true that there are a few little hacks almost that you could do to goose this as well. So in addition to these more meaningful experiences. Really anything that creates novelty will create feelings of chemistry and it will recreate feelings of interest and attraction.

So going on a trip to someplace new or I’ll just say this, it could also be doing something that is scary. Allow me to explain. Whenever we are frightened or anxious or nervous or put out of our comfort zone, we’re a little. it like that, even stress in some ways it creates this biologically based experience that enhances that kind of attraction, chemistry feeling.

Here I go on another one of my nerdy tangents. There is actually this fascinating social psychology experiment where they took unsuspecting college students and made them walk across a suspended bridge high in the air, if you could imagine, over a big ravine and wind is blowing and the thing is shaking and they have to cross, cross up and in the middle, the researchers planted a person, same person.

And then when they interacted with this person in some way, maybe the person had a clipboard or asked them a couple of questions, whatever. But the experiment was that they asked, after this experience, the unsuspecting person who had walked across a suspended bridge to rate how attractive they had perceived the person on the bridge holding the clipboard to be versus the control group.

So another group of people had an interaction with the same person holding a clipboard not on the suspended bridge. And the people on the suspended bridge, because of their fear, rated this person as much more attractive and interesting than the people who were on solid ground. So I’m not saying that you should crash a helicopter to try and save your relationship. I am saying that it is really important for you both as a couple to know the biology of this and intentionally do some things where you’re like oh, are you sure this is a good idea? Okay, let’s do it anyway.

And it could be, I don’t know. Again, travel is an easy way to do it but something. I don’t know. What would feel a little exciting for you? Figure out what that is and go do it together and you will experience more feelings of love as a result and hopefully you’ll also have a good time. Okay.

And another thing that you can always do, even if you don’t feel this going in when you have positive sexual experiences with somebody. So where there’s kissing, where it’s physically pleasurable, that will also stimulate feelings of love and connection for the person that you’re with. And many times and understandably so long term couples, they lose that feeling of attraction. It’s like we’ve gained weight, we’re tired, whatever. And so they don’t have sex as much or as frequently and then because of that they start to feel less and less in love.

But the mistake is thinking that you need to feel the love or feel the attraction before you are sexually intimate. That is not true. And understanding that and deciding out of love for each other to be sexually intimate anyway. And then granted that it’s a positive experience, it’s a pleasurable experience — if you make that a habit and something that you do for the purpose of restoring your connection or maintaining it, you will experience more feelings of romantic love and attraction for your partner because of the sexual intimacy.

So we front load that and then when we’re feeling more in love and attracted to people, it is easier and easier to continue that. So it turns into this beautifully positive loop and then outside of sexual intimacy itself, really any physical contact. So kissing, hugging, physical touch is a nice way of creating that romantic relationship experience.

And again, it’s very just important to realize that our bodies often follow our minds and vice versa. But if you intentionally choose to act with love, to be loving, to be lovable, to be positive, to be pleasant, to be fun, it will create that energetic experience in your relationship.

But the punchline, and I hope the thing that you take away the most from our time together today, is that you have to be proactive. You cannot wait for this to happen. It won’t. And you also can’t put the responsibility for making this happen onto your partner.

If you want to be in love with your partner, the key is identifying and removing the obstacles and then intentionally building in positive, fun, engaging, fresh experiences that are exciting and maybe even a little bit scary. And for you to be empowered to create that, don’t sit around and wait for it. It is yours for the taking. All right, I hope that that advice was helpful to you guys today and thank you for listening. If you want more on this subject, I invite you to come to my website, growingself.com. You can check out our Healthy Relationships Connection — Collection, rather.  And then we also have an emotional and sexual intimacy collection with all kinds of expert advice podcast playlists that will extend the discussion that we’ve started today. And of course, if you’re interested in coming and talking with me personally or any of the amazing Marriage and Family Therapists on our team, you can come to growingself.com and help yourself to a free consultation session to talk about your situation and how we might be able to help. All right, take care.

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