No two relationships are the same but the reasons people fall out of love often are.
Love would be so much easier if the line between ‘in love’ and ‘out of love’ was a heavy bold one clearly visible from the distance on a stormy day. It would also be helpful if the path that lead to that line came with warning signs the size of billboards, blaring sirens on approach and a guardrail the length of the Great Wall and the height of the Sydney Opera House. Yes. That would be nice.
No relationship is perfect, most have a make it or break it point and all are damn hard work.
Here are the most common reasons people fall out of love and ways to stop them getting in the way of a happy ending – or any ending at all. Even if the reason for someone leaving looks to be something else, it’s very likely that the falling away started because of one of these.
They don’t feel appreciated.
The emotional resources of a relationship are like any other – they need to be spent and they need to be replenished. The things that mattered at the start still matter and they always will.
It’s not enough to expect someone ‘just to know’ he or she loved. It misses the point. Being openly loving and appreciative is fuel for any relationship and makes an intimate relationship different to any other.
I’ve made this mistake myself – a few times. When my world has become too busy and hectic – kids, work, life – I’ve take the person I love for granted. Eventually, I’ve realised and have able to pull it back. Every time, my cue has been that feeling of missing him – but when he’s right beside me. I can see how easily it would be for a relationship to slide slowly and silently into the zone of housemates, or strangers.
Relationships have a rhythm. They ebb and flow. Sometimes they’ll be at the top of the priority list and sometimes they’ll slip further down. The most important thing is not to let it stay down the list for too long and to be committed to looking after each other and the relationship when the connection starts to run low. There’ll always be enough time for whatever you decide to put as a priority.
You deserve someone who thinks you’re wonderful. So does the person you’re with. Adore them. Appreciate them. Acknowledge them.
If one person is doing all the giving without getting anything back, eventually the well will run dry and so will the relationship. When one – and it only takes one – feels unimportant to the other, the emotional connection will wither – it’s just a matter of time.
It’s easy to take each other for granted when life gets in the way but try these to keep the sparks sparking and the person you love close:
- Notice the little things.
- Say thank you, often.
- Tell them they’re wonderful.
- Acknowledge what you love, even if it’s just the way they look in a white t-shirt.
- Listen with your eyes.
- Make them a cup of tea.
- Say ‘good morning’ or ‘goodnight’ as though it’s good because of them.
- Throw a ‘you’ on the end of ‘Hello’. It makes ‘Hello’ sound like you mean it.
- Be affectionate.
- Praise or compliment them in public.
- Send a text: ‘Missed you today.’
- Kiss slowly. And often.
It makes a difference.
There’s no emotional connection.
The friendship has gone, or perhaps was never there.
Studies have shown that the love and passion that comes with the initial boost of marriage wears off after two years, which is why the best relationships are the ones that have genuine friendship at their core.
When the initial passion cools, a mature, loving, compassionate, relationship takes over. That’s not to say it won’t sizzle sometimes, but being able to connect emotionally is what sustains a long-lasting relationship.
Here are some ways to fuel an emotional connection:
- Talk regularly.
- Call for the sake of it.
- Ask about their day, and listen to the answer.
- Notice when they’re upset.
- Notice when they’re happy.
- Listen when they talk.
- Just because something doesn’t seem important to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t important to them.
- Acknowledge what they are feeling.
- Laugh. At yourselves and with each other.
- Know what’s happening in their world. Don’t just assume that you do.
- Be responsive: When the world is driving them crazy, be the soft place, velvety place for them to curl into.
- Be vulnerable. Open up and let your partner be there for you too.
Boredom. The relationship is in a rut it can’t get out of.
It’s so easy (and when it’s busy, so tempting) to do the same things you’ve always done, but this could lead to a ‘rut’ and eventually drain the relationship.
Nobody wants to feel like you’re with them out of habit, a beautiful habit though they may be.
This is difficult if you have small children (or bigger ones – tell me about it!) but if you can just try someone a little out of the ordinary it will be worth it. Here are some ideas:
- Surprise them with things they love – her favourite magazine, his favourite ice-cream.
- Bring home her favourite bottle of wine and share it with her.
- Bring him a DVD he loves and watch it with him.
- Make dessert.
- Hang out together, not just next to each other, but together.
- Send an email asking him/her on a date with a list of restaurants (or take-away) to choose from.
- Leave a note on the windscreen. Just because.
They’ve lost their sense of self.
Remember the person you fell in love with? What needs to happen to bring them back?
It’s important that both people in the relationship have a healthy independence with their own friends, passions and interests.
Hopefully one of their passions will be you, and one of yours will be them, but having something separate to each other is important to maintain a sense of self.
You are both more than the relationship you’re in and though it’s probably the most important thing in your life, it’s perfectly okay for it not to be the only thing. You fell in love with them because of who they were, not because they were a version of you.
Problems come when the balance between me and us is wrong – too much time pursuing separate lives can be as damaging as having no separation at all. Support them in pursuing what they love.
Negativity has chipped away.
Studies have shown that a healthy relationship:
>> needs 3 positive emotions to counter every negative emotion.
>> needs 5 positive verbal and emotional expressions to counter every negative expression.
The bottom line is that it needs a lot of good to counter any bad.
Negativity takes to trust and intimacy with a chainsaw and includes anything that feels bad – eye rolling, sarcasm, the silent treatment, insults, judgements, mocking, nastiness and emotional indifference. It turns a relationship from being one that feeds the people in it to one that starves them.
The more positive energy there is in a relationship the more affectionate, close and fun it will be.
Don’t judge and don’t criticise. Ever. That doesn’t mean you can’t speak your mind, just don’t be cruel about it.
Loss of physical intimacy.
Physical affection is more than sex and is what holds a relationship together.
It includes any form of affectionate touch and can be as simple as touching his back as you walk past or playing with her hair while you watch TV.
Research has found that non-sexual intimacy is key to long-term happiness in a relationship.
Anything skin-to-skin releases the same bonding chemicals in your brain as sex.
Research has found that humans have an innate ability to interpret emotional messages via touch alone. In a 2009 study, blindfolded people were able to correctly interpret eight distinct emotions (anger, fear disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, sadness), solely through the touch of a stranger with 78% accuracy.
Physical intimacy communicates trust and love and is what makes an intimate relationship different to every other relationship.
Loss of physical intimacy can be a death knell and is often the first step towards a loss of emotional intimacy. It’s such a critical part of a relationship that when it’s gone, people will be tempted look for it somewhere else.
Sex is an important part of any relationship, for at least one of you. It’s just another way to fuel the intimacy of your relationship and let the person you love know that they matter. Of course, if both partners agree, a relationship can also survive happily without sex but in these circumstances there will likely be another source of intimacy and affection.
If physical intimacy is missing and you want to bring it back:
- Start complimenting and noticing the little things – and let you partner know.
- Let them know what you appreciate. This will start to bring back the emotional connection.
- Try to touch at least ten times a day, but start small – touching incidentally (a brush when they walk past), then deliberately (holding hands, your hand on his knee, stroking). This can feel awkward and forced when there hasn’t been any physical contact for a while, but keep going anyway. The important thing is to start.
And finally …
Even the strongest relationships have their highs and lows. Being with someone means being attentive and being involved – this takes constant effort, but what a beautiful reward when it works.
Don’t be fooled by the fairy tales. Perhaps they all come with happy endings but the love you want is one with no ending at all. And that will always take more effort than the flourish of a magic wand.