“I love him, but I’m not ‘in love’ with him anymore,” Rebekah said of her husband. Luke had a similar story. “I just don’t feel the same way about her that I used to. She’s a different person that when we married, and so am I.” The couple went on to explain that they had “lost the spark” that they once had and that they had “grown apart”. At this point in their marriage they were barely spending any time together or communicating with one another. When they did talk it typically turned into an argument. They both felt that they were making themselves and each other miserable and had all but decided that it was time to part ways and end their marriage.
Unfortunately, Luke and Rebekah’s experience is a pretty common one. But is it true? Can couples really lose love? If so, is the relationship dead? Or can love be resurrected? Below are a few important points that may shed light on these difficult questions.
(1) It is normal for feelings of love to decline. Most couples become frightened for the future of their relationship when they feel that their love is fading. This often causes them to overreact and believe that the relationship is doomed. But this is simply not true. It is completely normal for feelings of passion, romance, intimacy, and even friendship to fade in a marriage. It happens to just about everyone. This is known in statistics as regression to the mean. In other words, these feelings are so strong at the beginning of a relationship that realistically there is only one direction they can go as the relationship develops – down. This is a sobering reality, but a completely natural phenomenon that your relationship can survive.
(2) Love is much more than a spark. Couples err if they equate passion or romance to being in love. This is why many become scared and overreact if their sex life or romance or even friendship seems to wane a bit as the marriage progresses. These feelings and experiences will naturally fade with age, time, and the increased pressures and responsibilities of life. However, in lasting marriages commitment to one another starts slowly but continues to grow and provide stability to the relationship. Commitment is the love of mature relationships.
(3) Fidelity can keep a marriage alive. Commitment and fidelity are closely related. Fidelity is the ethical element of natural love and the only means by which love becomes personal. Love without fidelity is not love at all, but is more accurately described as infatuation. Fledgling and immature relationships rely on passion, intimacy, continual harmony and other factors. These elements, however, are insufficient in and of themselves to keep a marriage alive. Only fidelity – a deep commitment to remain faithful to one another – can hold a marriage together for the long haul. When you base your relationship on fidelity it will be able withstand the storms that will inevitably come.
(4) Idealistic expectations are the enemy of love. The belief that tension or conflict should not happen, that ideal happiness and bliss should be continual, that romance and intimacy should never fade, and so forth are all examples of idealistic – and unrealistic – expectations. These are toxic to marriages because they are impossible to live up to and, therefore, only lead to frustration, disappointment, and fatalism. Many who feel that they have “fell out of love” simply are deflated from the failure of their idealistic expectations to be fulfilled. Couples who can successfully adjust to the imperfect reality of married life are much more satisfied and content in their marriages.
(5) Behaviors reinforce feelings. When romance fades, intimacy declines, unrealistic expectations are unfulfilled, pressures of married life occur, and so forth, there will be an adverse affect on one's thoughts and attitude. As a result, behaviors change. Couples will argue and fight more. They will withdrawal from and avoid one another. They will spend less time together doing pleasurable things. They will have positive communication much less frequently. It is all of these behaviors (and others) that exasperate the issue by creating or reinforcing the sense that love is lost. The more intense the negative behaviors become, and the longer that they are allowed to occur, the more they contribute to the sensation of “falling out of love.”
(6) Love can be resurrected! If behaviors can be changed in a positive way then feelings will follow suit. When you feel that love is fading in your marriage you should focus on the behaviors. In fact, if you act as though everything is fine in the relationship then before too long everything will be fine. When couples stop reinforcing negative feelings with negative behaviors, eventually the negative feelings will disappear and the feeling of love can be reestablished. You and your mate can literally will the relationship back to a healthy, loving, caring state by living out the actions of such a relationship.