I love you, but I’m not in love with you’, is the one-liner that has preceded countless break-ups. But what does it actually mean?
When people say they’ve fallen out of love with their spouse or partner, it usually means that the delicious glow of romance has faded into the dull fog of daily life. The person who once gave you heart palpitations, can now make your heart race for all the wrong reasons!
‘The number one reason why people fall out of love is because they’re human’, sums up renowned marriage counsellor Sheryl Paul. The god or goddess you fell in love with, has turned out to be just an ordinary person with annoying habits and flaws.
But experts agree that every marriage is cyclical, which in many ways requires us to fall in and out of love along the way. ‘There are many marriages within a marriage’, says psychologist Dr Cathy McCoy. ‘Times when you reinvent yourselves as individuals and as a couple, times when growth can mean loss—or delightful rediscovery of each other’.
It’s not a straight-forward journey. A change in the season of your relationship can feel like a crisis. But if you stick it out and work on growing together (rather than apart) you will discover a deeper love—based on acceptance of your true selves, rather than the fantasy version of yourselves.
‘Here’s the great and empowering secret that our cultural mythology keeps hidden: The best way to feel love is to give it. I’m not talking about a co-dependent love where your good feelings are dependent on making someone else happy.
‘I’m talking about a real and true love that arises from a genuine desire to bring joy to your partner. When you can reverse the conditioned mindset that love is something you get, to the idea that love is something you give, miracles happen’.
Here are some practical ways you can encourage that loving feeling:
Look at yourself first: What walls are you putting up to protect yourself from hurt, and therefore barricading yourself against, in your relationship?
Now look at your partner: Stop and really look at your spouse. What do you see in their face? ‘Instead of nursing bitter regret at the sometimes bumpy road you’ve travelled together, delight in your spouse as he was and as she is: a mixture of sweet youth and wiser maturity’, says McCoy.
Do something different today: Especially if you’re living parallel lives, break out of your routine. Give an unexpected hug. Do something together that you’ve been meaning to do—like a hike or trying out a new café.
Ask a question: Show interest in your spouse by asking a question, and listening to their response.
Give a compliment: Be specific in what you appreciate about your spouse.