Falling in love can turn your world upside down. You feel as if each breath you take away from your new love is painful; and then everything feels right when you’re again together.
But that feeling can fade.
“I love her, but I’m not in love with her.”
“I don’t remember when I stopped loving him that way. But it’s gone.”
Many remain partnered for any number of reasons that don’t reflect undying devotion. Money. The kids. Habit. Religious beliefs. Fear of being alone. Fear of what others might think. An addiction to the bitter fighting of an emotional rollercoaster. Or perhaps pure inertia.
In trying to help a couple rediscover their bond, I ask this question.
Knowing all the things you know now, why would you marry your partner today?
If you can’t answer that question, it’s pretty likely you aren’t real happy in your marriage. However, it’s not hopeless.
Here are seven concrete steps to try to find your way back to love.
- If you’re hanging onto resentment, search for forgiveness. You’re the one who will suffer the most from bitterness.
Forgiveness is essential in a long-term relationship because bitterness is something that kills not just a relationship, but the soul of the person who feels it. If you’re blinded by the past, there’s absolutely no way you can see the effort or the good in the present.
- If you’ve ignored your relationship, it badly needs your attention. Now. In the present. Not later. Not after the kids are gone or the promotion is won. Today.
Have you always put the children or your job first? This is a common mistake and one that’s easily justified, “I need to make money so we can send the kids to college.” “I’m so busy getting the kids to all their activities, I don’t have time to do anything else.” “I’m incredibly tired after working all day.” Sound familiar?
Those are excuses, not reasons to put off tending to your relationship. Marriage can’t take a back seat or it will die a slow death.
- If you’re not happy with your own life, work on your self-esteem.
You can confront things about yourself that are hard to admit. Perhaps the problems don’t have much to too with your partner at all, but you’re blaming them. Maybe you haven’t confronted trauma from your past, or your life isn’t where you thought it would be, or you’re struggling with getting older.
If you become attracted to someone else; then it really gets messy. Affairs are frequently about believing that someone else holds the power to make your life what you’ve always thought it could be. Well…guess what? You actually hold that power within yourself; no one else.
Comparing your life to others on social mistake is also a big, big mistake. Social media isn’t reality. As many have said, it’s the highlight reel — not the actual movie.
- If you don’t touch each other, literally, it’s time to get back to it. Talk with your partner about reinitiating touch — slowly but with intention.
Lust/love was new and exciting. Now intimacy may be more intentional, scheduled, or it may not be happening at all. There are plenty of folks who are too worn out from their daily lives to even hold one another platonically, let alone intimately. It may be difficult at first, even embarrassing or clumsy, but it’s possible to rekindle that connection.
- If you haven’t laughed in a long time, find the lighter side of life, and share. Don’t forget you need to play together to stay happily together.
I’ve listened to many people struggle and fight during a therapy session. But when they can still laugh about something, I feel much more optimistic about whether or not they will make it. There’s something positive between them, a connection that contains a lightness and speaks to shared history.
All work and no play is no good. And laughter is so much a part of connection.
- If the two of you are passing ships in the night, have at least one common goal (Psst… not the kids…).
What are the two of you about? Where is your sense of partnership?
It’s pivotal to share something outside of parenting. Whether it’s work in your community, in your culture, in a church, or in your own lives such as a hobby or sport…working together – making a difference together – is a powerful bonding opportunity. You’ll find common purpose – and that bond feels good.
- If you’re focused on what’s not there any more, you’ll miss what what is there — the deeper understanding and value of years together.
Since you’ve been together for a while, you’ve had experiences that have de-romanticized your partner. You’ve seen them really sick. You know that irritating sound that happens when they eat. You can almost imitate the way they blow their nose in the morning. You’ve watched as the other one pouted, got mad over something inconsequential, or seemed to deliberately pick a fight with you.
They’ve lost that rock-star quality because you’ve both been through the nitty gritty together. Yet the very depth of that shared experience is irreplaceable and far more of a treasure that the rock-star glam. But it can’t be new again. It simply can’t.
So, what would cause you to marry your partner all over again? Even knowing what you know now?
I hope you find answers that warm your heart.
You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
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First published on April 21, 2018; updated and republished on July 9. 2022.