Being “in love.”
How do you maintain it? How do you keep from experiencing what I have heard so many people say, “I love her, but I’m not in love with her any more.”
Is it luck? Hard work? A choice?
Yes, all of these and more.
Over the years, I’ve had many patients decide to divorce because they’ve failed at maintaining love for someone they once vowed to love forever. It feels awful. I know. I’ve done it myself.
I have also had many patients who have chosen to remain married for whatever reason. Financial. “The kids.” Habit. Maybe love is there, but hardly anything about it feels fresh or alive in the present.
One very important question…
I like to ask a question in therapy, “Knowing all the things you know now, why would you marry your partner today? What would cause you to say “I do” all over again?”
If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s pretty likely you’re not happy in your marriage or partnership. That’s not to say it’s hopeless, but work will need to be done in order to regain a healthy and meaningful dynamic between the two of you.
There can be many reasons for disappointment, apathy or a lack of connection in marriage. What is preventing you from seeing your partner today as you did on the day you committed to them?
Seven problems and seven solutions…
1) Maybe you are hanging onto resentment and distrust.
Forgiveness is essential in a long-term relationship. I know I have both given it, and received it in my own. Bitterness is something that kills not just a relationship, but the soul of the person who feels it.
You have to work through that resentment.
If there’s something you still need, an explanation, an apology, a discussion, then ask for it. Then you have to decide that it’s enough. And risk trusting again. You’ll only know what you know today. And that has to be enough.
2) Maybe the two of you have ignored your relationship.
You have always put the children or your job first. This is such a common mistake, and one that is easily justified, “I need to make money so we can send the kids to college.” “I am so busy getting the kids to all their activities, I don’t have time to do anything else.” “I am incredibly tired after working all day…”
Marriage can’t take a back seat. It will die a slow death. You have to give time to each other. It can almost feel awkward at first – you’ll tend to talk about the kids. Don’t allow it. Go for a weekend – trade the kids off with your neighbors – and remember what it’s like to be just the two of you.
3) Maybe you’re not happy with yourself.
This is hard to see, especially if you become attracted to someone else. Then it really gets messy and painful.
Affairs are frequently about believing that someone else holds the power to make your life what you have always thought it could be. Well guess what? You actually hold that power.
You have to confront in yourself what perhaps you don’t want to admit. It could very well be about you. You’re drinking or smoking weed too much. Issues from the past are governing you that you’ve never resolved. You’re struggling with your own worth or insecurities. Life hasn’t brought you where you thought it would. You’ve worked hard but haven’t felt as if you’ve gotten recognition. You’re struggling with getting older – whether that approaching your 30’s or your 60’s. It doesn’t matter. If the problem is with you, that can happen at any age.
4) Maybe you don’t touch each other. Literally.
We all may watch a lot of sex in movies and on TV. But there are lots of folks who are too worn out from their daily lives to even hold one another. They forget that touching and making love are ways to connect and re-energize in a unique way. You can learn that again. It may be awkward but it’s possible.
Initially, the passion was new and exciting. Lust/love is what I call it. Now it may be more intentional, but it’s no less important to maintaining your marriage.
And it’s not only sexual touch that’s vital. If you’re the first one to get up, pulling the covers up on your sleeping spouse is touch. When you come in the back door, taking the few seconds it takes to offer a warm hug. That’s touch. Putting down your I-Pad and reaching out for his hand. That’s touch.
5) Maybe you haven’t laughed in a long time. Together.
I have listened to many people struggle and fight. But when they can, at the end of a session, they laugh about something, I feel much more optimistic about whether or not they will make it.
There’s something positive connecting them.
Look for ways to make her laugh. Send her a meme with a funny message. Pass on a funny text from a friend. Leave each other post-it notes that poke gentle fun or remind the other one they’re loved.
6) Maybe you don’t have anything you are striving for together.
This happens when people stop talking. They don’t feel partnered anymore. Each is living their own life, almost completely separately from the other.
Having a common goal is so important apart from rearing your children. Whether it’s work in your community, in a church, in your own lives. That goal brings fresh excitement and a sense of purpose to a marriage. What are the two of you about? What do you care about together? These are important questions to answer.
7) Maybe you have not accepted the loss nor appreciated the gain.
If you have been together for a while, in all likelihood, you’ve had experiences that have “de-romanticized” your partner, to say the least. You have seen them really sick, or pouting, or irritable. And they have hurt you, disappointed you, frustrated you. And you, them.
You’ve lived life together, and your partner has lost that rock-star quality they had at the beginning. It can’t be new again. It simply can’t. That passionate, raw, seductive journey of falling in love can’t be sustained. What we have instead is depth and meaning and history.
Some people have to actively grieve that they’ll not feel that passion again. Accept that that was then, and this is now. Others don’t seem to have that need – maybe it’s why some have a midlife crisis and others don’t.
Instead, in a long-term marriage or partnership, there can exist a depth of feeling and experience that is irreplaceable. That irreplaceability has to realized, accepted and appreciated.
So, once again, ask yourself this question. What would cause you to marry your partner all over again? Even knowing what you know now? (Remember, they are answering the same question…).
Your answers will lead you to what you treasure now.
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