QUESTION: When you chose to love someone and get married, it’s supposed to be through good times and bad. I don’t understand how it’s so simple to fall out of love
ANSWER: I’m often asked why people fall out of love. As you would understand, the word love means so many different things to so many different people. In America we refer to loving our Mom, our home, our car, our favorite food, and more. Of course, we don’t mean the same emotion in each of those instances, but it does show that because the word is used in such variation it becomes difficult to define.
I prefer the description of love given by researcher Robert Sternberg, PhD. When he studies love between two people such as a husband and wife, he examines three components that constitute that love – intimacy, commitment, and passion. In brief, intimacy is openness, transparency, vulnerability, trust. Commitment is a decision to do what it takes to continue the relationship. Passion is a craving for oneness; thinking about the other person, missing them, wanting to be where they are, etc.
Typically when a person falls out of love, it means that at least one of those three things has faded. For example, if one feels s/he can no longer be open, vulnerable, because if s/he does s/he will be corrected, rejected, or belittled, then intimacy dies. Without intimacy the feeling of love isn’t there any longer.
Or, in another example, if one no longer feels a desire to be with the other person…in actuality may feel better when not with the person…then passion has faded. As you likely see, passion is often closely tied to intimacy. Without intimacy it is unlikely to have passion.
When either intimacy or passion fade, some find themselves stretching the boundaries of commitment. Not all of them are searching for affairs. Actually, most aren’t. However, their feeling of loneliness, rejection, or even just bland emotions about the partner make them vulnerable to evolving into an intimate or passionate relationship with another person. Seldom does the person consider him- herself vulnerable because they think they’d never stray. Most of the time, it doesn’t start as something intended to be wrong, or to hurt the current marriage, but if boundaries are ignored – even minor ones – a new relationship can gradually take root and eventually blossom into an extremely strong emotion toward the new person.
By the time the person realizes that major boundaries have been crossed, they usually don’t back away and run from the new situation. Some do. Too many don’t. They enjoy the feelings of intimacy and passion too much to let it go. As the emotions intensify, they begin to feel that no one has ever experienced what they now enjoy. They often even add God into their extramarital excursion, saying something such as “God sent this person to me. We were meant to be together.”
It’s very difficult to convince people that what they are doing is wrong when the partner God in what they are doing. Of course, their assertion that God is in it isn’t true. God doesn’t send us people to sin with. He said that the marriage bed should not be defiled. He says He hates divorce.
Falling out of love isn’t a simple thing. It usually takes time. It usually happens when one or both partners take the marriage for granted. Sometimes it happens because one of the spouses is not living/doing as s/he should.
Does that mean it’s your fault that your mate fell out of love with you? I’m sure that you aren’t perfect. I’ve never met a person yet who is. I’m also sure that if you start looking for things you’ve done incorrectly, you will find them. We all can. However, unless you’ve treated her terribly so that she had to flee for emotional or physical safety, this situation is a two way street. Both people contribute to the problem.
You do not state whether your spouse is involved with someone else. I hope that she isn’t. If she is still at home, you can turn this around. If she has left, it’s still possible, but, understandably, more difficult. If she’s involved with another person, it’s even more difficult but still can happen. We witness those “miracles” every month in our workshops.
What I’m about to write is an oversimplification, but it is true at core. I would have to write a lot more to explain it thoroughly. (If anyone wants me to explain in greater detail, leave me a voice mail and I’ll respond Tuesday on my online live call-in program on www.MarriageRadio.com. You can find archives of all shows here.). So, here it is: To rescue a marriage and make it good STOP doing/saying things that evoke negative emotions in your spouse and START doing/saying things to evoke positive emotions. If ever you grasp what that means and how important it is, you can change everything.