“I love you but I’m not in love anymore”: Four steps to renew intimacy

“I love you but I’m not in love anymore.”  If you feel this way, is it time to leave your relationship or marriage?  There is no right answer for everyone, but this article from Psychology Today makes a good point: “Infatuation fades for everyone.”

Romance itself can set people up for disillusionment, because we unrealistically idealize our partners in the infatuation stage of a relationship.  The article explains that during the first nine months to four years of a relationship, many couples idealize each other and overestimate their similarities, due to the natural “high” created by neurochemicals involved with attraction. When the honeymoon is over, the real relationship begins.

As an Emotionally Focused Couple therapist, I help couples renew intimacy and develop lifelong “attachment love” that goes much deeper than infatuation. When infatuation inevitably fades and  disillusionment sets in, many couples start a negative relationship “dance” that can lead to growing alienation and conflict.   Some couples split at this point, believing that they are mismatched or that “relationships shouldn’t be this much work”.  Even if they stay together, the negative cycle can cause ongoing distress and distance throughout the relationship or marriage.

So what can you do if you feel you’re not in love with your partner anymore?   First, examine your expectations and where they come from.  Are you suffering from the Cinderella syndrome, expecting to find a mythical mate who perfectly anticipates and meets all of your needs?  Perhaps you expect your relationship to be just like your parents’, who never fought–  or the exact opposite of your parents’, if they fought a lot.  It’s not realistic to think a relationship can be without conflict—rather, conflict is a sign the relationship is struggling to grow.

Second, look at how you are interacting in the relationship dance, especially how you are presenting your needs and feelings when feeling wounded or threatened.   In most relationship dances, one partner tends to be a critical or complaining pursuer, while the other tends to be a stonewalling or defensive withdrawer.  These “fight or flight” reactions trigger each other in a vicious cycle that creates increasing distance in relationships.  Are you hitting your partner over the head with criticism and complaints?  Or are you hiding your feelings, avoiding conflict and becoming more and more inaccessible?

Third, take responsibility for your part in the relationship dance.  Ask yourself, “How are my behaviors affecting my partner?”  Are your words or behaviors triggering feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or fears of abandonment in your partner?  Then consider how partner’s reactions are triggering your own sensitive spots.   Observe your own “dance step” when you feel hurt, scared or misunderstood.

Fourth, have a conversation with your partner identifying both partners’ “raw spots” and your typical reaction (fight or flight) when feeling hurt or threatened or when your needs are not being met.  Express your feelings and needs in a way that shows you care about your partner and are not blaming him or her for your discontent.   Acceptance of your partner as a whole person and empathy for your partner’s feelings are keys to reestablishing connection and renewing intimacy.

If you’re finding yourself trapped in the relationship cycle and repeating the same fight over and over, relationship therapy can help.  An Emotionally Focused Therapist can help you to recognize and disengage from your negative dance, and create a loving, secure connection by relating in more open, vulnerable ways.  If you would like to learn more about Emotionally Focused Therapy, you may want to visit my website or the international EFT website www.iceeft.com.  I highly recommend Dr. Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight as a self-help resource.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply