The middle-aged couple sat solemnly in my office. “I’ve fallen out of love with my wife,” the husband finally announced. “I think it’s time to call it quits.”
Love is experienced as the exhilaration and attraction we all feel toward our mates. It’s those moments of intense passion when we can’t bear to be apart. We’re in sync with each others’ needs and wants. Our faults are nowhere in sight.
At other moments, the relationship seems disjointed. We feel distant and uncaring. Our emotional needs are unfulfilled. Interactions are awkward and stilted. We argue over the pettiest topics.
It’s normal for love to ebb and flow. When our plans and interests converge with our mates’, we slip into an emotional groove. For instance, a couple approaching the birth of their first child is awash in affection and devotion. They spend hours together prepping the nursery. They have plenty to discuss while driving in the car. They’re making mutual friends in their prenatal classes.
If, on the other hand, you’re distracted, under piles of stress or separated for long periods of time, your attachment is liable to fade. Your lives start down divergent paths. Thoughts and interests are on everything but your spouse.
Wise couples recognize these occasional lapses and make adjustments as they see fit. They reconnect by spending more time together. Having fun is tops on their list. One twosome might go out for regular date nights. A second might play golf with friends.
Less healthy duos allow themselves to get further apart. Instead of strengthening their emotional ties, they blame their partner. They question whether they should stay married. More and more attention is diverted outside the relationship. Very quickly, things fall apart.
Of course, sometimes your energies are directed toward activities other than your mate. You’re trying to earn a college degree, or you’re away on active military duty. At those times, it is imperative to recognize the stress imposed on the marriage. Keep in contact as best you can. Reaffirm your commitment and love often. Once the stressor has passed, return to normal as soon as you can.
Falling out of love isn’t a fact. It’s a signal that your relationship’s gone off course. Far from being a terminal diagnosis, it’s a wake-up call to make changes to your marriage — stat!
HOW TO AVOID FALLING OUT OF LOVE
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.