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.
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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
Rethink your schedule. Are you chronically too busy? Do you work late hours? Is there never enough time for your mate? Then your timetable is ruining your marriage. Cut responsibilities back to a manageable workload so you have time and energy for your spouse.
Invest in your marriage. Commitment is a mind-set. It’s what’s most important in your life. Start putting your partner front and center. Everything else will follow after that.
Participate in common interests. Look for activities you both enjoy. Start doing them on a regular basis. Can’t think of anything you have in common? Hearken back to when you were dating. What did you like to do then?
Find mutual friends. Friends are the glue that cements relationships. They’re also a source of fun and time together. Seek out couples who are happily married. Their good vibes will be contagious.
Eat meals together. Meals are perfect times to chat and connect. Make sure your focus is on each other. No TV or cellphones until after you’re finished eating.
Be in touch during the day. Technology makes it easy to text or email the latest news. It’s a simple way to say “You’re important.” And it speaks volumes about your devotion.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.