Falling in love with someone is one of the most powerful feelings in the world. When we love someone, our heart beats with joy.
We feel happy and rejoice in the fact that the world contains someone as amazing, beautiful, and inspirational as our love interest.
We also feel afraid. We fear losing that person. We become protective if anything terrible happens to them, and we become attached to having that person in our lives—a reason we experience so much pain when love fades away.
Think about your past relationships: how did the beginning of the relationship look different from its end?
This article will answer the question ‘why do people fall out of love?‘ with as much insight and unbiased perspective as possible. If you find yourself falling out of love with your partner, or you get the sense that your partner is falling out of love with you, then please read on.
Understanding the unbiased reasons love fades may help you accept your situation sooner than if you were to take it personally. Of course, it is normal and healthy to grieve a lost love, but staying in such a state is detrimental to all the other beautiful aspects of our lives.
Looking at faded and lost love as another life experience that serves your greater growth and wisdom is the better choice.
Why do people fall out of love?
So, why do people fall out of love? How do feelings of intimacy, connection, affection, and adoration turn to disinterest, complacency, passivity, and ultimately rejection?
The most significant cause of faded love, the umbrella under which any other reason for faded love can be found, is apathy. Not hate, not anger, but no strong feelings at all.
A lack of care and interest from one or both parties makes the relationship not worth it.
The opposite of love in this context is apathy. Most people who fall out of love with their partners, whether they have been together for one or ten years, experience a gradual loss of romantic interest in their partner.
They may try to make things work, but that initial flame has died and cannot be rekindled. As such, it is not hate that pushes someone out of love, but rather a lack of any strong feelings.
Many people consider ‘love‘ an effortless feeling that flows naturally from the heart.
The same perspective would argue that relationships do not require work and should be examples of harmony and bliss because both partners love each other. This is not the case, nor does it have to be.
Relationships take a conscious effort to maintain.
When two people come together in a romantic relationship, they create a shared dynamic. They offer each other respect, affection, and psychological safety.
Offering those things effectively to our partner means being mindful of how we behave, not changing for our partner but trying to see things from their point of view, care for them, and work together on creating a healthy balance in the relationship.
When apathy towards the relationship begins to creep into one or both parties’ lives, it becomes more challenging to make that effort.
What was once effortless now feels like an exhausting, arduous task.
Relationship fatigue is a state of mental and emotional exhaustion stemming from one’s relationship. Also known as relationship burnout, this feeling is characterized by a partner’s distinct lack of emotional energy in the relationship.
They do not experience the same fun and excitement as they once did, and conversations or activities that were once stimulating to do together now seem pointless and boring.
Similarly, negative experiences and feelings like anger and jealousy hold less power.
Everything does not need to be perfect, but when in an argument about anything, it would take a level of emotional energy and vested interest to reach a resolution that one or both parties cannot muster up.
Honesty is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Though a couple may have been together for years, even decades, that does not mean they fully know each other.
Each of us is incredibly unique, and it takes a lifetime to get to know someone so deeply.
This is where the effort comes into relationships. As mentioned, some hold a utopian vision of a relationship in which both parties will always experience a burning love and passion for each other.
That is an unrealistic standard to put on a partner and even oneself. Instead of betting on a never-ending passionate love, it is wiser and healthier to call upon radical honesty and inquiry of self and others.
Relationships start to fade when honesty is no longer a priority. A white lie or an omission of the truth feels like the easiest thing to do. After all, nobody wants to hurt their partner’s feelings.
So we lie, hold back on the truth, and exert no conscious effort anymore to practice radical honesty with our partners.
We are tired and do not want to get into another argument about who said what or how a promise went unfulfilled.
Instead of honesty, we become complacent. We allow for lies and secrets, and eventually, those lies and secrets rot away at the relationship from the inside.
Eventually, one or both partners’ repeated dishonesty creates an emotional distance in the relationship from which it can be tough to recover.
Crisis of identity
Sometimes a long-term relationship can entangle a person so tightly in its dynamic that one or both parties experience an identity crisis. They struggle to remember who they were before the relationship reached its current stage.
They cannot identify the aspects of themselves that are unique to them—those parts of themselves they can call their own and separate from their partner.
A healthy relationship must have a solid connection to oneself, a secure sense of identity, and ‘wholeness.’ Both partners can love and support each other, but they need to believe that they are individual, autonomous agents of their own lives.
From that secure sense of identity, one can love another easily.
The problem with many long-term relationships is that the sense of self gets lost, and the desire to find it again can lead to contempt and resentment for the partner. Relationship expert Esther Perel identifies identity crisis as one of the primary reasons people cheat.
In The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, Perel writes:
“Sometimes, when we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t our partner we are turning away from, but the person we have become. We are not looking for another lover so much as another version of ourselves.”Esther Perel
Am I falling out of love?
How do you know if you are falling out of love with your partner? How do you know it is not just some tiredness, a little boredom, or the natural ebb and flow of love and other feelings?
If you are unfamiliar with the lore, the four horsemen reference Biblical characters, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Each brings a different facet of death and destruction to the world.
Gottman’s Divorce Predictors
According to Gottman, who boasts over 25 years of experience in couples therapy and marriage counseling, there are four significant predictors of divorce (the four horsemen). Even if you are not married, these four predictors of divorce also apply to relationships in general. These are:
Your loving feelings may fade if you find yourself at the call of any of the four horsemen above.
Do not confuse negative emotions like disappointment, frustration, and even anger with the above. Any healthy relationship is bound to go through some negative phases, and having a ‘negative‘ feeling toward your partner is not a sign that you do not love them anymore.
Instead, love can be said to fade when one or all of the four horsemen persist. Let us take a closer look at each and how they manifest in relationships.
There is nothing wrong with healthy and constructive criticism, but this is not the type of criticism we are talking about. Unhealthy, blame-oriented, non-constructive criticism is the first sign that love is fading.
One partner criticizes another for something that never bothered them before, or at least they never mentioned. Sometimes, the same things that attracted one to another are now the reasons they want to leave.
They want their partner to change and point out the flaws they see in the partner as they are now.
One partner attacks the other’s opinion, point of view, or behavior. The other becomes defensive and calls the first partner out for flaws in their opinion, point of view, or behavior. The healthier approach will be to look at the first partner’s attack as unusual and to become curious about it.
One can ask why their partner is speaking to them that way and explain how it makes them feel. Instead, the attacker goes on the defensive and tries to ‘win.’
Contempt uses insults, mockery, or a sense of superiority that puts considerable distance between partners.
One partner expresses negative feelings toward the other through mean comments, low tolerance for the person, rolling eyes, and mocking. This is one of the significant signs of fading love because it dampens the energy between partners and creates even more negative feelings on both sides.
Stonewalling is cutting off communication with your partner. In an argument, you may stop talking. You may even get up and leave the room.
Stonewalling can look like apathy—not caring about the person or the argument. Still, this treatment often comes from the silent partner’s sense of overwhelm and need to shut down emotionally to protect themselves from pain.
How to fall back in love
Time is the great destroyer. Over time, couples who do not make the conscious effort to stay together, keep the fire of their love burning that is strong enough to rekindle with little tender loving care, will eventually fall out of love.
Earlier, we mentioned how apathy, dishonesty, the crisis of identity, and relationship fatigue could cause a couple to drift apart. Aside from those, the reason for one or both may also be fizzling sex life, a lack of physical intimacy, unmet expectations, and not seeing that person in your plans.
Those expectations do not even have to be reasonable to cause a sense of disappointment.
So, when love begins to fade, when the Four Horsemen gallop on the horizon, what can we do?
How do we stop those loving feelings from fading? How do we maintain romantic love? What can we do when all seems lost?
The good news is that even though couples fall out of love sometimes, they can also fall back in love.
Check-in with your partner
Esther Perel speaks of relationships not as a contract but as a constant shared space that can and should be addressed regularly. ‘We don’t own our partners,‘ explains Perel. ‘At best, they are on loan with an option to renew. ‘
As such, one of the most effective ways to maintain a romantic relationship and keep love burning is to check in with your partner regularly and see how they feel about the relationship.
This involves a compassionate and curious inquiry into our partner’s feelings and state of mind and a willingness to share your honest and authentic feelings.
Sometimes we do not want to ask our partners questions like ‘how are you feeling?‘ or ‘are you happy in this relationship?‘ because we do not want to open a can of worms.
However, sweeping things under the rug can cause far more damage to a relationship than honesty.
Check in with your partner and remind them that your partnership is a partnership. If there is an imbalance, a problem, or something that worries the other, it is a concern for the other and calls for compassion and understanding.
Work on the friendship
We often put expectations on our partners that we will never place on a friend or family member. Of course, there are some things we do with our partners that we would not do with others, but there are many things we can expect of them that are unfair or unrealistic.
Instead of expecting your partner to always be emotionally available with you, always to have time and energy to share with you, or to play a specific role in your life, it is healthier to view your partner as you would a best friend.
By spending time on friendship, you will find that unrealistic expectations do not seem necessary. You begin to value the essence of that person once again, just like at the start of the relationship before things got heavy.
Seek couples counseling
Human relationships are complex, and having them does not mean we understand them. Sometimes, it is wise to call in some professional help when things get tough.
A licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) can help couples falling out of love address the issues in their relationship that are causing their love to fade and help them find effective ways to communicate and maintain the emotional health of their relationship.
We can fall in and out of love many times in a lifetime. Falling in love is quick and often ecstatic. Falling out of it is usually a slow process and can make people utterly miserable.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be that sometimes love naturally does fade, which is not a reflection of your worth or ability to be loved. Relationships serve a purpose for a time, and they may very well fade when that purpose has been fulfilled.
It is possible to rekindle a lost flame, but both partners must make a conscious effort.
If one partner is unwilling to make that effort, the other partner should accept how things are and return to the love within themselves, not that which is reliant on another person.