Have you lost that loving feeling and want it back? Here's some help.

10:55 PM

Do you know anybody who has fallen out of love? Who has ended a marriage because they didn’t feel in love anymore? The truth is, it may be more common than you think. Marriage has become all about love. If love is there, we stay married, feel happy, and declare to the world on Facebook that we have the best marriage and spouse on the planet. If we’ve lost that loving feeling, we either stop working on ourselves in the marriage, blame our partner for our feelings, or terminate the marriage altogether. The message of the day is: All you need is love and if it’s not there, why stay married? If you’ve fallen out of love, why take the effort to climb back in? If we understood what love really is, maybe this wouldn’t be a problem, but I think we’ve been duped.

Most of What You've Learned About Love is a Lie
Here’s the issue: When it comes to love, you’ve been lied to. The lie about love is almost everywhere. We see it on television and the Internet. I’ve even heard it from well-meaning (although ignorant) therapists, concerned and caring parents, and spouses who are trying to save their marriages. So what is the lie? In short, the lie is that Love = Feelings and Feelings = Love. In many ways, we are obsessed with feelings and this has led us to reduce the meaning of love to a feeling. If I feel in love, I am in love; if I don’t feel in love, I am not in love. If I feel it, I do it; if I don’t, I don’t. This version of love is something you have no control over, it just happens. It’s like you are an object and love is something that either acts upon you or it doesn’t.

Sometimes Your Feelings Don’t Know What’s Best For You
This narrow view of love is dangerous. Sure, it feels great when you “feel it,” but what about when you don’t? Let me give you one example. Referring to her husband who was on the verge of leaving his family for another woman, one wife stated: “If he feels like he loves her, that’s who he should be with. We should do whatever makes us feel happy.” Please understand, this woman did not want her husband to leave; she desperately wanted him to stay. But as soon as he gave this old line that I’ve heard many times as a therapist, “I love her, but I’m not in love with her” she felt that he was destined to leave. Let me reiterate what is happening here.  He was leaving his wife and children because of a feeling. This was not what was best for him or his family. There was no mention of his lifelong commitment to marriage and his own personal integrity, or the effect his choices will have on their three young children. There was just a belief that if he feels like he should leave his family, he should do whatever he feels will make him happy.

Your Feelings Might Not Matter
I am just going to be direct with you. There are many times in marriage when your feelings, quite frankly, don’t matter. “I don’t feel like taking out the trash.” “I don’t feel like being kind or forgiving.” “I don’t feel like saying sorry.” “I don’t feel like I love you.” Too many spouses use their feelings to justify why they do or do not do something. This is not how happy and healthy marriages work! If you want a happy and healthy marriage, you are going to have to act lovingly even when you don’t feel like it!

The danger in relying upon your emotions and feelings in marriage is that they can change so frequently. For example, when you are dating and establishing a new relationship, you are likely to have some pretty intense loving feelings. But in long-term relationships, these feelings come and go. They are impacted by stress, our thoughts, our expectations, and the grind of day-to-day living. That intense chemistry is not going to be there all the time. One author put it this way, “all emotions, by their nature, are fleeting. Letting our hopes rest primarily on feelings that come and go is a recipe for an unstable marriage.” So think about your hopes and actions as a spouse. Are you dependent upon your emotions for how you choose to think and act in marriage?

The Truth About Love
When we reduce the meaning of love to a feeling, we fail to realize that at its core, love is a choice. We choose to love people. We choose to act lovingly. When we marry, we are committing to choose to love our spouse every day for the rest of our lives. The idea of “falling out of love” simply isn’t true. People don’t fall out of love, they stop choosing to love.  Unfortunately, many people don’t even realize they’ve done this.  Choosing to love (or not to love) is not so cut and dry. In general, people don’t wake up one day and say, “I’m going to choose to stop loving my spouse today.” But whether we realize it or not, we make other decisions that produce the same result. Choosing to think, speak, or act selfishly in marriage will always have a negative effect on your loving feelings.

Before we address how we regain that loving feeling, I have to mention two things. First, the “loving feeling” experienced when you very first get together is more brain chemistry than it is real love. It is normal for some of these obsessive-type feelings to subside in long-term relationships. Second, there may be some things that our partners do that make it more difficult to feel those loving feelings towards them. That's normal. However, we can't control them (please don't try) so their behavior shouldn't be our focus anyways. Plus, what we do will have a bigger impact on how we feel, so let's just worry about ourselves. 

How do I get that loving feeling back?
Even if the chemistry comes and goes in your relationship, research shows that you can maintain a strong romantic connection throughout your marriage--if you really want it. How do you do that? Whether you want to keep your loving feelings or regain the loving feelings you once had, choose to act lovingly in small and simple ways every day. Every day, every day, every day. Just think about it: how far could a couple drift out of love, if every day of their marriage they chose to write a kind note or send a loving text to one another? Or ended every day with a meaningful kiss?

Here are three things you can do, every day, which will help you keep (or get back) the loving feelings you desire:
  • Choose intentionally to think positively about your partner.  Spend time each day entertaining positive thoughts about them. 
  • Choose to tell your partner two things you love about them every day. On occasion, make a longer list of things you love about your spouse and share it with them (or put it in a love note).
  • Choose to do one thing each day to increase the well-being and comfort of your partner. Where is your spouse's comfort on your priority list?
Loving feelings are the fruit of loving thoughts, words, and actions. Selfish thoughts, words, and actions destroy loving feelings. No matter what type of marriage you have, I challenge you to do these three things for the next 6 months. Then send us an email at byuido@yahoo.com to let us know how it went! We would love to hear your stories.

More Reading
If you are interested in reading more about the idea that love is a choice from a religious perspective, I highly recommend Agency and Love in Marriage by Lynn G. Robbins. Also, here is a great article about a woman who fell out of love and climbed back in.

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