I recently had a conversation with a close friend about the nature of relationships. They were struggling with the thought of ending a long term relationship, one of the reasons given being that they didn’t feel the same way about their partner anymore. They worried that the relationship had simply run its course, and figured it must be time to move on given the lack of romantic passion that once was present. In its place was deep Love and friendship, but they just weren’t “in Love” anymore.
I tried to nod and be supportive – I really did – but if you know anything about me, you know that withholding something from someone I care about is just not something I do, no matter how hard hearing it might be. And so, I spoke. And this is essentially what I had to say.
I want to start by saying that you may or may not have very valid reasons for ending your relationship. I don’t know what happens inside of it, so I cannot make any judgment on that. You may be right that you will be happier apart. You may be right that this is the right thing to do. You may have a million very good reasons for why you need to be single right now, or why your partner isn’t the right person for you, or why a break up is inevitable.
But not being in Love is not one of them.
It’s not your fault that you believe it is. Not really. Our culture has been telling us for years that the key to happiness is finding our soul mate and living happily ever after. We are supposed to have 50-60 years of wedded bliss, mind blowing sex, total romantic connection. Sure, we are allowed to have our disagreements – after all, that’s a sign of passion. But we are never ever ever supposed to feel bored, or question our choice of partner, or be attracted to anyone else, or feel totally and completed disconnected from our soul mate. Because those are all signs that either the relationship has hit its expiry date or it was never really meant to be in the first place.
I have news for you: IT’S A BIG FAT LIE. And at the root of this lie is the idea that we are supposed to base our relationships on falling in Love in the first place.
I fell in Love with my husband. Boy, did I ever. Hit me like a truck and dragged me down the highway at top speed, leaving me with a major case of road rash. He was charming and charismatic and from literally the first moment I saw him I knew I had found something amazing.
That lasted for about 3 months.
After 3 months, our lives started to get very real very quickly. I won’t go into specifics because this is not the time or place, but needless to say, things got HARD. I don’t mean we had our first fight and I gained 5 pounds. I mean shit hit the fan in pretty much every major aspect of life. And pretty quickly, I fell out of Love.
Let me stop you here. I know, you think this sounds horrible. I mean, I just admitted I FELL OUT OF LOVE WITH MY HUSBAND. But it’s the truth. The shiny happy feelings of the early days were replaced with a lot of stress and worry and fighting to stay afloat in the midst of the storm around us. Our lives were anything but romantic. I didn’t have the naive, head in the clouds, we will always be happy feelings of the days of yore. I had a very real and very difficult decision to make: do I really want to fight for this relationship? Is it really worth it?
Clearly, you know the answer to this question. Let me tell you how I got here.
Once I fell out of Love, I decided to start living IN Love. In order to do that, I needed to figure out what Love really and truly looked like. So, I looked at my husband and I asked myself:
Does he respect you?
Does he make you a better version of yourself?
Does he make you laugh?
Does he support you even when you aren’t very likeable?
Does he challenge you and force you to grow?
Does he tell you the truth?
Do you feel safe to be your true self with him?
Does he choose you first?
I asked myself these questions, and I found that the answer to each and every question was a resounding “YES”. (*Disclaimer – we are human, and not every single situation we ever find ourselves in will result in a “Yes” to these questions. Answer in regards to the overarching themes). I may not have felt “in Love” with him the way I once had, but I was very much living in his Love. It was surrounding me and lifting me up. I just needed to know where to look.
And so, I asked myself a second set of questions.
Do you respect him?
Do you bring out his best qualities?
Do you laugh with him?
Do you still see the man he is, even when he makes the choice not to live up to that?
Do you push him to keep growing?
Are you honest with him?
Do you make him feel safe to be himself?
Do you choose him first?
I wish I could say that my answers to these questions were all “Yeses” too, but they weren’t. I had been relying on him to Love me, and I had been relying on my being “in Love” so much, that I had forgotten to BE Love. I had forgotten that I too needed to consciously and actively Love my husband. And so I made a choice. I made a choice to live in Love with my husband, to surround him with Love in the same way I wanted to be surrounded. I made a choice that every day I would Love him. In big ways and small ways, I would Love him. I would Love him when I was in Love with him, and when I fell back out, I would Love him even more. Because being in a committed partnership is not and should not be about being “in Love”. It is about being IN Love, by choice, through it all.
You may be right – this might not be the relationship for you or for him. But if that’s the case, it’s because your answers are more nos than yeses. It’s because you aren’t ready to be in a place of choosing a life in Love, or he isn’t someone who makes you feel safe, or you don’t even know who you are yet so how can you know if he helps you be the best version of that unknown self. But no longer being “in Love” is not a valid reason, because no matter who you choose in the end, sometimes you will not feel in Love. It’s just the nature of our fickle emotions. And yet, in those moments where you aren’t uber connected and having great sex and feeling warm fuzzies, you will find you are experiencing a Love far more profound, both being given and being received.
One last thing: he won’t always be “in Love” with you either. If he’s living in Love with you through that, then you know he’s a keeper.