I often hear statements from one partner that they love the other person, but that they are not “in love” with them. Really, I hear this from nearly every couple. They have lost that loving feeling, so to speak. What is actually happening is that the “newness” of the relationship has worn off. Human nature is rather fickle, and many have the “what have you done for me lately?” attitude when it comes to relationships. When the relationship is new, we are so “in love” with our new partner. We are doing things for them, trying to make them happy, buying gifts, cannot wait to be with them, and we want to spend so much time getting to know them. Then we stop. This is normal and is the natural course of most relationships.
That heightened level of happiness is not sustainable. However, you can develop a deeper level of fondness, admiration, joy, contentment, and peace with your partner that is sustainable for a lifetime. Being able to look at each other after decades and still feel joy that your partner brings you. To have that requires a bit of work and a change of attitude. Building fondness is the first step, but it requires intentionality and commitment. You have to be intentional about the level of effort required and you have to be committed to the process as it is not a quick fix.
Building fondness starts with intentionally focusing on your partner’s positive qualities. It may help to remember what attracted you to them in the beginning. You also have to intentionally stop focusing on their negative qualities or those areas, behaviors, or attitudes that may increase your irritability toward them. This takes practice and time. However, over time, you will begin to increase your positive affection for them. Then start to focus on common areas of interest that you enjoy and start spending time together doing those. This also requires practice and may even feel awkward at first because of the planning aspects. We tend to think that planning a date is too mechanical and it should be more spontaneous. Unfortunately, the stressors of life, work, children, housework, etc. will diminish our level of spontaneity.
Being committed is also an attitude shift. It is not just saying you are committed, but it is putting effort into continuing when it is not working out as quickly as you want it to. This process takes time and practice. It will ebb and flow as you may become frustrated that you feel like you are the only one trying. That may be the case, but keep going and keep communicating to your partner about what you are trying to do. It is also important to talk to them about some of the things that may irritate you because perhaps it is something they can control or stop. However, do not let that deter you from continuing to focus on their positives, stop focusing on their negatives, and find common areas of interest to enjoy.
Charles Bower, LPC Associate
My passion is relationships of all kinds. I have been working with people dealing with relationship issues, both professionally and personally, for several years and still see the potential in every relationship to not only survive, but to thrive. I also have experience with biblical and Christian counseling, which is also a passion of mine. However, I do not impose my beliefs on any client and have successfully navigated working with clients of varying world views and spiritual beliefs.