Knowing what NOT to do is just as important as what to do to revive dying love
“You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’, oh that lovin’ feelin’. You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’, now it’s gone, gone, gone.”–Phil Spector, Barry Mann, & Cynthia Weil(link is external)
We all know so many couples that seemed really in love, but after a while, they break up. At our offices (ccbtcolumbus.com(link is external)), far too often folks come in after the death rattle has started in their relationship. Both of them often talk about how they don’t know how it happened. It’s a good bet one or more of the following killed their love.
- Subtle Unkindness: Couples move from vibrancy to life support when they start saying no to the little things they ask of each other. You could be asking to have the trash taken out, or to talk about what happened at work. Whether it’s about doing something or emotionally connecting, saying no seems like no-big-deal at the time. But those nos add up, and the tiny acts of unkindness translate into “you don’t care about me” faster than you think. Eventually, the question becomes “Why should I love someone who doesn’t care about me!”
- Sticky Fights: We’ve all sat next to the person on the plane that seems to talk and talk, and it gives a feeling of being stuck. Couples can sadly start to fight like that—the fights get sticky and hard to end. These kinds of fights feel like a trap until someone slams a door, hangs up a phone, or tunes the other one out. The problems don’t get solved, because the fights aren’t about the topic, they’re about hurt feelings and misunderstandings. If sticky fights start to happen more and more, love begins to disappear.
- Loneliness After a Fight: The brightest day can seem like midnight if you’re lonely and feel despair. Big fights that don’t resolve anything lead couples to isolate themselves from each other—they go off to separate corners to lick their wounds. But…that means that the person you thought you could count on to dry your tears has become the one causing the tears, and they don’t come to apologize and try to fix things. Instead, they leave you to feel lonely and to take care of yourself. Why be in a relationship that hurts and makes you feel all alone?
- Rewriting the Story of Us: Couples begin building a story of their love the moment they meet. The story becomes a part of what sustains the love insight your thoughts. But, if a couple is terminally ill, a change in the story can be seen. You don’t just add a plot twist; you rewrite the story. Memories of how you fell in love become memories of how you thought you fell in love, and you begin to believe it was all a lie. You begin to believe you weren’t really in love, weren’t really that happy, or weren’t really attracted that much. Once the story gets rewritten, love can easily flat line.
- Sleeping with a Stranger: You look over and think “Who is this person that made me feel so bad last night?” When love starts to look like a weed you shot with Roundup, you usually decide the other person isn’t who you thought they were. Instead, you see them as a stranger—and not a nice stranger. Your thoughts consist of negative ideas about your partner’s character, and you predict that those character flaws are permanent. You fall out of love because you believe the stranger is a villain who lied from the beginning.
Gottman and Silver (2012), and Dan Wile (1993) offer plenty of ways to revive dying love, if it’s not too late. One thing to consider is this, if the story of us is re-written and if you’ve started to believe that the other person is that horrible stranger—things aren’t looking good. But if you want to try to breath life back into the relationship, here are some tips to try
- Say Yes to the Asks: When you here your partner asking you to take out the trash or talk to you about things, shift your attention. Look at them, hear them, and say yes. Every moment of accepting the other person’s effort is one step back to love.
- Turn Defense to Softness: When you hear yourself defending what you said or did, turn it around. Take responsibility for something—anything (not blame, responsibility). Try “Sorry, I didn’t get what you were saying before.” Remember, by accepting your side of the problem, you become a bit more loveable.
- Unpack It: Fights can be great for a relationship, if you know how to unpack the dirty laundry. By asking questions about what’s really in there, how things might have been misunderstood, and what the deeper meaning of the issue must have, you get to know your partner better. And…..they feel better known and cared about. Love grows when you fertilize it with understanding and listening.
- Be Vulnerable: Don’t give in, but turn toward your partner. If they make a demand you don’t like, explain how it makes you feel. Give them a chance to learn about your inner self in those moments. Do give in, open up. Love can flow a little better when you are vulnerable.
- Unexpected Kindness: When you know more about your partner, you can use that to show concern and kindness without being asked. The key here is to have the other person’s back, even in little ways. You see the other person’s dishes in the sink, and you clean them up before your partner gets there. You leave a string of floss on the mirror before they get up. These little acts of kindness get more noticed because they aren’t expected—and they say I” love you” through action, not words.
Want to Read More?
I always tell folks to consult John Gottman’s writings, and those of Dan Wile. Here are some links: