5 Ways To Interpret "I Love You, But I'm Not In Love With You"
"I love him, but I'm not in love with him."
In the 35 years I've been a relationship counselor and among the thousands of couples I've worked with, at least 25% of them start their sessions with this statement. Although this statement is expressing a real feeling, it can mean many things. It usually takes the client or couple of or several sessions for them to discover where it falls on the continuum. Is it a part of the normal cycles of love, or is it signaling the end of the relationship? There are five main things that this statement may really mean:
1. "I want out of the relationship."
I want out of the relationship and am clear it's done, and I want to be nice about it. I don't want to hurt my partner's feelings, and this is easier to say than "It's over."
Ending a relationship won't ever be nice or easy. It's painful and hard, but if what you really want is to break up with someone, know that it's not a comfort to the person being broken up with that their partner loves them but is not in love with them.
2. "I've met someone else."
I've met someone else with whom I feel alive, like I used to with my current partner.
If the primary criteria you are using to end a relationship is, "This new person makes me feel alive, and you don't anymore," chances are you will end up in this place with the new person in the future. Your aliveness needs to come from within you; falling in love is a chemical high that isn't meant to last forever.
3. "I feel emotionally closed off."
I'm noticing we're arguing a lot, and instead of feeling like you're my person, I'm closing off to you emotionally.
Everyone has difficulties and parts of their relationship that don't work. All couples have many irresolvable issues, and the difference between the thrivers and divers is not whether they have differences between them (because, seriously, every couple has them) but how they are managed. This happens because we learn the skills to handle it, and the good news is that anyone can learn skills. (Here are a few ways to rebuild a relationship that's falling apart.)
4. "Our sex life no longer excites me."
Our sex life no longer excites me. The sex has become dull, boring, or predictable.
Our sexual relationships are like the other parts of our connection—we need to find new ways to keep things alive. In the same way a runner can feel wiped out and then push through the wall to find a second wind and a better high than ever, this often happens in our lovemaking when we get a little creative. Here are a few ways to slowly build up sexual desire again in your relationship.
5. "I'm depressed."
This one is harder to translate, but it's a very real possibility. The person feeling this could be depressed, and the color may have faded in many things they once enjoyed—including their relationship. If you investigate and believe you or your partner is actually depressed rather than falling out of love, it's time to reach out to a mental health care provider to seek out support.
Love but not in love: Is the relationship over?
We interpret this feeling, which is also about the absence of another kind of feeling, as a sign the relationship is not going to last. Although this may prove to be the truth, it is more likely it isn't.
Think about what you do for a living. Are you a professional, a student, an artist of some sort? Can you remember when you had the thought that brought you to this place? "I want to be a musician." "I just got the greatest job as a graphic artist." "Finally I'm an attorney, a police officer, a kindergarten teacher." This is often accompanied by a sense of expansion and happiness, as though you have reached the top of a mountain, a sense of arrival. Three months later, when you're knee-deep in desk work, administration complications, or having to manage an impossible co-worker, what do you feel then? Does it mean you put in your resignation immediately? Probably not—and it's no different in our relationships.
We don't stay in that high place all the time. Some days are cloudy, some are stormy, some are gray, and sometimes the sun shines. Relationships are seasonal and cyclical, and the statement, "I'm not in love with my boyfriend" can mean many more things than "it's time to leave." Sex can be rekindled, intimacy can be rediscovered, and depression can be treated.
A long-term relationship has many seasons: Don't interpret that feeling of not being in love as a recipe for disaster but rather as a mystery to explore and find your way through. If you've fallen out of love with your partner and are committed to bringing back the spark, here are your next steps.
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