What Makes Love Fade In Long-Term Relationships? A Psychologist Explains
You fall madly in love and think that the love you are sharing with your partner is so incredible that it can't possibly fade. Even though you know that it has faded in the past in your other relationships, and it has faded with most people you know, this time it's so special, so different from ever before, that you just know that this time it will last.
And then it doesn't.
There are very good reasons why not, but it doesn't have to be this way. You can keep your relationship alive and exciting no matter how long you've been together, but first you need to know why it fades, and then you need to know what you can do differently—either in your current relationship or in your next one.
Why love fades.
When two people fall madly in love, they are in love with either who they see in each other, or who they think they see, or who the person is presenting themselves to be. Often, they fall "in love" with how they are being loved rather than how much love they actually feel for the other person.
But unless they have each done deep healing work on their fears of rejection (the fear of losing the other person) and their fears of engulfment (the fear of losing themselves in the relationship), inevitably these fears will emerge in the relationship. When they do, controlling behavior also emerges.
Whether it's overt control (such as the anger or blame that come from an anxious attachment style stemming from a fear of rejection) or covert control (such as the compliance, resistance, or withdrawal that stems from an avoidant attachment style), controlling behavior erodes in-love feelings.
Keeping the love between you alive means that, when your fears of loss of other or loss of self emerge, you decide to utilize the relationship to learn and heal rather than to protect against what you fear with your various forms of controlling behavior.
The fear of rejection and the fear of engulfment.
Most people have underlying false beliefs that, when triggered in their relationship, lead to these fears that lead to controlling, protective, or avoidant behavior. Some of these false beliefs might be:
- I'm not lovable enough or smart enough or attractive enough for my partner to stay interested in me, so I have to control to get them to stay with me.
- I have to give myself up to not lose my partner's love.
- There is no way for me to be myself and be in a committed relationship, so I need to withdraw or resist to protect myself from losing myself.
- If I do it right, I can have control over my partner giving me the love I need to feel OK about myself.
The fears of rejection and engulfment, as well as the resulting controlling behaviors, are fueled by these false beliefs. Acting out with any form of controlling behavior resulting from these beliefs will inevitably erode love.
How to keep love alive.
The key to keeping love alive is the newness that comes from being open to learning about yourself and your partner. When you are each open to learning about your fears and the underlying false beliefs that fuel your fears, your relationship becomes an ever-evolving one that continually brings newness into the relationship.
Keeping your heart open, learning to take responsibility for your own feelings and fears, and supporting each other in healing these fears is what keeps love alive. This openness to learning not only allows couples to help each other heal, but each member also evolves in their ability to see and value themselves and each other. They learn to love themselves and are then able to share their love with each other rather than always trying to have control over getting love and avoiding being controlled.
Aliveness comes from the new learning that continually occurs in loving relationships when each partner is open to learning to take responsibility for healing the fears and false beliefs that lead to controlling behavior.
Couples stay madly in love when they continually learn about loving themselves and each other, and unpacking those false beliefs is the first step.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator. She has counseled individuals and couples since 1968. She is the author/co-author of nine books, including the internationally best-selling Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You?, Healing Your Aloneness, Inner Bonding, and Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God? and her recently published book, Diet For Divine Connection. She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah, as well as on the unique and popular website Inner Bonding.