As anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship knows, it takes time and effort to keep a relationship vibrant, fulfilling, and genuine. While it's totally normal to fall into rough patches and question your confidence about your partner, you may also come across a realization that deep down, you don't feel the same way about your partner as you used to—you are falling out of love with your partner.
It's here in this relationship purgatory that you need to decide whether or not you want to repair and reawaken the relationship, or if you want to let it go.
What falling out of love feels like
For starters, falling out of love—just like falling in love—is different for each person, according to Vermont-based licensed clinical psychologist Lindsay Jernigan, Ph.D. It may be fast and furious or slow and gentle; however, there are commonalities that come with the loss of love in a partner.
"If you are falling out of love, you may feel a sense of strain and effort in daily interactions with your partner as your internal feelings and external life become increasingly incongruent," she tells mindbodygreen. "As a result, you may find yourself feeling more comfortable apart than you feel together—more authentic and able to be in a state of flow."
Signs you're falling out of love
Here are some clear signs you're falling out of love, according to experts:
- You're less interested in spending time with them.
- You feel more comfortable apart than you feel together.
- You're thinking about them less and less.
- They start to feel like a burden.
- Their behavior is increasingly annoying to you.
- You feel like you're just going through the motions.
- There's a lot of strain and effort when it comes to your daily interactions with them.
- You're no longer having meaningful conversations.
- You feel more authentic and in flow when they're not around.
Is it even possible to fall back in love?
At this point, reviving your relationship with your partner may seem futile. But it's absolutely possible, according to Michelle Herzog, LMFT, a Chicago-based couples therapist and AASECT-certified sex therapist. She believes that, yes, you can fall back in love with your partner—but it won't be easy. Not only will you need to reflect on your partner and partnership, but you'll also need to look within.
"This may also include deeper self-work, which includes understanding the parts that contributed to the 'fall out,'" she tells mbg. "When we take a deeper look, we may find that our needs weren't getting met or that we did not feel challenged, therefore not growing as an individual."
Working with a therapist can be helpful in assessing where both your hearts lie. Jernigan recommends discernment counseling, a type of therapy specifically designed to help couples work toward either reawakening their love or saying a loving goodbye. You can also look into couples therapy more broadly.
How to stop falling out of love with your partner
If you and your partner decide you're both dedicated to reviving your relationship, then here are some therapist-approved tips to help you navigate the path back to love.
Break old habits
Take a moment to figure out your personal weak spots and the problematic dynamics that contributed to the downfall of your relationship. While it's easy to get caught up in what our partner did—or more likely, didn't—do, we need to shift our focus to the part of the equation that we can control: ourselves and what we contributed to the relationship.
Think about what you want from your partner and then ask yourself if you're even delivering it yourself. (Hello, the golden rule of treating others the way you'd like to be treated.) "If you're not, take the risk to give what you may not be receiving," Jernigan says. "Someone has to go first. If your relationship is going to get out of the rut, you have to put pride and fear aside and risk-taking the first leap toward change."
Next, ask yourself about how your partner can show up for you and whether or not you're creating such conditions, she says. For example, maybe you want more physical touch from your partner, but you just can't put down your phone in the evenings.
Of course, have your partner explore their own answers to these questions too—and remember to not get defensive or point fingers.
Ultimately, identifying issues is great and dandy, but positive outcomes only come with put in the effort to change your behaviors. "What is more important than the problematic patterns, themselves, are the intentions of both partners to genuinely grow and take risks to create change," Jernigan says.
Prioritize each other
Remember when you two first started dating and couldn't get away from each other? In the infancy of your relationship, you purposefully created a space for your love—it's time to do that again, Jernigan says. Once the honeymoon stage is over, we end up taking our partners for granted, believing that they'll just always be there for us. But this neglect can cause serious damage to a relationship.
Plan dates ahead of time and mark them in your calendar. Set a bedtime so you're both making time for sex and pillow talk. Send each other loving and flirtatious texts during the day. Most importantly, turn your phones off in the evening and set (and actually follow!) boundaries with work.
On top of quality time, Herzog recommends ushering in check-ins with your partner about your relationship to see how you're both feeling about where you're going and how you're being treated.
Show up authentically
Who wants to be involved in a relationship where both partners don't feel like their authentic, true selves? How can a relationship be real then?
"Sometimes we fall out of love because we have overly adapted ourselves to fit into what we think is expected of us in our relationship, and as a result, we feel like a shrunken version of ourselves," Jernigan explains. "Love can't flourish under these conditions!"
Tap back into your own passion and creativity. Rediscover who you are and share it with your partner—and let them do the same! "If we let our personal fires go out, our relationship loses heat," Jernigan says. The result? Resentment and emptiness.
Showing up authentically also means being honest and present with your partner. Maybe your partner, who tends to be more reserved, has expressed that they don't like how rambunctious your personality can be, so you hold yourself in, Jernigan says as an example. However, you end up feeling resentful and judged, maybe even claustrophobic. It's time to be open with your partner about your inner truth and real self.
"If the relationship can't survive bringing your whole self to the table, then it's not the relationship for you," she says. "If it's a healthy bond, your connection will feel more vibrant, sensual, playful, and expansive the more of yourself you bring into it."
Don't force it
Although worth it if it works out, revitalizing a sense of real, meaningful love is far from easy, and the reality may be that it is time to respectfully let each other go. All parties involved need to be fully committed and motivated to putting in the work. "If one person is halfway out the door, then the likelihood of them turning back toward the relationship is low," Herzog says. While this is without a doubt a difficult time, just remember that there is nothing wrong with having outgrown a once happy and healthy relationship. All parties involved deserve relationships full of playfulness, security, and love.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to renew the relationship, realizing you're falling out of love with someone offers a critical time for you to reflect on your wants and needs in a partnership and if and how you can deliver those conditions yourself. That way, you can be a better partner in your revived relationship—or in your next one.
Born on the mainland but raised in Hawai‘i, Kathleen Wong recently moved back to the islands after working as a journalist in New York. Covering everything and anything lifestyle, she has bylines in The New York Times, The Cut, Broadly, and more. Wong has bachelor's degrees in both journalism and sociology from NYU, and is currently the Communications Manager for the ACLU of Hawai’i.