“Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions.” -Stephen R. Covey
An all-too-familiar sentiment that I hear from clients to explain why they are thinking of leaving their long-term relationship is “I love my partner, I’m just not in love with them anymore. When I follow up to ask how they know this, I hear variations of “I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.” That love is just a feeling seems to be a pervasive belief. It often follows that if you are ‘not feeling it’ that must mean it’s time to exit the relationship and find that feeling somewhere else.
That’s not to say that there aren’t times when leaving becomes the appropriate choice. However, it’s generally helpful to get clear on the concrete reasons that this relationship is no longer where you are choosing to stay. Basing a choice to leave on a feeling is often an indicator that people have bought into Hollywood’s version of love and don’t have a good understanding of love beyond the fluctuation of feeling.
So if love isn’t just a feeling, what is it? It’s also action, it’s commitment, and it’s an evolution. Love is a crucible for both partners’ growth, learning and healing. When love is all about feeling, you are usually in the honeymoon stage of relationship. It’s a great and important stage and a lot of the connection that develops in this period of time helps to sustain the relationship when the going gets tough. But if you keep leaving your relationships once the honeymoon stage ends because the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling starts to fade, you may find yourself missing out on the opportunity to experience the deeper more profound shades of love that come with action and commitment.
So what to do when you still love your partner, but you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling?
Here are twelve ideas to experiment with; why not try one or two of them for a few weeks and see what happens?
- Write a bunch of post-it notes with things you like about your partner and stick them places your partner will find them. For example, on their pillow, in their car, in their briefcase or purse, on their laptop screen, get creative.
- Give more than you take in your relationship. Instead of getting stuck keeping score, see what happens when you give more than your partner without expecting anything in return.
- Communicate! Pay attention to what your partner is saying. Put down cell phones, close laptops. Set aside time to focus on your partner. If you are struggling with communicating, get some help. Attend a workshop, read a book together, go to counselling.
- Before you blame, take a look at anything you might be contributing to the situation. Make a real effort to see the situation through your partner’s eyes – it doesn’t mean you have to agree with how they see things but can go a long way in helping them feel less defensive.
- Hold hands, hug, give a little shoulder rub, touch your partner’s arm, affection is connection.
- Accept and celebrate your differences instead of feeling threatened by them.
- Remember that you are a team and you can accomplish much more when you work together then when you get entrenched in defending your turf. Notice if you get stuck on the concept of winning or losing. There will be endless give and take over the long haul.
- Laugh! Whether that requires a funny movie, a funny joke, a tickle fight or sharing a funny story. Laughter is a great way to build connection and stop from taking yourselves too seriously.
- Develop rituals that are meaningful to the two of you.
- Attend a couples retreat
- Create some common goals and work towards them.
- Have a weekly date time whether it’s an activity in the home, a hike or a dinner out. Time together is essential.