loving is as simple as walking, floating in the pool, and riding a bicycle. These are all simple activities to do but someone taught you. Think about it, you could never have learned to walk on your own: without observation, without examples, without learning. For love it is the same: it is simple to love only if you have been taught, only if you have been shown how to do it. For this reason, some people have no problem understanding if they have stopped loving while others, on the other hand, have more trouble understanding emotions and feelings; for these people, love is something to be deciphered, to be learned. That is why, sometimes, it can be complicated to understand whether you still love a person.
Then, let’s face it, ending a love relationship is damn painful. Admitting to ourselves that we’ve stopped loving our partner means projecting ourselves to a separation, and that’s scary and confusing; fear and confusion are not good allies when we’re trying to understand our feelings. Even if you have stopped loving, ending your relationship will be difficult. What will be able to give you strength is this thought: your partner deserves to be loved, you do not. You deserve to be happy, and you will not be happy standing next to someone you do not love.
Now, however, before you come to any hasty conclusions, I will invite you to reflect on your feelings by bringing back some indicators to analyze. Only you can look into your heart and find out what you want. Yes, you read that right: what you want! Even in romantic love there is an assumption of voluntariness. We choose whether or not to nurture our feelings.
When feelings change
Let’s start with this assumption: all love relationships change. It is right. It is healthy. What is not healthy is to stagnate in the same pattern for years and years. Life is constantly evolving, and with it so is the couple. With age and the progression of events, needs and perspectives change. This is what couple play is all about: recalibrating, rediscovering and from time to time, choosing each other. It may happen that a change can shake the couple to the point of crisis, and it may also happen that the couple’s crisis has persisted for years and is related precisely to the absence of change. Under these circumstances, neither partner may have the courage to face their feelings. Is it the feelings that have changed? While it is true that everything changes in the relationship, feelings can also evolve and sometimes disappear.
The initial passionate love turns into lukewarm affection. Here it may be legitimate to wonder how to tell if one is still in love with the person who made our heart beat faster until some time before. Why does love pass? Feelings of love can be strained by frustrations and conflicts, accumulated misunderstandings that have never been cleared up, which over time have given way to unresolved and resentment. Again it goes through voluntariness, is there a desire (shared by both, and not unidirectional!) to fix the unresolved in order to move forward? Understanding what you want and what you can have is as important a task as understanding your feelings.
How to understand if you have fallen out of love?
Falling in love is a magical feeling: pupils dilate and chills down your spine explode with a single caress, what about the butterflies in your stomach? These signs are unmistakable. Unfortunately, there are not always such striking signs when love fades. Try to see some indicators that might help you navigate your story, an additional premise is in order. If you still have deep affection for your partner, esteem for him/her and admiration are still intact, know that love can be nurtured, the flame can be rekindled. You can make, intentionally, the decision to work to improve your relationship and nurture your feelings. If you keep asking yourself, “Am I still in love?” Here are some signs that may help you reflect on your feelings.
Have you started daydreaming?
It is natural to notice an attractive person; it is less natural, when you love someone, to catch yourself fantasizing recurrently about what it would be like to date another person. Daydreaming is not a crime, but when these fantasies focus on dating a potential new lover, know that this is a signal not to be ignored. Similarly, if you are signed up on Tinder “just to take a look,” you should think about that, too. Sure, sifting through the winking profiles of third parties does not make you a cheater, but it does reveal a lot about your orientation. In fact, this behavior, just like fantasizing about another relationship, orients you to the outside of the couple in a way that, explained bluntly, screams, “the grass is greener on the other side.” Looking at someone else’s garden distracts you from the care you could devote to your own of garden. A garden that, with the right care, could be very prosperous and bountiful with fruit.
If you are outwardly oriented in the relationship, reflect on this attitude of yours. Has it always been this way or did you start doing it at a particular time of frustration? Is this orientation worth indulging in, or do you wish to bring the focus back inside the couple? The answer to this question will tell you if you are still in love.
How much can you renew yourselves?
When it comes to love and couples, overseas the self-expansion model is widely used, which was created in 1986 to investigate individual motivations and later applied to couples as well. I report this model because it has found much confirmation in the experimental field, so it is not merely a theoretical approach.
When a person is comfortable with himself or herself, he or she is oriented toward self-improvement, curiosity, exploration, and expansion of one’s perspectives (…), and the partner plays a key role in this. If love is described as romantic, it responds to the principle of including the other in the self. One way that people have of expanding themselves is through close relationships, because with togetherness it is possible to experience the other’s resources, perspectives and identity, almost as if they were a part of oneself.
The culmination of this principle occurs at the beginning of the relationship. In the early days, the person experiences high levels of self-expansion by enriching himself or herself with the other, however, over time, as one becomes more familiar with the partner, the rate of expansion slows down. The model also states that a couple-related sense of self-expansion becomes constant when the two have capacity for renewal. How? Whenever the couple engages in shared activities, when they experience challenges, make plans, and when they engage in new and exciting activities.
If you feel something is missing in your couple, maybe it is not love that has faded, maybe you just need to break the routine. In the article “4 hours a week to get your relationship off the ground,” I invite you to embrace that renewal that never hurts! While it’s true that sometimes love ends, other times, despite affection, it’s circumstances that make it difficult, try experimenting with “new shared joys” and see how it feels to share them right with your she/he!
Does your partner help you grow?
If your partner’s personal growth is something you are not particularly interested in, surely the love has faded. In the “Self Expansion Questionnaire” , we read questions such as:
Does your partner help you affirm the kind of person you are?
How much does your partner enhance your ability to accomplish new things?
How much do you perceive your partner as a way to expand your capabilities?
While it is true that your partner should be supportive with you and thus support you in enhancing your abilities, the converse is bidirectional: you should also support him as a person, spur him on to do better and better, and value his virtues. If all this, in your couple, does not occur, there is much work to be done and much to reflect on.
- Does your partner make you unhappy?
- Is the life you have satisfying?
- Is it the one you desired?
- Do you think that by changing partners you will have the life you desire?
- What do you expect from your partner?
- Are these realistic expectations?
Everyone is responsible for his or her own happiness. While the partner can contribute to the concept of self-expansion, personal fulfillment is something that starts from within, individually and, then, has an impact on the other. According to the model mentioned earlier, when either partner expands, this can have positive effects in the healthy couple.
The matter is quite different if there are grudges, constraints, jealousies, competitions and unrealistic expectations in the couple. In the latter case, more than asking yourself whether or not you love your partner, you would need to question the functionality of the couple dynamics that move your relationship. Are you in a healthy or unhealthy couple? If one of the partners lives with the unrealistic expectation that it must be the other who makes him/her happy, every day, something is wrong.
Do many things about your partner bother you?
When love is over, you are bothered by simple and trivial things about your partner, such as the way he swallows, the noises he makes when he sleeps, his expressions, or the way he dresses. If you can’t love him the way he is, that means it’s not love! Accepting yourself and knowing how to accept are the basis of any healthy relationship. If you started the relationship with the expectation of changing him, you got off on the wrong foot! The apotheosis of love is acceptance and mutual improvement.
How often do you say “I love you?”
The next time you utter these two magic little words, pause and reflect on them. How true do you feel them to be? How much do you say them in a heartfelt way and how much, instead, do they come out of habit? Try to use these words “more sparingly” and affirm an “I love you” only when it will be felt again, just as it was the first time. An “I love you” is something spontaneous, powerful and heartfelt. It makes little sense to say it over and over again without really feeling it.
Is there a lack of small attention?
Love is not like a good wine to be left there to age. Love is like a plant that needs a thousand cares but is ready to bear juicy fruit. How much care are you giving to your couple? If the answer is “few,” then you know why you begin to question your feelings. If love is not nurtured, it will not stay alive forever.
If little attention is missing in the couple, both partners suffer. Love is not something passive that comes to stay. Love is something extremely dynamic that, just like a plant, grows, spreads, expands — or withers away. It all depends on the care you decide, together, to give it!
How does love die?
Love never dies a spontaneous death, it always dies of omissions, conflict, misunderstandings, unrealistic expectations and much, much neglect. Every relationship can turn into an extraordinary love story or an ordinary story of survival and sometimes dissatisfaction. It’s up to you to reflect on your story and your expectations, it’s up to you to decide what to do with your feelings, whether to nurture them or to dull them.