Recently I’ve talked a bit about losing the spark. Losing the spark is all too common in long term relationships. Due to any number of reasons, over time many couples get to a point where they still love the person, but they are no longer IN love.
I recently read a blog written by a woman who “lost the spark” in her marriage. She ended up having an affair, and was in the process of a divorce. Interestingly her husband still wanted things to work out, but she didn’t. She had an affair. To her this act was proof that something was wrong in her relationship, and after that her heart wasn’t in her marriage anymore. She wasn’t interested in rebuilding.
Now, I don’t know anything about her situation other than what she wrote. Maybe the relationship was terrible. Maybe she didn’t understand what love really is, and as a result was disappointed in her marriage. Maybe there were other issues such as addictions, mental health or abuse. Who knows.
The only thing I do know is that if her heart wasn’t in rebuilding, then any efforts to rebuild were doomed to failure before they even began. Relationships require effort. If you don’t truly WANT it, you will never be willing to compromise and put in the effort required to be happy. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t put effort in, then you shouldn’t be surprised if things don’t work out very well.
But this story and others like it got me thinking:
Who’s responsibility is it to maintain feelings of love? And what do you do if those feelings fade?
Holding On To Love
One of the mistakes I think many people make is the belief that love is something you “feel”. Something that’s either there, or it’s not. Seen this way, love is a passive thing, or something you receive.
I don’t think love should ever be passive. And the feeling of being “in love” is only a small part of love. When you think of love as a feeling or something you just receive, you all but ensure that love will fail. You need to actively work to maintain love, or over time that “feeling” goes away.
Maintaining these feelings of being in love is the responsibility of each of us. Love requires effort on the part of both people. It is not your partners responsibility to keep you feeling “in love”.
Yes, your partner should treat you well. They should show you affection and make you feel valued and loved. And those actions make you more likely to return gestures of love and affection, after all, we all like to feel valued and appreciated.
But love isn’t just something you receive. Ultimately your feelings for your partner are YOUR responsibility. And in order to maintain love, these feelings need to be nurtured.
It is up to you to make your partner a priority in your thoughts and in your life. It is up to you to value and appreciate your partner. It’s up to you to focus on the positives in your life together instead of the negatives.
If you don’t and the feelings of being “in love” start to fade? Well, that’s as much your fault as it is your partners (probably more actually).
Focus on Each Other
To keep love strong you have to focus on each other, and focus on the positives.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the negatives. Perfection doesn’t exist. Everyone has flaws, and everyone makes mistakes. It’s important to ensure you are communicating about those and not ignoring them, but you also need to accept them and not allow anger or resentment to poison your relationship.
Look at the good things both in your life together and about your partner them self. What are the thing that make them who they are to you? What are the traits that you love? Personality, intelligence, compassion, quirks. Whatever they are make sure they are about your partner as a person.
From a guys perspective, the absolute LAST thing you want to hear is about how great a provider you are, or how great a father you are to the kids. If that’s all you can think of you may as well just ask us to stand up and then repeatedly kick us in the groin – because that’s how it feels. Yeah, it’s important that we are good at those things. But that’s not what we want.
There’s a stereotype of (shallow) guys wanting a woman because she’s young and hot; and (shallow) women being gold diggers and wanting men for their bank account. Women don’t want to feel like a receptacle for sperm? Well men don’t want to feel like you are only there for the utility we provide.
We ALL want to feel valued for who we are.
Always Do Your Best
In the blog I read, the woman gave up on her marriage. When a relationship has negative momentum, it is easy to get caught up in that negativity and feel that things will never get better.
I’m a cheerleader for long-term relationships, and I think that short of abusive situations most relationship can be not only saved, but can be amazing. Yes people change, but part of relationships is growing and changing together.
There is no “magic person” out there who everything would be perfect with. Love isn’t just received. The success or failure of a relationship is up to both people and what they put in to the relationship – not just what they are getting out of it.
Sometimes things don’t work out though, and that’s fine. At the end of the day the most important thing is to be able to truly tell yourself that you tried. That you put yourself 100% into it and you did your best.