What Does it Mean When “The Love is Gone”?


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Love.

Love is a powerful emotion/feeling, and it can drive us to do incredible (and at times terrible) things.

When people think of “love”, the first thing they think of is usually passion or romance.  Well, sex too – but that’s usually a byproduct of passion.  Either way, it’s often perceived as an intense emotional response.  Butterflies in the stomach, and an overwhelming desire to be with that other person.

Science has shown this “romance” stage of love is just that, a stage.  It has a neurochemical basis, and usually only lasts for more than six months to two years.

When we are younger we often mistake the loss of intense feeling for the loss of love, and use that as an excuse/reason to jump to another “new” relationship where everything is exciting and fresh again.  But eventually most people realize even after the intense feeling has dissipated, strong feelings can remain.  And these new feelings can be even stronger in some ways, because they are a choice and not just a hormonal response.

When we realize this, and still CHOOSE love?  Well, that’s when we have a love that can potentially last.

The thing is, even when we are choosing love and have accepted the feelings aren’t as intense, we still expect there to be feelings.

Love is still love, right?  So shouldn’t we feel something?

We can continue to choose love, but what do we do if the feeling is gone – and there is no sign that it will ever return?

Looking at this another way, if there is only choice but no feeling, do we still have love?

What do we do when we are not in love?

 

What if a Loss of Love is Not About Love?

Personally, I don’t understand “not in love”.  To me love has always been both an emotion and a choice, and this combination allows me to actively love.  To try to show love through my actions, maybe not everyday, but as often as I can.  By showing love, and practicing love I know I won’t allow love to die.

It’s not always that simple though.

In a fantastic article on depression in relationships, John Folk-Williams talks about the impacts depression can have on the ability to “feel” love.  He writes about psychiatrist Peter Kramer, who believes loss of feeling is often a sign of deeper issues:

Kramer often works with clients who are dissatisfied with their relationships. They want to know if leaving is the best thing to do.

When he encounters someone who is convinced that the marriage is dead, he says that he always suspects depression or another mood disorder.

 

Mental Illness and Relationships

Here are two statistics for you:

  • 50% of marriages fail.
  • 25% of people will directly suffer from a mental illness.

 

At first glance these two statistics appear unrelated.  But I wonder, what would the numbers be if you could look at the marriage statistics for people with a mental illness vs. those without?

I’m not sure, but I suspect the failure rates of marriage for those with a mental illness are considerably higher than the norm; simply because they introduce additional pressures and stresses on the relationship.

Mental illness already has a lot of stigma associated with it, and this is by no means an attempt to pile anything further on it.  Rather, this is an attempt to help share some understanding for people who may be having doubts and challenges in their relationships that maybe, just maybe its not the relationship that’s at fault here.

I realize saying “don’t worry, maybe it’s not your relationship – maybe you’re actually dealing with a mental illness” isn’t exactly going to make anyone feel better.  But it is a possibility; and for those who ARE dealing with a mental illness it may be beneficial to understand that your condition may affect your ability to feel love in ways you may not have considered.

 

Impacts of Anxiety and Depression on Love

The two most common mental illnesses are Depression and Anxiety disorders; and I’ve written in the past about how anxiety disorders can damage feelings of love (for a different account on anxiety’s impacts on love check the article Daniel Smith wrote for CNN, titled Can anxiety kill your ability to love?).

The Folk-Williams article above talks about a symptom of depression called Anhedonia (although anhedonia is thought of primarily as a symptom of depression it is also found in anxiety).

A common misconception about depression is that it’s characterized be people feeling down, sad, or hopeless (for extended periods of time).  This definitely happens, but anhedonia is another characteristic of depression where sufferers often lose interest in things that they used to enjoy – activities, hobbies, spending time with friends, and even sex.

Anhedonia is a state of emotional deadness, where instead of feeling down or sad someone feels nothing.  Anhedonia can cause someone to feel as though the love is dead, or they have fallen out of love.

To those who have never experienced it this seems bizarre, but If you do a simple web search for “anhedonia and love” it’s a bit frightening to see how common this seems to be.

 

An Account of Anhedonia

Folk-Williams describes his own experiences with Anhedonia, and how it can destroy relationships as follows:

there is another dimension of depression that can lead to the idea of escape as the answer.

It’s the one that causes depressed partners to say they’re no longer in love and have never loved their partners. It’s called anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure or interest in anything.

For me, it was a kind of deadness. Rather than an excess of painful emotion, it was the lack of pain, the lack of feeling, that was the undercurrent of all the surface turmoil. I felt no satisfaction in life.

I believed that the relationship was holding me back, that it had become hollow, empty of the intensity I longed for. I was sure that I could only find happiness and passion with someone else. It was the fantasy of the perfectly passionate mate that was a constant lure.

And later he writes:

Anhedonia is the cause of the desire to leave to find a new, more intense life. The depressed partner’s relationship feels loveless because he can hardly feel at all.

The problem is that the unaware depressive has such a high threshold of feeling that it takes extreme arousal to evoke excitement and passion. He can erupt with anger and rage because these are more violent emotions that stir him as little else does.

Kramer says that these clients often believe that they’re perfectly capable of feeling. After all, they can go out and have fun with friends. They can feel passionate with others who likely have no constraining relationships or might be seeking the same kind of escape.

But they feel good precisely because these experiences offer exceptionally high levels of stimulation. They may also turn to addictive habits like recreational drugs, drinking, gambling or pornography for the same reason.

Fantasies of escaping into a life full of new intensity seem like the perfect answer to their inner emptiness.

 

The Loss of Feeling

When someone needs intensely high levels of stimulation just to feel, it’s somewhat understandable that people will be willing to engage in risky and destructive behaviors.

One of the things Folk-Williams alludes to (but doesn’t address directly) is that this lack of feeling makes actual intimacy almost impossible.  So the type of attachment characteristic of close relationships breaks down, and sufferers often can find no arousal or attachment in their partners.  Everything becomes detached and clinical.  They know they “should” feel something, and they know they once did.  But they don’t, and they can’t change that.

However they can still feel the intense emotions of “new love”, so things like affairs are increasingly likely just as a way to feel.  As is sex in casual relationships or one night stands.  Those things can be felt physically, even though there is still usually little or no emotional connection.  As noted above, people may turn to substance abuse as a way of “coping” with this lack of feeling inside.

When anhedonia isn’t understood, it becomes easy to blame external things.  A sufferer is unhappy because of their job, or their weight, or their relationship.

Happiness and hope is replaced by the lure of fantasy.  A belief that things will be better IF they can only find the right thing.  If they can get the right job, get the right body, or find the right partner.

Spoiler alert here – it doesn’t work.  Finding the perfect partner is fantasy, not reality.  They don’t exist, and the people who try often end up destroying a lot of the things in their lives that are “good” in the pursuit of this fantasy.

 

Mourning Love

I write about relationships, and I write about love.  To me love is a powerful and beautiful thing, and the loss of it is always difficult.

Often love is lost and relationships fail because of little things.  We take each other for granted, we focus on the bad instead of the good, we are hurt and we refuse to let go.  All these little things often add up to growing resentment and the breakdown of love.

And when that happens, it’s tragic.

None of that however compares to the loss of love not because love is actually gone, but because someone has lost the capacity to feel it.

THAT seems incomprehensibly cruel.

Especially when the sufferer doesn’t realize what is happening, and instead of seeing it as the symptom of a problem they interpret the loss of love as the problem itself.

 

I don’t know what anhedonia feels like, and I hope I never do.  From descriptions of it and from reading others accounts of it, it seems like a terrible soul destroying thing.

But like many other aspects of mental illness, it’s something that’s not understood, and not discussed.  And I believe many, many relationships and families are needlessly lost as a result.

So if you have thought “I don’t love you anymore” or heard those words said to you, please stop to consider that maybe there’s something else going on.  Especially if you can’t understand or explain why the feeling is gone.

 

To gain a better understanding of  the struggles sufferers face daily check out the following video:

No one wants to talk about or acknowledge mental illness.  And people definitely don’t want to be labelled as having one.  But when it directly affects 25% of the population, it’s at least something to consider.

When you can’t understand something, you can’t address it.  And things can never improve.  So understanding why feelings of love may be gone can be the first step in the road to rebuilding it.

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24 thoughts on “What Does it Mean When “The Love is Gone”?

      • I’m not sure now. I’d never heard of it until your post. Some years ago, I “got” mild depression – but had my feelings waned before that?? There’s lots that’s gone on so I honestly can’t say but I’m interested to read more about it now. Too late to change anything with my ex but will be handy for future love.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s tough to say what could have happened. All I know is, from having read a number of forums on anhedonia and depression people often find themselves waking up one day to feel they no longer love their partner, and many start to question if they ever did. I’ve read of people for who the feelings fade in and out, and others who believe the feelings are totally gone and then after finding a medication find that the feelings return.

        To me, it’s just a reminder that love has to be about a lot more than just feeling. Feelings can come and go – if you are committing to someone there has to be a strong element of choice.

        A quote I love is “Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you”.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Temporary

    For those who never have had depression, it’s hard to describe the impact that anhedonia has on a person’s life.

    In my life, I found that it was hard to get excited or interested in the daily items in life. A warm summer day, a smile from a friend, or a good meal didn’t elicit feelings of pleasure. It was like I was emotionally dead inside.

    To evoke any emotion at all required an extreme amount of pleasure. I couldn’t just listen to any music, I could only listen to the happiest, or most emotionally charged music to get any pleasure from it. Same with eating, I had to eat the most pleasurable food, which is usually high in sugar and calories. My job, which started out as fun, was no longer interesting. This pattern repeated itself for almost every aspect of my life.

    This lead to me fearing decisions as I always thought that I was making the wrong choice, and ended up regretting my choice. This feeling of never being satisfied made me always question my decisions and be on the lookout for something better.

    The real kicker is that with Headonistic Adaptation, I eventually because used to the items that originally gave me pleasure. The music that I enjoyed so much now didn’t move me. That sugary donut didn’t satisfy nearly as much as as it did before. The job that I had was no longer fun, so I got a different job. I craved new experiences just to get that hit of pleasure.

    There is no satisfying this craving, and it drives you to make bad decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that’s exactly the sort of thing Folk-Williams talks about in his article. I’ve never been there, but at some level I think I “kind of sort of” get it (on an intellectual level at least).

      I’ve read a lot about things like affairs (which I also don’t get, at all), and often it seems like there is this underlying emotional deadness that requires someone to have the heightened sensation of new love and/or forbidden love.

      Emotional deadness, bad decisions. Pretty dangerous territory.

      Like

  2. Thank you. I was on the other side of this situation with a depressed person with anxiety. In reading this I suspect anhedonia played a factor as well. My ex needed daily reassurances and demonstrations of my love. I was frequently put in no win situations, I now suspect in part, for my ex to have those intense emotions you mentioned, just to feel an emotional connection of any sort. Emotional deadness also explains why my ex didn’t believe my reassurances or positive nature or me; if I was being truthful, the thoughts might go, wouldn’t there be an emotional connection. Sigh. 20/20 and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, I find it a bit frustrating that if you look up symptoms of depression or anxiety there is almost NOTHING about what it does to feelings of love.

      Pretty much the closest thing you will find is a vague description of anhedonia, along the lines of “diminished interest in activities you used to find pleasurable” and sometimes that description will add “including sex”.

      Nothing about love, nothing about what it can do to someones feelings for thier partner.

      But the loss of FEELINGS of love is VERY real. If you look at depression places like depression forums, you can find a lot of people talking about this.

      I find it very frustrating because until it’s talked about as a common symptom, sufferers who have lost feelings for thier partners will continue to think it’s due to a problem in the relationship. So many leave relationships in search of something different, in search of a feeling. And they find it in new love, because they are only able to experience heightened feelings.

      I know of so many cases where someone leaves a relationship they believe is dead, then they find they are actually happy and able to feel again with someone else. So this convinces them they were right, and it was actually the relationship that was the problem and not them. But 6 months to 2 years later, they are in the same exact boat. Feeling just as unhappy, just as emotionally dead – with someone else.

      Some never learn that it’s actually them, and go from relationship to relationship looking for the magic cure to thier unhappiness/deadness. Other resign themselves to never feeling anything and either stay in relationships where they put in no effort or decide it’s better to be alone.

      Thing is, it’s treatable. It’s manageable. Education is huge, and couples CAN get through things like this together. IF they understand what they are dealing with, and if they learn to work around it.

      I really believe that a high percentage of lost relationships are actually lost due to depression and anhedonia. And I find that really sad, especially when no one talks about it.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post Drew!

    I am depressed and have anhedonia now. It really really sucks.

    I can intellectually enjoy things but not really enjoy things. So I adjust my behavior to that of a non depressed person and that does improve it somewhat. It’s similar to the act of smiling that tells your brain that you are happy when you are not. But hey every little bit helps!

    People think depressed people look horribly sad. And it can look like that but it an also look fairly normal behaviorally because you can get good at faking it even though you don’t feel emotions in the normal intensity. And I don’t want my kids to suffer.

    The thing I hate the most about being depressed is just the mental and physical exhaustion. It’s just so hard to do things.

    It’s hard not to isolate because of the energy it takes to act normal and fake normal emotions. And I get sick more because it does affect your immune system.

    I wish it was easy to fix. But I just blithely tell people I am depressed so at least more people don’t have to hide it. The more we talk about it the more normal it becomes.

    But some people are not empathetic. Always fun. They just think I should think positively or be grateful or my all time most popular piece of advice. Go take a walk. So.many.times. I get the go take a walk advice.

    Like I’ve never thought of taking a walk. Yeah.

    Hey, I am also got an anxiety disorder so I have a fun twofer! As you know it’s pretty common to have both together.

    And it does affect marriage and parenting and friendships. But it also works the other ways around.

    That’s more my case. Having a shitty marriage certainly can trigger depression and anxiety I can tell you. But luckily with anhedonia I don’t feel the despair and frustration and hopelessness and rage that I know my brain registers.

    So that’s a plus! See I AM thinking positively.

    Maybe I should go for a walk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just as you can only enjoy things intellectually right now, I can only appreciate anhedonia intellectually. And trying to imagine it, it sounds pretty awful.

      How did you come to understand that this lack of feeling was due to anhedonia? Because I think that is the real struggle for many, many sufferers. They lose the ability to feel, and they don’t realize it’s cause. Instead, they attribute it to all sorts of other things – such as a bad job (as described above by Gandalf), and the most common scapegoat is a bad relationship. Especially when they are still able to feel highly intense emotional responses, so they think “hey, I CAN feel – just not with him/her”. I really believe depression/anhedonia is one of the biggest causes of failed relationships.

      You make a great point about not necessarily knowing the cause – did a bad relationship cause the depression or did the depression cause the problems in the relationship? That’s a really difficult thing to answer, especially when the depression will make someone more critical about the issues in the relationship (and less open to seeing and accepting the good). So during depression, people can’t really see and judge their situation clearly.

      You mention you have the fun double whammy of anxiety and depression. Do you know which came first? When someone has both, from what I have seen it’s usually started by the anxiety. And over time the body is just unable to cope with the sustained periods of high stress, so the depression kicks in as a fun little bonus.

      In any case, you should definitely just go for a walk. Oh yeah, and think cheerful thoughts too – I’ve heard that always works (kidding, in case it wasn’t clear – depression and anxiety are both really crappy things to have to deal with).

      Like

      • Drew,

        To answer your questions.

        How did I know it was anhedonia?

        Because I deal with things by researching them so I have read a lot about depression/anxiety.

        My husband has anxiety issues (panic disorder) as well although thankfully not depression.

        And we have had to learn to help our kids with anxiety issues. As I’m sure you know there is a genetic component. But we are determined our kids will not have to suffer as we both did by not getting treatment early.

        But they are doing well. My daughter has fairly normal anxiety levels now after years of fear of sleeping alone and that someone was going to kill her. Yeah fun!

        No sleep for me for years but I felt her pain even though my mother in law told her “she was being a baby”. Had to not let her visit anymore overnight. People can be cruel with mental health issues.

        Our son had issues again last year and after much effort we have found a good CBT person. I worked with him and through books because we couldn’t find a good one for a while. Very frustrating!

        My first depression was at age 12 so I kind of know the drill know. I know when it is situational like my marriage and when it seems more biological not based on events.

        There are different strategies for each that work for me.

        I think it helps that I “intellectualize” although therapists criticize me for it. I can see things conceptually even emotions. Like I know I should feel joy but don’t and it’s because of the anhedonia not the person.

        And on the other hand, I can conceptualize when I “should” feel sadness because I am in a shitty situation.

        I don’t lead with my emotions in general so for me it kinda feels normal. I can imagine it might be harder for more emotion leading feeling. I have a friend like this. More impulsive.

        But for me my anger is still there. Anhedonia doesn’t ever effect my anger. So I think I sometimes I get intensely upset to get my emotions in general engaged.

        I have read this is pretty common in men. Depression doesn’t look like sadness but rage.

        You ask which came first anxiety or depression. They came together. I am sure you are right that for some people one leads to the other. But I think it is common for nature/nurture reasons to have both.

        Or at least be susceptible to both. If caught early, as with our kids, the thinking process can be altered and the brain rewired for a happier future.

        Of course this can always be done but the earlier the better!

        There is no question that having anxiety/depression makes it harder to be in a relationship than someone without but then again it can make you more empathetic to suffering and imperfection. Pros and cons.

        And like you I believe it is all skills based and can be improved dramatically. All things can!

        You just have to have the RIGHT information and be willing to work hard and not give up.

        Like

      • Well knowledge is power, so I think your approach (dealing with things by researching) is positive. It may or may not “change” the things you are dealing with, but being able to understand somehow seems to make things more manageable (to me anyhow).

        I’m curious if you know whether anhedonia and/or emotional deadness is something that is specific to depression. Or if there are other scenarios where it is seen as well. I’ve heard about it with anxiety disorders, but I’ve never known if that was also due to underlying depression or if it also manifests in anxiety on it’s own (or other conditions)

        Like

      • Anhedonia is a symptom of a lot of mental illness. Depression, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia and schizophrenia spectrum, etc.

        Anhedonia seems to be a pretty common way for the brain to dysfunction. It is defintely not just with depression.

        My main anxiety thing is social anxiety which combines positive and negative anhedonia by associating negativity with things people find positive.

        Because social anxiety is my case was a phobia of people. I not only felt kind of dead about social interactions but I associated then with negativity.

        And layered some PTSD on top! Yeah good times!

        I have found therapists for me ranging from mildly helpful to dispensing WRONG information. (But hey they’re still not as bad as marriage counselors)

        So I have recovered mostly through my own research by reading books and other information from great researchers/authors. But I can tell you it’s frustrating to need help and not be able to get it even when motivated.

        And people simplistically think that medication is the answer. Of course I am not against medication and have used some.

        But it’s shocking to me how ill informed therapists and doctors are about it. An write prescriptions for ssris like candy vitamins for women particularly.

        I have a friend whose bipolar disorder was triggered by taking ssris for ” mild depression”. This is a known issue and yet not enough caution is taken.

        Particularly because ssris are very little different than placebo and carry common side effects like ANHEDONIA especially sexual anhedonia. Yes that’s right you are given a drug because you have anhedonia and it often causes more of it.

        Again not against drugs I’m against ignorance by professionals.

        But I’ve worked hard and tried lots of things. A combination of things usually works well. And I’m happy to say my social anxiety is 90% improved.

        And I mentioned before I had to research anxiety in kids.

        Now I’m working on my situation depression and my shitty marriage. And of course you know of my sad problem with the ignorance and incompetence of marriage counseling.

        So most of it I am learning by myself. But that’s what’s great now. So much good reliable information out there if you eliminate the crap.

        That’s why I chose Atkinson’s approach because it focuses a lot on the nervous system and how it affects relationships.

        Insight is helpful but not enough. You must rewire your brain and automatic responses to improve a dysfunctional relationship pattern.

        I have daily recording me to listen to and a lot of specific exercises. It is helping.

        Like

      • And having to rewire the brains Hebb’s law patterns (neurons that wire together fire together) is true for everyone in a bad relationship not just those with depression and anxiety.

        Because associating many many patterns of being ignored or dismissed or whatever will leave a pattern that is automatically triggered when that person is thought of.

        It is almost impossible to change to new patterns without rewiring. Insight only work as an adjunct here after your nervous system can cooperate.

        Like

      • Here’s a random thing about anhedonia I found interesting. How people respond to music. You can’t “feel” the music. It doesn’t move you in any normal way.

        I read that recently and it explained to me why my son who loves music used to be mystified at how I can intellectualize loving music or art. Appreciate the structure and artistry and money eye but not really be moved by it emotionally.

        Anhedonia.

        Like

      • One more thought on this topic.

        You said: “You make a great point about not necessarily knowing the cause – did a bad relationship cause the depression or did the depression cause the problems in the relationship? That’s a really difficult thing to answer, especially when the depression will make someone more critical about the issues in the relationship (and less open to seeing and accepting the good). So during depression, people can’t really see and judge their situation clearly.”

        Ok I will tell you another side for women since I hit the men last comment.

        In the average marriage, most women after kids are already somewhat dissatisfied already for reasons of her husband not accepting influence and/or just the exhausting nature of taking care of kids/home/work/emotional labor.

        There are reasons to have depressing thoughts about her life and her marriage. And very often there is a lack of intimacy and sex.

        We all need social connection and intimacy, there is a reason solitary confinement is a form of severe punishment.

        In the most classic pattern, the woman who wants more intimacy with her husband is married to a man who has been trained since childhood to not talk about his emotions.

        And this makes for a lonely, lonely woman when she already has reasons listed above to be exhausted and drained.

        So the loneliness and emotional isolation in her marriage is what can trigger the depression. Most especially if her husband dismisses her concerns as nagging or not appreciating his efforts.

        Loneliness is the final stage of Gottman’s breakdown of a relationship. And as Sue Johnson says it drives us crazy to live a lonely life with another person. Far more painful than to live alone.

        If the woman has an avoidant attachment style this will look different. SHE will isolate and compartmentalize.

        Anyway just a few thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Here’s another reason that anhedonia might be the cause of relationship breakups. I think it is pretty common that if a woman is unhappy or dissatisfied with her life or relationships that her doctor or friend will suggest depression as a possibility. So there is more opportunity for getting treatment for women unlike men.

    Theses are thought of as “women’s diseases” because they are diagnosed more often in women.

    And I think it is also common for women to be asked whether it could be she needs to go back to school or find other interests. So that the relationship is one of several possibilities for her to consider.

    I found Terry Real’s book about depression in men helpful. It often doesn’t look the same so depression is not recognized or even suggested as a possibility by doctors and friends.

    And of course there is still unfortunate stigma for mental illness most specially for men.

    So many men self medicate the anhedonia with alcohol or video games or porn or an affair. Or the classic “midlife crisis” symbol, a new sports car.

    Not many even think it might be depression. So he starts getting angry or pulling away or has an affair and for many women that’s the last straw and she files for divorce.

    Of course there are lots of variations but I think men and under diagnosed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry about the late response – I’ve been heads down in work/school/family lately.

      I do find it interesting that anhedonia is more common with men. and actually, some of the stereotypical “male characteristics” of being colder and less emotional (more Spock than Captain Kirk) do seem like there are parallels to anhedonia. It goes back to the nature/nurture debate for me. How much of this is genetic predisposition and how much of it is habit that has become internalized?

      I think of anxiety, and how anxiety disorders often go hand in hand with depression because when the body/mind is under severe stress for long periods of time (and anxiety really IS perpetual high stress) it actually alters the brain chemistry – causing depression.

      Is it possible that it’s similar to the science behind weight lifting/body building? In weight training, you are pushing your muscles to do more than they are used to. So when the muscle tissues break down, they come back a bit thicker and stronger in order to better handle the conditions you are putting the body under. It’s really a form of adaptation.

      When extended levels of high stress happen, it will often result in anhedonia. Is this maybe another form of adaptation (though a maladaptive one)? To “deal” with the stress the body/mind alters it’s emotional responses in order to not feel?

      And if so, maybe the way men are socialized (don’t be a sissy, feelings are for girls, etc) causes men to deny and repress their feelings. And over time this causes the body to shut them down?

      I’m not really sure about this stuff, but it kind of makes sense to me.

      Like

    • Hi Elisabeth, I’m glad you found my little part of the blogging universe. Thanks for commenting (and reblogging).

      I feel this is a topic that is woefully ignored. Mental health has a lot of stigma at the best of times, and when you DO hear about it it’s often presented in a really bad light (someone hits the news for some terrible action, and immediately mental health is cited). Or it’s talked about in terms of how it makes people sad or withdrawn.

      But I really don’t hear much about what it does to peoples relationships (beyond adding stress to them). Relationships are equated to love, and love is equated to feelings. But mental illness often affects the pleasure and reward parts of the brain, so it can really mess with peoples ability to “feel”. So when the feelings are gone, what does that mean for love?

      I truly believe that many relationships are lost unnecessarily because people feel a loss of love and believe it’s reflective of something wrong with the relationship, while in reality the problem is due to someones ability to feel.

      The Folk-Williams article I cited is something I have seen a few times:

      Someone is questioning their relationship because they no longer feel anything for their partner. Then they meet someone else, and they find they CAN still feel something for this other person. The fact that they are having feelings for another person (but not their parter) acts to confirm to them their belief that “something is wrong” with their relationship, so they either end it or have an affair or just check out of the relationship completely.

      Meanwhile, the only reason they are feeling anything with the other person is because it’s a more intense emotional response due to the “new” love.

      I’ve got a buddy I’ve cited in this blog a few times who’s wife left him (and broke up the family) for someone new, and it completely blind-sided him. He thought things were pretty good and had no idea that there were any issues. Within 2 years she was having all the same problems with her new boyfriend, and was wanting to get back with my buddy. But he had moved on with his life.

      I’ve seen some variation on that story SO many times.

      When that happens, is it really always the relationship? Yeah, guys can be idiots at times, and in my buddy’s case I’m sure there were things he could have done to make the relationship better. At the same time though, I really think that often there are underlying mental health issues related to anhedonia and the loss of “feeling”. Pop culture shows us that love is all about passion and emotion, so when the feelings are gone it’s really easy to interpret that as a loss of love.

      Liked by 1 person

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