It's every couple's worst nightmare — that idea that you can suddenly fall out of love. Or hell, that you can do it gradually. When you're in the middle of it, it seems totally impossible. Everything is amazing and, more importantly, everything your partner does is amazing. How could it possibly change?
But we know that it does. We've seen it happen to our friends, we've seen it happen in the ridiculously high divorce rate, and it's probably even happened to you. But this time is different, right?
It's what we tell ourselves. And we can believe it, because it's just hard to fathom what makes us fall out of love. There are things that we can point to about why relationships failed — someone cheated, you had to live in separate places, it was never really right in the first place. But a lot of relationships go out not with a bang, but with a whimper, and it's that slow waning of love that's so much more difficult to comprehend.
"I think the idea of falling out of love is a bit more multilayered than it sounds at first glance. Relationships take work. The idea of two people falling blissfully in love and always being exactly attuned to what the other needs is very unrealistic." relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "I believe that people can fall in love with lots of different partners. If the chemistry and the connection are there then there are different opportunities to build a relationship. However, one of the best predictors of a good relationship is how hard both parties are willing to work at things."
So what's going on, and how can we work at?
Why Does It Happen?
Like I said, sometimes there's no real reason. But sometimes there is — normally it boils down to one person, or both, who stops putting in the effort. And then you slowly drift apart. Hartstein points out the importance of working on things, and it's so true. "I think when people fall out of love there are a few different things that can be going on," Hartstein said. "Sometimes one or both parties have stopped trying to make the relationship work. Or one or both parties have developed and changed in ways that are drastically different from how the initial relationship has needed them to be."
Another problem is not having proper communication, which means that small transgression or problems are never dealt with — and the resentment builds up. If you think you're doing your partner a favor by burying things under the carpet, it's just going to lead to further problems down the line. Because it's not realistic to just keep all of the problems to yourself. They'll manifest in a much less healthy way then just dealing with them initially.
What Can You Do About It?
Sometimes, nothing. I think it's important to see that relationships sometimes reach a natural end point. Lives change, people change, and the idea that despite all of these changes you'll still make each other happy for the rest of your lives just isn't realistic. So sometimes, it's just over. And that's OK.
But there are some preventative measures you can take. Communication is always important. "My advice on preventing it is to keep communicating. Listen to your partner, try to own up to your part of the responsibility, and voice the things that might be bothering you about the partnership," Hartstein says. "And don't expect love to look like it does in the movies! You will invariably be disappointed and start doubting the real relationship that you have which might actually be a very good one!
<img alt="" src="https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif" class="article-body-image"/>By checking in with your partner — and with how they're feeling about the relationship — you'll have the best chance at spotting any potential problems and dealing with them before they become a major problem. It also keeps you close, so that relationship drift doesn't get in the way.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (2)