As a couples counselor, I often hear people say they are no longer
in love with their partner. They really believe that they have
fallen out of love. However, quite often, what has happened is that
they weren't attending to both big and small issues in their
relationship, and then they were unable to resolve the issues. This
is where resentment begins to pile up. And resentment is completely
TOXIC to our relationships.
We need to be able to bring up the relationship issues that are
getting in the way of feeling not only loved and cared about, but
also concerns that may be stopping us from living with personal
integrity. It's up to us to be able to address issues, NOT ignore
them and hope they will magically go away. And we need a partner who
is willing to hear us out and work through the issues with us. If
you are in a relationship with someone who will not hear you and
will not make agreements with you about what needs to be changed,
forgiven, or negotiated, then you may need to rethink being in that
relationship. It won't be emotionally safe for you to bring up
important issues, and you will likely be piling up resentments which
will poison your relationship in the long run anyway.
Many of us don't like to bring issues up because we don't want
conflict. However, while we may benefit in the short term from a
lack of conflict, we are inadvertently doing our relationship a huge
disservice, because not only will our partner feel like a stranger
because we do not feel safe to share our concerns, we will also
accumulate resentment because we will feel taken advantage of and
not cared about.
So the bottom line is to really get the fact that if you neglect to
bring up your relationship concerns to your partner and pretend that
you have a conflict-free relationship, the issues won't go away!
Instead they go underground and begin to pollute the very foundation
that your relationship is built on. Soon, a gap of resentment will
come between you and your partner. At that point, an issue that may
have been easily resolved had it been brought up, talked about,
agreed on, and dealt with, is now something that is poisoning your
relationship and the feelings of love and care you have for your
partner. Your relationship with yourself and your personal integrity
will also suffer, because you don't trust yourself to address things
that are important to you. You may not even feel entitled to bring
issues up, and that is something that you are going to need to be
able to do if you want your relationships to really work.
Yes, bringing issues up can be scary. Letting your partner in on
what you are struggling with can provoke anxiety, especially when
it's their behavior that is concerning you. But if we are to have
healthy, mature relationships, we need to bring up concerns when
they are mild issues that can be worked through, instead of waiting
until you wake up one day and realize you don't even like your
partner very much anymore! It's NOT about falling out of love, it's
about letting resentment grow and take over.
If you feel that you can't bring up issues on your own, or you try
and your partner isn't hearing you, seek out a good marriage and
family therapist who can help you 1) bring up your relationship
concerns in a productive way 2) work through them with your partner
and 3) negotiate solutions that work for you both. Again, if your
partner won't participate in this important work, the therapist may
also help you realize that living according to your personal
integrity is crucial and that it may be time to leave the
The next time you think, "I'm not in love with my partner anymore"
ask yourself if you have let any resentment poison your
relationship. If you aren't carrying any resentment toward your
partner, then perhaps you truly have fallen out of love and you can
move on. But those are two very different things.
This article was written by Barbi Pecenco, Marriage & Family Therapist Intern, IMF #54917.
Barbi specializes in couples counseling in San Diego, CA.