Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor
We have been socialised on the expectation to 'fall in love', marry and 'live happily ever after'. Married couples or others in committed relationships will tell you that the expectation is more of a storybook union and that in real life, dynamics of living together could cause you to 'fall out of love'.
The word 'fall' seems to set you up anyway. The process of falling implies danger, uncertainty, fear and caution - all of which may result in the self-fulfilling prophecy in the relationship. In reality, there should be no 'falling in love' as two people naturally build a bond when they spend time together and engage in activities they both enjoy. However, if you keep harping on the negatives of how boring your union is, it will eventually become your experience.
For some reason, people have this mistaken notion that once they are married, a relationship continues to magically grow. That love is ensured, that the partnership will be alive and vibrant forever.
Falling out of love can be likened to a plant that is not watered, fertilised and treated so it withers and eventually dies.
Similarly, the relationship is the flower, the marriage the flower seed. As you plant the seed, its life begins. Marriages die because people stop caring about their marriage and family - where they stop nurturing their relationship and stop loving their spouse. It's up to you to decide what sort of nutrients, emotions, and conditions you bring to the relationship.
If you fail to take care of the relationship, like a flower, it will wilt and dry up. As you would with a plant:
• Will you bring it the bright light of love or allow darkness of boredom to surround it?
• Will you provide it with fresh water (vibrant intimacy) or poison (no or little intimacy)?
• Will you handle it tenderly with love or with little care and demonstration of affection?
• If you allow insects and viruses to attack it (perhaps an extra-marital affair or compulsion with work) so it gets eaten away.
According to Angie Lewis of Heaven Ministries, "Marriage thrives on intimacy and closeness with one another and when that declines or discontinues, couples feel they are no longer 'in love' with their spouse, even though they still care for their spouse. So what does that mean? It means they are confused about what love really is." (heavenministries.com)
Although you are married, you may not always feel good inside as you experience feelings of alienation, boredom and disinterest in the union. These are some of the first signs that the spark is gone. It means that you may both have not been making the effort to keep the passion and intimacy ignited. You may feel that you have fallen out of love, but in fact you are just not experiencing those feelings of excitement and neither you nor your spouse has done anything
Sometimes, spouses look outside the union for excitement and this eventually creates further problems in the union. When you get tempted, you should remember your vow to love for a lifetime, so you have a responsibility to keep the union alive. If you feel that you should be with someone else in another relationship, then you need to clarify your reasons for getting married.
The most important thing to keep in mind if and when you do get tempted is that feelings do not last, they are temporary. True love is for a lifetime and can be sustained by your principled actions of love. Remember, you have moved beyond dating and as a married person, you have a duty and commitment to your marriage.
You should realise that love is something you bring to the marriage by some deliberate acts not depending on astrological determination or mere chance. Love is something that you have to nourish and continually assess. What you need to do is to drop feelings and assess the union of the activities of love and intimacy. It makes no sense to brood over your present state of lack of love.
You must take responsibility for the way things are and do something to change it.
There are some questions you can use in your soul-search to assess how well you are doing with love.
1. How much effort are you putting into your marriage each day to make sure it is as healthy as it can be?
2. How much time and energy do you devote to other relationships that may be interfering with your marriage?
3. How much do you demonstrate and express love, care, and commitment to your spouse and your family?
4. How determined are you to do everything you can to keep your relationship alive and vibrant?
5. Do you bring your 'best self' to the marriage?
6. Are you doing all you can to make sure your partner knows of your love and concern?
7. On a weekly basis, how often do you spend time in some activity to strengthen your marriage?
8. Do you celebrate the good assets and beauty in your partner?
9. Do you keep your mind and heart centred on your marriage and family?
10. What distractions do you allow to keep you from investing in your relationship and nurturing your marriage? (theartofloveandintimacy.com)
If you want your marriage to be healthy and happy, you must nurture it, care for it and dedicate your life to it.
Love is like a violin, the strings are always there but sometimes the music gets lost.
Send questions/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.