Love vs In Love???
“I love you but I’m not in love with you.” If you’ve heard or said these words you know that what follows is a painful exploration of your relationship and ongoing uncertainty about your future. What does it mean to be “in love?” Is it that passionate, exciting time at the beginning of a relationship when everything is new and you’re both on your best behaviour? Is it how you feel when you’re away from the demands of your everyday life, perhaps on a relaxing vacation? Is it feeling sexually attractive to your partner or finding him/her sexually attractive? Or is it something else?
This statement, while painful to utter and more painful to hear, presents couples with an opportunity for growth in their relationship – though that’s the last thing you think of when it’s happening to you. It’s important to determine exactly what these terms represent. What exactly is “in love?” Is it a feeling, a way of being or the way you act toward or around each other? You need to know what it means for you to love someone you don’t feel “in love” with. Or to be loved by someone who isn’t “in love” with you. If you’re the one who is no longer “in love” you need to be clear with your partner about your intentions. Are you ending the relationship? Are you “in love” with someone else? Or are you simply trying to sort out what’s happening within you and/or between you? For example, when you “love” someone, what does that mean? Are there certain understandings you share? Are there unspoken agreements that you count on? It’s important to know what these are. So important that I encourage my clients to identify them, write them down and discuss them with each other and with me.
Often, as a result of this exercise people come to realize that they don’t feel loved, that they don’t feel valued, that they don’t have an emotional conection with their partner, that there’s very little excitment in their lives and they miss these things. They know they care about each other, that they “love” each other but they yearn for the euphoria of their early days or the passion they think everyone else has in their marriage. They may even think that it’s not okay to “love” without the “in love” part.
It’s important to be open and honest with each other about your feelings and experiences so you each have a clear understanding of where you’re at in your relaitonship. Then and only then can you come up with ways of handling this reality. Maybe you will decide that it’s time to make your relationship more of a priority and you’ll start dating each other again. Maybe you’ll each make it your mission to discover the other. Maybe you’ll take up dancing to find a new way of connecting.
At any rate, these are the discussions of a more mature type of love. It’s different than the “in love” love, and it is possible to be in a good and lasting relationship with someone you “love” with only fleeting moments of “in love.” In fact this “love” represents the foundation of your relationship. When you know this and come to expect it to be that way, you can take the fleeting feelings and experiences when they come and enjoy them, savour them, knowing that they likely won’t be there in the morning, but that the foundation they rest upon will.
So if you’ve struggled with the whole love vs in love thing there is hope, but there must also be communication, honesty, vulnerability and soothing. These discussions can’t be rushed, please be kind to yourselves and take the time necessary to work through them. They are more a process than a one time event.
As always your comments and questions are most welcomed
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