Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Last time we talked about the four signs your partner may be falling out of love with you. That’s important, but it’s sad and passive too. You can do better. You can make sure you don’t fall out of love with one another.
So how do you do that? Check out that question! We’re saying not falling out of love with one another is something you can do, not something that just happens to you, like arthritis.
And that’s the first step. Latch onto the idea that just the way houses don’t become disgusting, filthy messes all by themselves, falling out of love is preventable. You can keep your house clean and neat—according to whatever your standards are—and you can keep your love alive too. So if it’s something you can do, you just have to do it.
But how? That’s where most people run into trouble. So that’s where we’re here to help.
The second step is to accept the fact that in a happy, healthy long-term marriage, the nature of love changes. No, it’s not true that people have to settle into a grey, grim state of mere getting along. But if you’re looking for the feeling of falling in love, well, then, sorry: you’re just going to have to bounce from one relationship to another. The going ga-ga days are over all-too-soon. Followed by being in love, which can last forever.
The third step is to know one another, and continually update, and act on that knowledge. If you know that I like things quiet, you won’t make noise or talk loudly. If you know that I like to make love but not just before going to sleep because that’s when I’m tired, you’ll take that seriously and work around that. We can’t tell you how important this step is!
The best way to gain this knowledge is with the “I feel loved when...” exercise. You each write down a list of 10 things that make you feel loved when your partner does them or would make you feel loved if your partner did them. Simple, specific, do-able things. Not “Be nice to me”: that’s too general. I wouldn’t necessarily know what that means to you exactly. But “Say something really nice to me every day” would be fine.
The things on the list could be anything. “Don’t leave your dirty clothes lying around; put them in the hamper.” What does that have to do with feeling love? For some people, nothing. But for many people, it’s a sign of love because it’s a sign of caring and respect and of knowing what’s important to me.
But note what you’ve signed up for when you do this exercise. If I know what makes you feel loved, and you know what makes me feel loved and...we don’t do it, then, wow! That says something. You can no longer plead ignorance. All you can say is, I knew what would make you feel loved and I didn’t do it. Wow, indeed! Isn’t that what someone would do if they wanted to make falling out of love happen?
The fourth step is dealing with the power dynamics in your relationship. The first three steps have been a fairy-tale version of your reality to the extent that they’ve left power out of the equation. It may be easy for me to do things that make you feel loved when they’re easy for me. But what happens when our needs conflict? What happens when the way you try to get your needs met makes me feel disempowered, and as a result, I try to re-empower myself, which makes you feel disempowered in turn, and then we’re off and running in a toxic power struggle?
Every couple falls into this, so every couple has to deal with this. The good news is that the solution is easier than keeping on doing things the wrong way. So let me refer you to our new book Why Couples Fight, which will show you how both of you can get your needs met, stay out of power struggles, and keep your love alive.
The fifth step is...how shall I put it? If you look at people who are happily married over the long term, you might ask yourself, What do they put their energy into? And the answer is, they put their energy into keeping their love alive, not into changing one another. In bad long-term relationships, you see the opposite: there they accept whatever state the relationship is in, and put their energy into trying to change each other.
So make a decision now. As the song title says, “Love me or leave me.” If your partner is not someone you can love or respect or trust or enjoy spending time with, accept that and end the relationship. But if your partner is merely disappointing and imperfect, come on! We all are!! The sooner you get over that, and work on keeping your love alive, the better off you’ll be.
I know it can be hard sorting this out, which is why we wrote Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. There you’ll find the clarity you need.
That’s it! The rest is just like exercise: you have to keep it up. And if you keep this up, you’ll keep your love alive.