“I am in Love!”
What a great phrase. It is a feeling that surpasses almost all others. In intensity, in meaning, in fulfillment, and in happiness.
And it is a feeling that we never want to lose. We want to experience it continually and forever. We are convinced that we will never allow anything to take this away from us.
In this euphoria of expectations and possibilities, we begin to plan, to have hope for the future, and to make commitments to our true love.
But often when a couple says, “I do,” something begins to change. “Real life” seems to consume us and become overwhelming. The sense of being in love begins to fade and sometimes even becomes a distant memory.
Then one or both begin to wonder, “What happened? Did I make a mistake?” Or “Did I marry the wrong person?” Or perhaps even “If I am no longer in love with my spouse, does that mean we don’t love each other?” Even imagining these types of questions seemed unthinkable earlier in the relationship — while they were falling in love.
What happened? Why do couples come into my office longing for that feeling again? And wondering if it even possible?
Being in Love is Important
Let’s face it. It is no wonder that we enjoy being in love. After all, for most of us that is what convinced us to marry this special person.
Being in love give us a sense of intimacy, of trust, of passion. This is the honey that draws a couple together before marriage, and even after decades of marriage. But it is not the glue.
The glue in a marriage is loving the other person.
What is Wrong with Being in Love?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in love. In fact, it is where we want to be! Nothing else seems to matter. And it feels good.
But notice that the focus is on how the other person makes us feel.
So the question is: When the other person no longer makes me feel this good, is something wrong? Am I no longer in love?
Perhaps for the moment, but is being in love what matters?
How is “I love you” Different?
This is usually the declaration to another person when we feel in love. Notice that our intention is to give to the other person. This explains why we often find ourselves hesitant to say this to someone. When we say these three unique and meaningful words, it begins a new phase of the relationship.
What does it mean when we love someone? What criteria do we use? What does it look like? Do we say it because the other person is attractive? Do we say it because the other person fulfills a longing within us? And how is this different from being in love?
Love is given. And given freely. It is a commitment. It is saying to the other person that we will care for that person, no matter what.
Many of us have 1 Corinthians 13 read on our wedding day as part of the ceremony. Of all of the declarations of what love is – none of them include feelings. They are declarations.
Can We Love Someone and No Longer Be In Love?
The short answer is yes . . .
If love is a commitment, and being in love is a feeling – then every husband and wife will discover at some point in their marriage that they do not feel in love. This often occurs when outside pressures, stress, and life itself interfere with our Hollywood fantasy of what being in love is.
The being in love feeling of closeness, of emotion, of desire, of connection and of intimacy will certain fade from time to time. The question is: Are you willing for your love for the other person to be the glue that will hold you together – until the feeling returns?
Should We Strive for the Feeling of Being in Love?
The short answer is again yes . . .
But returning to that feeling of being in love takes work!
I often hear a couple say “But it use to be so natural – feeling in love. This shouldn’t be so hard!” Their concern is that it is taking too much work to survive during the “out of love” phases of their relationship.
Often as we begin to explore their dating relationship and first years of marriage, the atmosphere in the room begins to change. The memory of what it felt like to be in love begins to invade the room – just by talking about it! This is what they each long for.
As they begin to remember this feeling of being in love, we begin to explore what happened in the relationship.
Hope for Couples in their Marriage
The feeling of being in love is certainly one of the goals of the marriage relationship. But it is not necessary in order to begin the process of enhancing or recovering the marriage. In most cases, it has drifted away or may not even exist.
Surprisingly, being miserable is often a good place to start. When I mention that how they feel in the moment is a good sign — the looks I get!! But the fact that they are miserable shows that they care. Even their anger toward each other is a cry for the connection and intimacy that they once had. Anger is simply the only way they have learned to communicate their longings.
The Two Most Important Principles for a Struggling Marriage
The two best indicators of a marriage “making it” are:
Each one is committed to the marriage itself and wants it to work. It does not matter why they are committed. Sometimes it is the kids. Sometimes it is their commitment to God and each other. Sometimes they simply have too many years together and they do not want to start over. Whatever the reason . . . the commitment is what is important.
Each one wants their marriage to work so badly that they are willing to begin their relationship in a completely new way. How? Sometimes it will be returning to how they treated each other during their first years of marriage. But in some cases, it is learning how to be vulnerable and authentic.
Given these two realities, I can earnestly tell them that I have enough hope for all three of us. We then begin the process of learning how to love each other until the feeling of being in love returns.