“I love you, but I’m not IN love with you”

The definition of love is infinite. People mean many different things when they speak of loving and being loved. But many couples both fight over and even break up over “not feeling loved enough” or “not loving you anymore” or even, “I love you, but I am not in love with you.” One’s subjective experience of love clearly counts a lot.

Where does it come from — your feelings of how you love another or what makes you feel loved?

Much of it is molded by your first love — mom and dad. How you felt loved by them and how you saw them love each other often sets the stage for what you seek out in a love relationship — for better or worse. If your parent was aloof and distant, you may seek the same, but then feel constantly tortured by the endless struggle to get more attention. If your parent was smothering and controlling, you may not feel loved unless your partner is practically up your nose 24/7. The model of your parents’ relationship may also set the stage for how you consider a relationship should function. If they fought a lot, you may provoke fights in order to feel “loved.”

This need to repeat the past (called repetition compulsion) can hold you in its grip unless you take a look back at what shaped you and why. Once you have that knowledge then you can do it differently. Feeling loved is a state of mind and it has a lot to do with early feelings of bonding. Staying in a loving relationship has to do with more than feeling swept up in love — it has to do with choosing to make love work.

Do you love but want out because you are not in love? I hear this quite often, and let me tell you that the new feelings of “in love” have a lot to do with newness and lust. Your relationship will naturally become old if you stay together, and lust often fades and turns to a more mature but still satisfying sexual attraction. “In love” often means that you have this new person idealized — they can do no wrong, they seem perfect and you can’t get enough. But that is both the newness — you not having time to see their faults (which everyone has) — and the nuerochemical dopamine being released and keeping you doped up for a while. The only way to keep feeling this way all the time is to keep getting new partners. If you want to stay in a marriage, then loving but not “in love” is no reason to break up. And it is not a reasonable expectation. All love relationships have ups and downs. Loving is a decision to commit, to compromise, to give to the other, to care about their needs, sometimes to sacrifice and to enjoy them for who they are.

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