How to fall back in love when you’re no longer “in love”
by Dan Drake, MFT, LPCC, CCPS, CSAT-S
Many couples find our practice after a devastating discovery of their partner’s sexual behaviors. You may have found us because you have betrayal trauma as a result of your partner’s sexual behaviors, or you may be seeking help for your compulsive sexual behaviors. If so, you’ll find a lot of supportive resources on our site to help start you on the path toward healing.
Yet you may be in a relationship that hasn’t faced sex addiction but is still on the brink. If you’re in this place and looking for supports for your relationship, here are a few tips for restoring the spark in your relationship:
Tip 1: Take the risk to be vulnerable
Whether it’s betrayal, stagnation, or boredom that’s creating distance in your relationship, you’ve most likely erected relational “walls” of protection from your significant other. Of course these walls keep you from being hurt, abandoned, or rejected, but they also starve your relationship of intimacy. And without intimacy, your relationship will slowly wither. Like a plant deprived of sun, a relationship deprived of intimacy will grow more and more disconnected and unsafe. So instead of avoiding that painful subject one more time, or choosing self-protection over being known, if you really do want to give this relationship another shot try vulnerability instead. Get to know your partner again. I promise, you don’t know everything! In a safe environment, vulnerability engenders vulnerability. So as you soften and share more about yourself with your partner, your partner has the opportunity to see you anew, and may just open up vulnerably as well.
Tip 2: Reclaim what “worked” in the past
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Your relationship may have become encumbered through years of miscues and disconnect, but there was some spark that drew you together in the first place. As a couples therapist, I often ask what drew couples together in the first place. Why? Because what can get lost through years of scar tissue can be recovered. There was something you saw in each other. Your relationship, like all relationships, has some seed of beauty. You may have lost it along the way, but when you explore you can find moments of beauty, peace, joy, “home,” that you may never have experienced anywhere else. For example, remember that unique quirk that endeared you to your partner? Yes, it most likely drives you crazy now, but it did something for you when you first met. What was it that worked then? What did you love about it and your partner then? Never lose sight of those things. Renew that spark and give it new life.
Tip 3: Take time to slowly grieve the past to move into your new relationship together
If your relationship is on the brink, you’re most likely experiencing painful disconnect and loneliness with your significant other. You may find it hard to reclaim that spark of the past or the vulnerability needed to move forward. Yet if you and your partner can grieve the pain of the past and the present together, you may just find the intimacy to keep moving forward. A practical way of engaging this process is to look through old photo albums – What moments of dashed hopes do you see? What idealistic fantasies were ruptured over the years? Who do you see in the younger versions of yourselves that you can “grow up” to the present? Grieving together the painful actions and inactions in a relationship creates an honest accounting for sloughing off the dead skin of the old partnership, thereby allowing space for the regeneration of a new relationship. As you grieve the old wounds you allow room for new life to regenerate and reinvigorate your relationship.
Of course there are no simple solutions here – All of these tips will require both time and effort. They will require dedication from both of you. Yet as you apply these tips and work together as a team rather than as roommates or adversaries, your relationship will start to regrow. Being in a long-term committed relationship takes dedicated courage, so I really honor the work you have put in to you relationship to this point as well as the work you will continue to do.