One question that comes up often in my practice as a couples therapist is the issue of "falling out of love." You’ve been in love with someone for 6-12 months, maybe longer, and you start to wonder whether this is going to last. Are you going to stay together, settle down, or is it time to move on? If the latter is on your mind, what happened?
At first you couldn’t believe you found such a perfect match. There was the physical attraction, but more importantly your partner seemed to be your best friend, soulmate, as if you were meant for each other. In the beginning you two did everything together, were inseparable, and seemed to agree on pretty much everything.
You may have had some doubts early on—the way she insists on loading the dishwasher, the way he talked down to that waitress—but you hoped they didn’t mean anything, and you dismissed them. Little quirks were cute and endearing, and you genuinely cared more about spending time with each other than making a big deal out of it. You may never have chosen the hotel she suggested, but in the end it’s her you wanted to spend time with, right? He doesn’t need to know you hide candy all over the house, does he? You downplayed your or your partner’s habits or differences of opinion, because in the beginning they didn’t seem to matter. You put your own best foot forward, and your thinking about your partner ranged somewhere between "I don’t mind" to "maybe that will change."
But now things are different. Something in you shifted, and you have some doubts. You still agree to things to keep the peace (taking a dance class together, travel to see his extended family), but you secretly hope your partner doesn’t take you up on them. You’ve hinted at things that are important to you (having children, traveling, career choices), but your partner doesn’t seem to share your enthusiasm, and it bothers you. You wonder: If this is real love, shouldn’t things feel like they did in the beginning? You wonder whether you are compatible after all. Is there is something wrong with you, or with your partner? Have you fallen out of love?
My answer is: Probably not. Rather, you are likely entering a new and very crucial phase in your relationship! The first 6-12 months of a new relationship are the frosting on the cake. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term limerence to describe an "involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated." This initial phase is very important for your bonding as a pair, but it isn’t sustainable—and it doesn’t need to be!