Is your relationship with your significant other defined more by friendship than passion? The good news is that you're not alone and there are some fairly simple things you can do to restore the spark that you once had. In fact, renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman reminds us that friendship is the glue that can hold a marriage together: "Couples who 'know each other intimately [and] are well versed in each other's likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams' are couples who make it."
However, the most common complaint of couples today is that they've fallen out of love, according to Andrew G. Marshall, author of I Love You, But, I'm Not In Love With You. Marshall answers the question: Is it possible to fall back in love? He explains that Limerence is the early phase of falling in love characterized by elation and passion.
Psychologist Dorothy Tennov first coined this term in her landmark book Love and Limerence to describe Limerence as the kind of love that has an obsessive quality to it and is unlikely to be revisited with the same partner—at least not with the same intensity. The phrase "love is blind" is a good analogy for Limerence because lovers in this stage are so infatuated with their loved one that they tend to overlook their weaknesses and elevate their strengths.
Thus, being in a state of Limerence can be a curse but it also brings great pleasure. It's associated with intense physical attraction, which can't last forever. Marshall writes, "Someone under the spell of Limerance is bound tightly to his or her beloved, however badly he or she behaves."
But what happens to one's feeling of being in "love" after Limerance is gone? He coins the term Loving Attachment to describe the type of love that sustains us—that makes us smile as we watch our loved one lay sleeping in bed on Sunday morning. While not as passionate as Limerance, partners have a deep connection, sexual intimacy, and loving feelings toward each other. Fortunately, they are also able to realistically tackle the challenges of life together.
According to Marshall, a couple might maintain a Loving Attachment even if they neglect their relationship for a short period of time. However, their deep connection will deteriorate if their relationship isn't nurtured over a longer period.
Marshall posits that the two main culprits that contribute to a loss of Loving Attachment are neglecting physical intimacy and not accepting each other's differences. He labels a third type of love Affectionate Regard and says it's friendly but lacking in passion—similar to the love between a brother and sister.
A typical case would be Marisa, a thirty-six year-old speech therapist and Jason, a thirty-seven-year-old teacher. They've been married for seven years and have gone through rough patches—like Marisa's cancer scare, yet their marital bond stayed strong until recently.
As they sit in my office discussing their issues, they appear to be more like friends than husband and wife. They've clearly lost the spark that they enjoyed early in their marriage. In fact, they rarely argue, have sex, or intimate chats—most of their conversations are about their two daughters, Kaitlyn and Bailee.
Marisa starts off our session: "I love Jason, but I'm just not in love with him anymore." When Marisa drops this bombshell, Jason responds, "I thought we were pretty happy, I really did. Even though we don't have sex much anymore I thought it was because of the kids and our busy schedules."
Marisa explains that her feelings have been building up for years and that she feels guilty because she's starting to fantasize about being with another man. Jason says, "I feel so betrayed, she has no loyalty—there's no way I saw this coming." Keep reading...
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