I love you, but I’m not IN love with you.
I doubt there is a marriage counselor anywhere who hasn’t heard the “I love you but…” statement more times than they could count.
Some days I think it is epidemic.
In my practice, I find more women come in with this complaint than men, but there have been several men as well. It saddens me because I can tell from their body language they care for each other. They are sitting close or facing each other. The one who says it doesn’t want to hurt his/her spouse so this person is reluctant to explain why. The spouse is often devastated and can’t seem to get any answers to the questions of why or how or when.
It is really important to see each spouse alone so I can actually find out what is going on. The “I love you but…” spouse usually isn’t going to be openly honest until I can speak to them individually.
I’d like to tell you there is a quick and easy fix for this situation but it is a tough one to deal with–for both partners and often for the counselor as well.
It all boils down to one thing.
I will tell you that I have found in my experience it usually comes down to this: passion.
Now that sounds simple enough. But there are many factors that influence desire and most people aren’t aware of them.
Some of you are very practical in your approach to love and marriage. You made a commitment and as long as there isn’t a lot of pain or abuse, you will see that commitment to the end.
You may not have even considered asking yourself whether you are happy or fulfilled. But some of you are deep feelers. You need to feel emotionally connected in a very intimate way and when that is lacking, you question whether or not the marriage is working.
Practical people often find themselves linked with feelers and that is the perfect mix for trouble in the bedroom.
If you or your spouse is feeling the “I love you but…” phenomenon, you need to figure out the root of the problem.
Here are just a few possible scenarios for you to consider as a place to start.
1. Lack of emotional intimacy.
That is why we preach so heavily at EWL for couples to get in the habit of spending time together talking and connecting. I simply cannot emphasize the importance enough.
The problem with this one is that the partner who is inattentive, unobservant or unavailable is usually not aware they are leaving their spouse feeling rejected and alone. It’s hard to explain to your spouse when you feel you are a low priority.
You may say you feel lonely or unappreciated. You may express your feelings as complaints for more quality time. This may change your spouse’s behavior for a short period of time, but it likely won’t bring about permanent results. This can leave you feeling hopeless. The friendship dies.
Eventually, you will stop having romantic feelings for your spouse. Too much of this and desire for your mate will be gone completely. By the time some of these couples come to counseling, passion has been missing for so long they are convinced they will never be able to find that desire again or they aren’t sure they want to try.
Check out this article for a more detailed explanation of just how this can happen in a marriage.
2 When one of partner is not a good lover
This is usually a simple fix, but one no one wants to talk about it. I love working with these couples because it is usually a fairly easy fix, all things considered.
There are some wonderful books and resources available to help you become an expert in the art of lovemaking. Too many people remain silent because they are embarrassed or afraid to hurt their partner’s ego.
Face it! Most of us aren’t taught how to be good lovers. But trust me, it is worth the effort to learn! A few sessions with the right therapist can completely rock your world in this regard.
3. Pornography is another romance killer.
Viewing porn is not harmless and it is never healthy.
Some couples have been encouraged to view porn together to spice things up. It may give the desired results for a brief period of time, but I’ve never seen it be a healthy activity for any marriage. I’ve only seen it damage relationships.
Porn can kill a man’s desire for his wife. Some women are so devastated when they find their husbands have viewed porn, they actually consider divorce. It is addictive and like any addiction, it will require more exposure to more graphic images to get the desired results.
This isn’t only a warning for men. Women view porn as well. Romance novels (what I call female porn) can create a delusional desire for something that cannot exist in the real world. My advice…stay away from either one.
4. Losing respect for your spouse can kill your sex drive quite efficiently.
Women lose respect for men who are conflict-avoidant. Some men are not cut out for confrontation. They would rather remain silent than cause a problem.
But if these men are married to strong, independent women, it can be a problem that affects bedroom activity. A woman may view a conflict-avoidant husband as weak and this is so “not sexy”. If this your situation, don’t feel hopeless! There are many ways to change this dynamic.
5. Confusing limerence with lasting love.
Limerence is the thrill of a new relationship. Passion peaks to an all time high. You are obsessed with spending time together and you daydream or fantasize when you are apart. Limerence is better than any drug and it feels really good. But when it is confused with love…look out. You cannot sustain limerence with anyone. The expiration date on those intense passions is anywhere from 6 months to 3 years with the average being 18 months. It is Fool’s Gold.
The Troublesome Part about “I Love You But…”
The troublesome part about this phrase is that passion isn’t sustainable without ceasing in any relationship. Over time, we all go through peaks and valleys with respect to our desire. A marriage consists of “I love you” and “I’m in love with you” but often not together.
Honestly, if I had to choose between a passionate relationship and living with my best friend…I’d choose my best friend every time. After being married almost 25 years, I can tell I have weathered many threats to passion in my own marriage. The key to surviving is staying put, evaluating the threat and working to remove it. Over and over again.
We are pro-marriage!
At Engage With Love, we believe marriage is a sacred covenant. We are saving marriages! If you feel your marriage could use a new perspective, contact us. We would love to work with you.