Frequently asked questions
What do people mean by ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’?
Although someone gets on very well enough with their partner on a day-to-day basis, the passion has disappeared. These couples feel like brother and sister, or maybe business colleagues who run a house and bring up kids together, but somehow the closeness of true lovers has been lost. It is not that butterflies in the pit of the stomach feeling, nobody really expects that to last forever, but somehow the relationship glue has gone. In the worst cases, they love their partner but not enough to stay. At a deeper level, I think that we have becomes confused about the word ‘love’. We can love our partner, our mother, our children – even chocolate. The dictionary offers two dozen definitions – including affection, fondness, caring, liking, concern, attraction, desire and infatuation. We all instinctively agree there is a huge difference between liking and complete infatuation! So my book explains the different kinds of love and how to avoid the pitfalls of the wrong sort of love.
What about ‘like’ rather than ‘love’?
Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between the love when you’re first courting and the settled love built on twenty years together. I call the ‘crazy, can’t think of anybody else, can’t concentrate on anything else,
How common is this phenomenon?
Five years ago, I hardly seldom saw couples who had fallen out of love but so many couples started presenting in my marital therapy office that I went to the literature to look for advice. However, all the expertise had been poured into helping couples who hated each other. So I started some research where all couples seeking help were asked to fill in a questionnaire after their first session. They were given a list of common problems that could have brought them into counselling. The results were startling 47% complained that the ‘passion had gone’ and 43% ‘I love my partner but I’m no longer in love/ My partner no longer loves me’. Many of the traditional reasons for seeking help polled much lower: Money Issues, an Affair, Children, Fights out of control.
Who does it effect?
Falling out of love can happen to anyone. However, my research has shown that it is three times more likely to happen to a woman as a man. Although it happens at all ages, the most frequent cases are aged between thirty five and forty five. It is also a hard to admit to falling out of love and couples, on average, wait twelve months longer to seek help.
Shouldn’t people just try harder?
The problem is that the traditional ways of trying harder – flowers, chocolates and candlelit dinners – can be seen as sweeping the problem under the carpet. Even when these romantic gestures are appreciated, they provide just a temporary boost. The problems in ‘I love you but’ relationships go much deeper. That’s why I have devised seven steps to solve the problem and set up good habits – rather than one off gestures – which can rekindle love. For each step, there are several exercises that offer concrete alternatives to ‘just trying harder’.
Why do you think it is happening now?
Some of the beliefs in general circulation, which we think protect our relationship, are actually undermining them. For example, we think is wrong to argue (and certainly easier in the short run to shrug your shoulders if something irritates). However, it is as harmful to seldom row as it is to row all the time. When you cannot truly voice your feelings – even if they are only about minor issues – something inside dies. Slowly over the years, degree by degree, all your emotions are dulled.
What advice would you give on arguing?
The most important thing is to tackle one issue at a time. You might feel that, for example, leaving wet towels on the bed is linked to other issues. However, this will just escalate the row by making your partner more defensive and less likely to listen. Also try to complain about the behaviour not the person. Once again calling someone, for example, thoughtless, inconsiderate, lazy will encourage your partner to throw insults back. Finally, it is important to ‘own’ the feelings. By this I mean, ‘I am angry’ rather than ‘you make me angry’ which again will inflame the situation needlessly.
Is this an optimistic book?
Most definitely. I have a ninety percent success rate with couples who I have taken through my programme. It is possible to fall back in love and find a deeper and more rewarding relationship. Unfortunately the other 10% have left it too long before seeking help: one in three have been nursing ‘I love you but’ for three years or over. The book is also useful to happy couples who want to understand more about love and how to preserve it. For example, I describe the six stages of love that all relationship pass through. Sometimes, what we think is a problem is part of the natural transformation of a relationship as it grows and matures.
If someone is in crisis at the moment, what do you suggest?
When under stress, we have a limited number of ways of responding. For example, we might shout, fly off the handle or go silent. If this does not work, we up the ante: screaming, not speaking for days or even trashing the house. Soon we are trapped in the same loop with our behaviour getting more and more extreme. Does this sound familiar? Here is a simple trick to break out. Next time you’re about to launch into your usual response, stop and think: what could I do differently? It doesn’t matter what. Anything is better than the usual response; we know where that leads and that it does not work. For example, try the opposite to your normal behaviour. Instead of going quiet, start talking. Instead of throwing ornaments, straighten them. It is amazing how often the opposite behaviour is the key to better communication. Remember, stop using the flop response and instead flip it over!
How does the book work?
I take readers through the ‘Seven Steps to Saving Your Relationship’ with plenty of practical suggestions about how to incorporate the ideas into your life. These exercises can be done alone or if you are reading the book with your partner, they can be done together. If you are in crisis, maybe your partner just confessed that he or she no longer loves you, there is advice on how to survive and even thrive. Finally, if you experienced this problem in the past, there is helping understanding what has happened, advice on overcoming the obstacles to healing and finally how to find a better relationship in the future.
Any final advice?
Although it can be frightening and painful to discover that you have fallen out of love, or that your partner has fallen out of love with you, it is ultimately very positive. I like to think of ‘I love you but’ as an early warning system that something should change in your relationship. Previously, I believe someone would have launched themselves into an affair. It is a sign of emotional maturity to put your hands up and admit the problem before the relationship descends into bitterness and recrimination.