How To Fall In Love Again By Reconnecting To Your Vows & Vision For Your Relationship
As we grow and mature in this world, many of us get to know a certain emotion very well. That frustration with unmet expectations, the disappointment in the contrast between imagination and reality, the guilt about “what I could have done,” even the apathy and hopelessness of “I don’t care; this will never change,” – these all fall under one category, which we can call disenchantment. It’s especially common in relationships, because we invest so much into them, emotionally or otherwise, so disenchantment with relationships hits us especially hard. It hurts to see something so precious to us losing its color and attraction and not know how to save the situation, and we may even think that once we “fall out” of love, we will never figure out how to fall in love again.
You should know, though, that disillusionment doesn’t necessarily spell the end of a relationship. There is a simple way to revive your relationship: refocusing and reconnecting. By making use of this method, you can learn how to fall in love again.
How Do You Know If You Have Fallen Out Of Love?
The first thing to know is whether you have fallen out of love in the first place. When we first fall in love with someone, we experience a feeling of deep joy and excitement. Dr. Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerance” to describe this phase. There’s a certain elusive romance to this stage of a relationship which, however fleeting, is really enjoyable. We feel unbelievably lucky to have found such a partner and as a consequence may emphasize his or her strengths and overlook his or her flaws – we truly experience the saying, “Love is blind.”
Limerance is temporary, though; eventually the euphoria wears off, and the healthy relationship transitions to a calmer stage which Andrew G. Marshall described as “loving attachment.” It is during this stage that we feel we have found a rhythm in the partnership and draw strength from it. This is a beautiful place for a relationship to be.
However, loving attachment doesn’t always last either. When a relationship falls into neglect, it often slides into something Marshall called “affectionate regard,” a state in which the partners still feel affection for and care about each other, but the spark of the relationship has died down. This is what you might call “falling out of love,” and it’s characterized by a certain lack of passion. If you’re experiencing this, you may find that you’re not even feeling negative towards your partner – not angry, not horrified, not devastated – just kind of neutral. And you may even wonder why you are unhappy.
But it’s really no wonder. Passion is an incredibly important ingredient in a relationship, making each partner feel excited as well as valued. When it stops showing up to a relationship, both sides of the partnership suffer.
How do you get passion back, though? How can you fall in love again?
How To Fall Back In Love With Your Partner
A relationship doesn’t have to end just because it’s on the rocks. Gottman therapist, Casey Caston, lists some tips for those who are trying to figure out how to fall in love again, including planning date nights but keeping them a surprise, taking vacations with your partner (and not your kids! And not your parents!), and showing affection and appreciation.
The common thread here is to keep turning towards each other. Even on off days, when you are feeling tired or annoyed, it’s important to maintain consistency and keep the lines of communication open. The reason for this is simple: in order to have a meaningful relationship, you need to invest a meaningful amount of work.
Another important factor in the upkeep of a relationship is clarifying expectations and commitments. This can be done in several ways, but one of the most powerful methods is making vows.
What Is The Point Of Vows?
The concept of vows is probably already familiar to you, considering that it is very likely you and your partner said at least a few of them at your marriage ceremony. Vows are verbal or written statements that we make to our partners which, as Gottman therapists Linda and Charlie Bloom put it, “provide both partners with a clear understanding of the intentions of each partner and each of their commitments to fulfill them.” In other words, vows bring clarity to relationships, which can get murky pretty fast without proper communication.
Although it is common for couples to use classic vows in classic situations, such as “I take thee . . .” during their wedding ceremony, vows are extremely powerful and versatile tools and can be adapted to many different needs and situations. They’re a great way for partners to keep in touch with each other and understand where the relationship is holding in terms of understanding and agreement, and by continuing to update and add to them, partners demonstrate that they are committed to their relationship and to prioritizing it.
The Blooms list some good examples of vows, which include commitments to be honest with each other, to communicate about things that are bothering them, and to be the best partners they can be.
Creating A Vision Statement For Your Marriage
In an interview about his relationships book, We Do, Dr. Stan Tatkin emphasizes the importance of vision to a marriage. Couples, he explains, should “have a shared vision and point in the same direction, whatever the direction is that they agree upon.” He adds that “. . .the ideal vision is one of secure functioning and having shared principles of governance.” When a couple sits down to work out their vision, they are essentially imagining, together, what they would like their relationship to look like and then going “behind the scenes” to figure out what practical pieces must fall into place in order to get to that vision.
In We Do, Dr. Tatkin recommends a few questions for you and your partner to ask each other as part of your envisioning process. These include “What’s our highest priority?,” “How do we handle distress with each other?,” “How do we settle our differences?,” and “How do we make important decisions?”
You may notice that many of these questions seem geared towards a worst-case scenario. This is because vision, while an important and motivational tool in a relationship, doesn’t really prove its worth until it is tested. Essentially, that means that it is crucial to your relationship to figure out not just what you would like the relationship to look like ideally, but also to consider how you are going to achieve that goal even when other factors get in the way (and they will, because that’s life!).
When you can idealize the relationship as well as work on it practically, you can reconnect to your partner and learn how to fall in love again.
Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a licensed counselor in the state of Maryland and Virginia. She is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist and PACT Level 3 Candidate. To find out more about improving communication in marriage, reach out for a 30 minute free private consultation today.