7 Signs You Might Be Falling Out of Love (and How to Navigate the Process)
Falling in love is a magical, natural process. Our brains go nuts, releasing the same chemicals discharged during a crisis. Love even mimics the high sensation one feels while on cocaine. This is natural; it’s also unsustainable. When the initial flame of infatuation subsides, we either settle into a steady, loving partnership or we let the romance fizzle out and move on. Sometimes, the slow burn is confusing, and it becomes hard to tell if we’re in love at all anymore.
According to Simone Collins, who co-authored the bestselling book The Pragmatist's Guide to Relationships with her husband, falling out of love is just as natural as falling into it. It is no one’s fault. Love may disappear slowly over time or suddenly after a traumatic event. Partners may confuse infatuation for love, so they assume the romance is done as soon as things begin to cool. The truth is, people fall out of love for any number of reasons. It may even happen several times over the course of a lengthy relationship.
Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., a licensed marriage and family therapist, says the longer a couple has been in a relationship, the more likely it is they’ll go through a period or two during which they are sure the love is gone. Whether or not you let that feeling take over is entirely up to you!
If you think you might be falling out of love and need to know how to navigate the process, don’t beat yourself up over it—and don’t jump to conclusions. Here are seven signs you might be falling out of love, and how to deal with it.
1. Holding resentment toward your partner
Letting resentment simmer without talking about its source is a big indicator that you may be falling out of love. (It’s also a great way to destroy relationships from within.) Resentment is also classified as bitterness and it often develops when one partner feels underappreciated or unsupported.
“Resentment may start out slowly,” says Nicole Arzt, a licensed marriage and family therapist, who serves on the advisory board for Family Enthusiast. “But over time, it can transform into resenting everything from the dishes, to the sound of their voice, to their haircut. At this point, you're not able to see your partner's attributes.”
Feeling resentful doesn’t automatically mean you’ve fallen out of love, but it can definitely set you on that path if you don’t deal with it.
2. Indifference toward your partner
Love is a strong emotion, as is hate. Indifference, though, is the complete absence of feeling. If you find yourself totally disinterested in what your partner thinks, feels, says or does, it’s likely that loving feeling is gone. Arzt adds people who “only do the bare minimum” may be falling out of love.
“They may oblige with date night, but they feel restless and bored,” she says. “You may spend time with [your] partner, but you keep conversations light and on the surface level.”
Indifference may also look like actively deciding not to ask your partner questions. If you couldn’t care less about a project of theirs or don’t want to hear about their thoughts on a topic, it could mean you’re falling out of love.
3. No desire to spend time with your partner
Now, if you’ve been living in close quarters with your partner for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be desperate to spend time away from them. That’s normal. We. Get. It. But, if you genuinely have no desire to even be in the same room as them, it could be a sign of a larger problem.
Arzt says folks who would rather spend all of their free time with other friends—or literally anyone else—may be falling out of love. “It's really important to acknowledge this phenomenon internally if this is happening to you,” she says. “Acknowledgment doesn't mean you're doomed- it means you're recognizing that you're going through something.”
4. Prioritizing emotional connections with others
Honest emotional connection and communication is fundamental to being in and maintaining a loving relationship. When you begin turning to friends, co-workers or family members with your feelings before confiding in your partner, it could be a sign that you no longer love that person. (It can also be a symptom of distrust, which is a completely different issue.)
Unloading emotions on someone outside the relationship can be incredibly tempting, especially during a difficult time. “Someone at work who is sympathetic and doesn’t make demands can be very appealing,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D, (aka "Dr. Romance") a psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today.
But it’s unfair to your partner because it doesn’t give them a chance to know you better. Self-disclosure is essential to healthy, intimate relationships; confiding in someone else means you’d rather not open yourself up to your partner.
5. Badmouthing your partner to others
Lightheartedly complaining about your partner’s annoying habits to friends is not an indicator that your marriage is over. Everyone needs to vent now and then. However, when small quips turn into long discussions about your dissatisfaction with the relationship, it veers into problematic territory. These issues should be brought up with your partner directly.
Dr. Carissa Coulston, a clinical psychologist and the relationship expert at The Eternity Rose, agrees. “If you find that you are the one talking badly about your significant other to friends or family members, you need to take a step back… Saying negative things about your partner when their back is turned shows a move towards the end of the line.”
6. No desire to become intimate with your partner
Sexual relationships are full of peaks and valleys. Medication, trauma and stress can dramatically affect your libido. However, if you find yourself completely unattracted to your partner sexually, you may be falling out of love. You could also just be going through a dry spell.
Donna Novak, a licensed clinical psychologist, says she’s seen couples get so comfortable with one another, they become more like roommates than romantic partners. Intimacy can always be sparked again, but if you have no desire to reignite the flame, it’s worth considering the future of the relationship.
7. No future plans
Speaking of the future, if you have zero interest in thinking of something fun or exciting to do with your partner next week or next year, your love could be dissolving.
“When a relationship is going well and romance is strong, a couple plans together and talks about the future,” says Dr. Coulston. “A sign that things are coming to an end is when you stop discussing what might happen one day and begin to live solely in the here and now.”
What to do about falling out of love?
Answering “Yes, that’s me!” to any of the above signs does not mean your relationship is over. It simply means the partnership needs attention. First and foremost, figure out if this is a chronic issue.
“Relationships have ups and downs,” says Jason Lee, a Relationship Science and Data Analyst with Healthy Framework. “Having one or two bad days every now and then where you're frustrated is perfectly natural. However, when those one-offs become trends, it can be the sign of a bigger problem.”
1. Journal and keep track
Lee recommends journaling regularly and tracking your feelings. Revisit these entries and notes over time to see how frequently you’re having doubts about your love. Check in with close friends or family members to see if they’ve noticed a shift in your behavior or emotional state. You may not even notice how frequently you complain about your partner or how drastically your happiness levels have plummeted.
Hot tip: While embarking on this journey, don’t give up until you’ve given it the consideration it deserves. “Keep on with the good behaviors you have always counted on,” says O’Neill. “Don't punish each other before you've had a chance to talk and reflect and understand each other.”
2. Identify what you envision for your future
For anyone neglecting to make future plans with their partner, consider what it is you envision for your future. Then, what do you want in a lifelong partner?
“Coming to a strong sense of internal awareness, evaluation and ultimately acceptance around what it is you truly want will be the most helpful in moving forward,” says Novak. “This will ultimately help you communicate what you want (or don’t) for your future with your partner in a vulnerable and honest way.”
3. Tackle resentment right away
As soon as you sense resentment brewing, deal with it at the source. If you avoid it, bitterness has a way of spreading, multiplying and infecting other areas of the relationship. Avoid keeping score or tracking how many times your partner does something “wrong.”
“If you start looking for things that are bad, your mind will find them. Your mind will also contort things that aren't bad to fit the narrative you're looking for,” says Lee. “The worst thing you can do is dwell on the thoughts for months and allow your brain to create something that's not really there.”
4. Discuss and reinvest in your shared values
Think back on why you fell in love in the first place. What values and goals did you share with your partner? Be open with your partner as you discuss whether these values and goals have changed.
“The most powerful thing you can do to keep a marriage strong is form a partnership, a team, where both parties feel respected, cared about and needed,” says Dr. Tessina. “What makes love last is an attitude of ‘I want both you and me to get what we want in this relationship.’”
It’s normal that as people evolve, so do their values and goals. If it turns out that initial flame (infatuation) was the only thing holding you together, it’s worth reassessing whether the relationship is still serving both parties.
Be sure to practice active listening during any and all discussions. Avoid distractions and be genuinely curious about what your partner is going through, too.
5. Ask for outside help
There is no shame in asking for help. This could mean being mentored by another couple who has been through the ringer and survived. It could mean going to couples counseling.
“Surround yourself with friends and family who care about you for support while you explore this. It's important to practice self-love and self-care during this time as well,” says Novak.
Whatever it is, it’s a great idea whether you’re falling out of love or not. Why wait until things are horrible? Investing in a romantic relationship before things get really bad is a beautiful demonstration of love.
Finally, know you are not alone. Falling out of love isn’t fun, but again, it’s natural. How you navigate it will determine how hard it hits you.