Here's the Thing: Falling Out of Love

A MASSIVE ANGEL:

I am worried that I have fallen out of love with my girlfriend. We dated for 4 months before circumstances changed and we moved in together. It's been 16 months living together and I don't think we are a good match.

Our sex life is really bad. We probably have sex once a week and it's cause I don't find her attractive anymore. Our incompatibility makes me not find her physically attractive. I find her attractive in the way you have attractive friends, you acknowledge their beatuy but don't feel attraction to it. It's one-way as she still wants to be physical.

We didn't have a lot in common before, and that gap has really started to show up as we don't have much we can do together. I am a very solitary person, which doesn't help, as in all my favorite hobbies are solo activities (reading, running, working out, playing video games, watching movies).

My biggest fear is that breaking up with her will leave me single forever. I'm 37 and this is my first real relationship. I was/am very shy and introverted. I know she loves me, and I loved her, but I don't think anyone else will ever love or care about me the way she does.

To make this all worse we live together and moving away isn't really a financial option for either of us until July when our lease ends. She is very happy and I don't want to break her heart but it seems for me to keep her happy I will be miserable. I didn't really think it was possible to fall out of love but that's what I think happened. Any advice you have would be great. 

SOPHIA:

Falling out of love with someone is not cruel. Let’s get that out of the way up front. Simply because you loved someone once (or deeply cared about them or whatever your words are for what you felt) does not suggest (or merit) that you must stay with them forever, feel that same intensity forever, and never waver.

That said, I think there’s a distinct possibility that you’re jumping the gun a bit here. I’d like to remind you that despite being a corny-ass cliche, the idea of love as an action is real. You don’t feel love for someone as much as you act love out towards someone. That’s why love at first sight is a crock of shit. You may like someone at first sight, and feel instant attraction at first sight. You might even end up with someone you saw and right away had a feeling that you’d end up with, but you don’t help someone through their mother’s death or their masters thesis on first sight. You don’t wait for cancer diagnoses and pregnancy test results on first sight. You don’t hold your daughter together on first sight or learn to make meatballs just like their Nonna used to make to make and surprise them on first sight. You get my point. Love is doing things NOT feeling things. As the wisest woman alive Esther Perel once said, ““Love is a verb, and it's not a permanent state of enthusiasm.”

In love, there is what is known as a limerence period, which usually lasts about eighteen months to two years where your brain is getting white girl wasted on love hormones. She (your brain) is lighting up like a pinball machine at pretty much everything your partner does. This is part of what makes everything feel so damn thrilling in the early months of looooove. (The other part is the anxiety of not knowing whether someone loves you back or not, which often replicates feelings of not being loved from our youths which brains, sickeningly, enjoy recreating!!!!). After the limerence period wears off for the most part, you’re left with a whole lot of stability. Of course, some relationships are toxic and never stabilize, but when Two Nice Ladies (ladies can be any gender, thank you for understanding) start dating about eighteen months to two years down the road things are going to get reeaaaal…. boring.

Because love is incredibly boring. SORRY CHARLIE!

Now, for someone like you who is introverted, excitement might be a great way to sustain relationships (make people bearable to be around for long periods of time) and when that wears off, it might be harder for you than it is for others to keep going. The excitement of true love can overcome a lot including introversion. I know this because I am an introvert who used to stay out until two (three) am for the sake of getting laid/being around my crush. Now that I am dating said crush, I go to bed like A Nice Lady promptly at 11:45pm. If introversion is a lack of energy around people, having a crush is like snorting a whole Fun Dip packet of adderall and cocaine.

Right now, you’re coming down from the high. The FUN!!!! is over, and you’re settling into something a whole lot more static. That doesn’t, despite film and television, mean that it is awful, unfun, or not worthwhile. Longterm, committed love beats short term fun most days of the week. It’s just not as jazzy.

The fabulous news is that you two are not doomed; attraction can—and frequently does—come back. While it does often come back on its own, or for some external reason, that is not usually the case. I’m going to share with you a poem that I think has a lot of meaning in this situation:

You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati? You better work bitch
You want a Lamborghini? Sippin' martinis?
Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch
You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion?
Party in France?
You better work bitch, you better work bitch.

— Britney Spears

YOURE GOING TO HAVE TO ACTUALLY TRY!!!

First, you need to talk with your partner. (YOU KNEW I WAS GOING TO SAY IT!!!!) You need to be KIND and HONEST in this talk. Here is what I would say in the situation; put it in your own words so that it is honest and true to you: “Perfect Angel, I need to talk to you about something important. You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit distant recently, or pulling away, and I have been. I’m sorry. I’m not feeling as into our relationship as I was at the beginning, and a lot of that— probably most of that—is on me. Here are two things that I think would help. Firstly, I need more alone time. I know that might sound counterintuitive, but I need time to recharge so that when we’re together I have more energy. And the second is that I’d like us to try some more new things. We might hate them, but I want us to bring some of the excitement of when we were first dating back. In the meantime, I’d like for us both to be a whole lot more honest, even when it might hurt. I really, really want to address this with you because I love you.”

That’s not a perfect speech by ANY MEANS. It also might not cover what you need or want to ask for, but it’s a starting point for you to think about what you might ask for. And before you sit down for the talk you absolutely must think about things that you think might help. Do not come to your partner and just dump “I’m not attracted to you,” on her. THAT is cruel. If you’re stuck (honestly, even if you’re not stuck!!) I HIGHLY recommend reading Esther Perel’s book Mating In Captivity. It is a necessary book for all long term couples in my humble opinion.

Maybe you hear my prescription and think to yourself, “Meh, not worth it.” / “I don’t want to put in that work.” That’s ok. It’s not great or anything, but it’s allowed. You can break up with someone for any reason at all. Only you can decide what kind of love-er (I hate the word lover and I refuse to use it. This is a separate word) you’re going to be, whether you want to put in more effort or stop the relationship here.

If you do stop the relationship here you must learn something about yourself from that choice. You must take the lesson away that you’re not the kind of person who likes putting in effort to try to make relationships work when they’re hard/boring, or that you’re the kind of person who isn’t cut out for longterm. That might mean that do not get into exclusive, committed relationships again. Whatever your lesson is, you can’t just get out of jail free and not be introspective about this or you are doomed to repeat this pattern because almost every single longterm relationship will have moments, days and weeks like this where the love and attraction don’t come easily. And what you do in those moments is important.

I encourage you to try, to put in some effort, to have some rough conversations, to have some more rough conversations to explain what you were trying to say in the original rough conversations. I encourage you to try, because that— trying when things get rough— is the actual promise of loving someone.

One last, possibly wrong, note: you may be depressed. I do not mean that depression makes you not love people or that the only reason that you could possibly fall out of love with someone is depression, but I will say from personal experience that when I am experiencing depression, I feel a whole lot less excited about my life and it is VERY LOVELY to blame all of that on my partner. It feels great to have an answer to why I’m not having fun anymore: my partner. And why I feel bored and restless: my partner. And why I don’t have a massive group of friends like I had in college when we all lived in the same house: my partner. And why I feel like time is passing me by too fast: my partner. None of it is true, but it’s a nice crutch— just blaming my relationship for my fears and sadness. Regardless of whether you think that this might describe you, I would encourage you to go to therapy if you can afford to. I know that’s often said flippantly in advice columns (or at least it reads that way), but therapy is a TERRIFIC place to lay out your concerns, efforts, fears, etc., about your relationship.

I believe wholeheartedly that your love can come back with dedication and introspection. I also believe you can live a great life single or with someone else. I also think there is some chance that you do the work and still want to leave. The choice is about who you want to be as a person and a partner.

Good luck!! You’ve got this!!

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Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tries to write about Fleetwood Mac for GQ, avoids writing by tweeting at @1followernodad, works full-time as a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at 1followernodad@substack.com.