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Love, But Not in Love


Often it is the kiss of death.

One says to the other, “I love you, but I’m no longer in love with you.” The person speaking either wishes for a relationship with someone new or already has it. The “I love you” phrase often means, “I’m not really that angry at you; you’ve got some good qualities. I hope you fare well. Now, don’t try to make me feel guilty for leaving you.” The “I’m not in love with you” phrase usually means, “You don’t evoke emotions within me like you once did. I know your good, bad, and uglies. Whatever we had has died and I’m not happy. You’re not what I want, but there must be someone out there that is.”

In our turnaround workshop for marriages in crisis, LovePath 911, I hear this “love, not in love” sentiment regularly. Often, the spouse saying it is already deeply involved with another person. Sometimes people that have been cheated against say it, not because there is someone else in their lives but because of their hurt and anger. Occasionally, there are those who say it because they simply want to be free from the misery their marriage has become. Whatever the case, when I hear people utter those words I know that they want someone other than their spouse to be their “true love.” If they are not yet involved with another person, the odds are very high that they will be.

We could explain many reasons why a person evolves from “I’m in love with you,” to “I’m not in love with you.” In The Marriage Clinic John Gottman sums it, “‘feeling unloved’ was the most commonly cited reason for wanting a divorce (67% of women)…and sensitivity to being belittled (59% men and women)…We must conclude that most marriages end…[as]the result of people…not feeling liked, loved, and respected.”

Did you notice that “not feeling liked, loved, and respected” part? If the one who should be fulfilling their needs for emotional closeness and being liked, loved, and respected is not doing that, folks become vulnerable to having someone else fulfill those needs. I’m not justifying it, but I do understand it.

So does God.

When Paul gave command that husbands and wives must sexually fulfill each other, he pointed out, “so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Cor 7:2-5) God didn’t justify sexual immorality, but He did predict a person’s vulnerability to it if the marriage isn’t filling that deep-seated human need for sexual fulfillment.

The same goes with other human needs that should be fulfilled in marriage. Gottman reports that most affairs are about seeking friendship, support, understanding, and validation.

Be assured that I am not claiming that all who say, “I love you; I’m not in love with you” are in affairs as they say it. However, I am saying that quite a few are, and that the others who say it are vulnerable to infidelity or divorce. It’s basic human nature to want an emotional bond with another person that we feel likes, loves, and respects us.

So what does all this mean?

If your spouse says, “I’m not in love with you”
Believe it.

It’s foolish to shrug that statement off thinking that they are just having a bad day. A much greater likelihood exists that your spouse already has drifted far from you emotionally and either consciously or unconsciously is vulnerable to developing a relationship with someone new.

Get busy now repairing your relationship and getting back on the LovePath. If it’s not too bad yet, there are books that can help, such as my book Your LovePath. If the problems are deeper and you discover that your marriage is in peril, even in early stages of peril, find the help you need to turn it around quickly. Click here to learn about our workshop that can save your marriage.

I’m not trying to panic you, but you need to open your eyes to see if your spouse’s need for like, love, and respect is already being fulfilled by someone else. Look for signs such as:

– Your spouse’s appearance (body shape, fragrances, or dress) has improved recently,
– Money is unaccounted for,
– Time is unaccounted for,
– Cell phone bills are hidden and/or your spouse spends time on the phone where you cannot hear,
– Facebook or email accounts are protected from you,
– Your sex life recently changed (either more or less),
– You discovered that your spouse told you they would be one place and you discover they were in another,
– Your spouse drifts from happiness to sadness to dreaminess to irritableness,
– Your spouse starts telling you that you are “crazy” or confused,
– Your spouse gets defensive when you ask about a certain person, activity, or time period
– This isn’t a definitive list, but it gives the sense of the matter. Even good people who love Jesus can do stupid things when caught up in the throes of emotion. Don’t be blind.

If your spouse is involved with someone else, you can walk away if you wish. However, if you desire saving your marriage, seek help, no matter how hopeless it may seem. For example, our success rate when working with couples in trouble is that three out of four couples stay married and make their relationship stronger if they attend my workshop. I encourage couples to come even when one of them is “madly in love” with another. It’s fascinating to watch God’s process that saves three/fourths of those marriages. And, yes, we have the same success rate even if your spouse doesn’t want to be there. If the two of you go through three days with us, you have a great chance to save your marriage and make it good again. If not us, then find someone who can help.

Do not let your marriage die. Most can be resurrected when love has lost its way.

If you say, “I’m not in love with you.”
(If you are in a relationship with someone else)

If you are already in a relationship with someone that you do not have a right to, we know that you will not end it as long as you can justify it in your mind through whatever rationalization you can muster. Rationalizations are lies you tell yourself. Like all lies, the consequences are bitter.

Be honest with yourself and stop:

– Bringing up your spouse’s failings or shortcomings to justify your involvement with another, (no one’s sins justify you sinning)

– Claiming that God brought you and your paramour together (He doesn’t violate His own commands about adultery and undefiled marriage beds),

– Telling yourself that as long as you don’t cross a certain barrier until you are divorced you are not doing anything wrong (admit that this is a game where you try to manipulate God by following the “letter of the law” while ignoring the “spirit of the law”).

Overcome your own desires and live by integrity.

Integrity is giving up everyone and everything for this rare jewel; I did what was right.

(If you are not in a relationship with someone else)

If you are not in a relationship with another, please consider your vulnerability. Not you, you say? “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” (1 Cor 10:12)

Rather than living in misery and being susceptible to temptations, fix your marriage now. If your spouse doesn’t want to, then be strong enough to insist. Make yourself heard. Clearly explain your misery, danger, and potential future. Involve your pastor, your spouse’s family, your kids (if old enough), or whatever it takes. If you ignore the situation, it will get worse.

Falling in love is a process. Follow the process and you fall in love whether you mean to or not. Vacate or violate the process and you fall out of love whether you mean to or not. You can be in love again. Anyone can follow the LovePath at any time in life, no matter what state they are in now or what has occurred previously.

If you are no longer “in love” with your spouse, or your spouse is no longer “in love” with you, act now, before it is too late.

Joe Beam is an internationally respected marriage expert who founded LovePath International. He provides marriage help to troubled marriages. Want to learn to play guitar?

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Listed: December 30, 2011 12:03 pm