Thursday, July 11, 2024
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Why People Fall in Love Only to Stumble Out of it?

Marriage is an extremely complex relationship with an unpredictable destiny. Two partners tying a marital knot cannot possibly fathom the complexity of the relationship that lies ahead. Once married, the success or failure of marriage is determined by a myriad of factors. Each partner is a unique agglomeration of stable personal dispositions that influence marital relationships. 

Falling in love may occur without much deliberation like the famous “love at first sight”. Conversely, falling out of love may be a long-term gradual decline in love. During a developing love relationship, couples are more susceptible to ignoring a myriad of factors that will eventually influence their relationship later. During courtship, partners typically idealize their relationship and maintain a positive illusion about their significant other, and behaviors and traits that may later threaten the developing relationship are mostly ignored.

Early Marriage Years

In the early marriage years, the personal dispositions that were dismissed earlier become increasingly conspicuous and hard to ignore. Eventually, partners come to grips with reality and experience a decline in love. This starts the process of marital disillusionment. Unfortunately, some partners are caught in the lie that they can somehow magically change the other partner.

Personal dispositions are ingrained in genetics and reinforced by the early experiences and attachment bonds. Therefore, they cannot be unlearnt. It is hard for the disappointed partners to believe that their beloved partner is unable to erase the problematic traits, which they themselves ignored before tying the knot.

Reality Catches Up

These ignored personal and general factors become increasingly conspicuous after the relationship is established. When facing relationship difficulties, the presence or absence of mutual love and intimacy steers the couple’s relationship toward continuity or termination. Research involving separated or divorced couples signaled that lack of love or emotional indifference is one of the two most cited reasons for divorce. The second reason is either an extramarital affair or communication difficulties.

Lack of Love

Emotional indifference or romantic disengagement diminishes love and care. Romantic disengagement goes through five stages before ending in complete disengagement. The stages include differentiating stage, circumscribing stage, stagnating stage, avoiding stage, and relationship termination stage. However, not all disaffected spouses reach the relationship termination stage. Therefore, couples should seek early intervention to combat marital disaffection and reignite the love. 

Remarriage is common, but its dissolution rate is even higher than the first marriage. Acknowledging that the subsequent marriages may not be work either, leaning-out spouses could have a paradigm shift and be more willing to rescue their current marriage. 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Certain therapeutic interventions work better for couples who still espouse some level of commitment to stay together. One such therapy is acceptance and commitment therapy, which is experiential acceptance-based behavior therapy. It targets experiential avoidance and increases psychological flexibility in partners.

Discernment counseling is a short-term counseling (maximum of five sessions) and provides assistance in making a decision on whether or not marital counseling should be pursued. Discernment counseling gives couples a clear outlook on how their marriage got on life support. Couples are then asked to take time to decide if they can commit to a last-resort, “all-out effort” for the next six months (with the thought of divorce off the table). Marriage counselors discourage quick decisions about reconciliation or divorce and recommend that couples take at least five counseling sessions (approximately six-months) to gain clarity and confidence before making the final call about their marriage. 

Take Home Message

Be mindful and recognize the behaviors/situations that precede your partner’s episodes of emotional indifference towards you. Act now to stop the damage and rediscover the joy of a thriving partnership.

About the Author: Irum Abbasi is a post-doctoral researcher. Her research focuses on unraveling different ways in which social media shapes and influences various types of relationships, ranging from personal connections to professional networks.

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