There is nothing more disheartening to a couple or a couples’ therapist than to hear one partner proclaim to love, but not be in love with, the other. Sounds like, “Well, I do not want anything bad to happen to you. But I do not feel the way I should feel about you.” Or how about, “Of course I love you. After all, we have children together.” Or the dreaded, “We can still be friends.”
When people who are in relationship distress claim to love one another, I try to take this proclamation to another level, especially if they are producing some serious symptoms. For example, I usually ask something like, “You can love your pet poodle and love playing tennis, but are you in love with one another?” If I suspect that only one person is in love, I will separate the couple for a session and ask this question of each of them in confidence. If only one answers in the affirmative, I know that serious trouble is on the horizon. Why? Because once you fall out of love, it is hard to fall back in. It is not impossible, but it is improbable. And if one or both partners were never in love — à la my stance on physical attraction — I doubt very much if it can be cultivated.
While most articles focus on how to tell if your partner is not in love with you, I will address those individuals who are showing signs of not being in love — a subtle difference pointed at the proactive rather than the reactive. I know that some people have feasible excuses for their apathetic or neglectful behavior, such as anger, depression, or physical illness. But if their detrimental behavior is chronic, chances are something more sinister has been brewing for some time and will — sooner or later — reveal itself in the relationship.
1. Apathy. Partners who are in love seem to have the energy to do things with their counterparts. They want to please them and look for new and exciting adventures to engage them. If you do not want to explore the world with your partner, you may not covet their company.
2. Distance. Partners who are in love want to be around their counterparts as much as possible. Most cannot wait to get home from work or for the weekend to spend time with them. Just going out for a simple bite to eat may be fulfilling. If you are routinely distancing from your mate, you may not be in love.
3. Physical Intimacy. Partners who are in love have s*x more often to make love. They enjoy pleasing their partners in the bedroom, not purely to boost their own egos, but to make the partner feel wanted, desired, and valued. And they look forward to it. They feel pleasure from pleasuring. They are truly interested in what turns their partner on and make efforts to obtain this information. If you do not relish being close to your mate, and you are uninterested in making love with them, there may be something very seriously wrong.
4. Focus. Partners who are in love tend to maintain a focus on their counterparts. They think of them often and may bring them little gifts for no reason other than they want to show them how much they are thought of. They express concern when they think their partners are unhappy and try to address the issue as soon as possible. If your partner is rarely on your mind, you may not be in love.
5. Value. Partners who are in love value their counterparts and are more likely to feel lucky to have found such a person. True or not, they tend to think they have found their soul mates. If you feel that your partner is just another “fish in the sea,” you probably are not in love.
6. Respect. Partners who are in love respect their counterparts. They admire them and are supportive of their endeavors. Out of respect, they are better able to listen, negotiate, and compromise. There are fewer control struggles and more teamwork. If you treat your mate as if they have little to offer, you may not be in love.
Lacking in one or more of these areas does not necessarily guarantee that you are not in love. But it may, and if so, you should take it seriously. The authenticity of your relationship may be at stake.