04 Jan I Don’t Love You Anymore
“I don’t love you anymore,” is a phrase that gets thrown around either in the middle of a deteriorating relationship or at the end. One person does not FEEL that they love the other because of a handful of reasons so they express this. They do not feel drawn to, or close to that person anymore and they equate this with love. I think this phrase needs some re-examining. I don’t want to go too far into what love is, but it isn’t just a feeling. And I’m not sure that this phrase is accurate between two people who have been in relationship for a while.
What’s really being said here? On the receiving end of this statement it sounds more like, “I don’t like you anymore,” which feels way more personal than one not feeling “in love.” Relationships are difficult and the break down of them is hardly ever the fault of one person. But this comment, often thrown around by the person wanting out or feeling the victim, is in some ways saying, “this is your fault. You screwed up here and now I don’t love you.” I think we need to take more responsibility for our own feelings and why we might not be feeling close to someone. I also think we need to figure out what is really going on inside this comment.
I would like to propose that what is really being said here is “I am not attached to you any more and I find it hard to trust you.” Attachment is the bond we have with another where we can trust in them to care for us, keep our best interests at heart, and meet some of our more intimate needs. Can I trust that you will be there when I hurt, when I fall, when I open my heart? When this breaks down, we feel that we no longer love them. But love is such a large word that means a lot of things. Love is more of a verb, a commitment, something that comes out of attachment. I would also say that this statement isn’t true, that the person still loves their partner or ex-partner in a more fundamental way, but no longer feels “attached.”
So when someone says “honey, I stopped loving you a long time ago,” I propose that they are actually saying, “honey, I stopped trusting and relying on you to be there for me and my needs, and because it’s been such a long time that neither of us have done anything about this, I don’t feel close to, or drawn to, you anymore.” Did this person ever say any of this or did he/she just keep living, hoping things would change? When is it our responsibility to share with our partner that we don’t feel safe, trusting, close? How long should we wait to communicate our needs? Some would say, “I did communicate, he just didn’t listen.” Sometimes that is the case but a lot of times what was communicated came through a protection filter that sounded and felt more like an attack to the other, leaving them defensive not receptive. Is it our partner’s fault because they didn’t read our minds and just know how to love us? As well, partner’s can do things and live in ways that are going to wear away the attachment bond – those feelings of closeness – and they must take responsibility for that as well. We need to know when some of our actions are actually creating less safety for our partner and try to stop them. Relationships are constant feedback loops, which make them extremely complicated, and require intimate communication of one’s feelings around issues of safety and trust.
When I say safety and trust, I am not really talking about physical safety, although that can play a role, but about the kind of safety required to be ourselves, to be open and vulnerable with another. Do we trust that if we open up they won’t literally or figuratively walk away, ignore us, or hurt us somehow? That is what I mean by safety.
So when someone says “I don’t love you anymore,” I don’t believe that is what they are really saying. This is helpful for two reasons: one, it can help those who are not feeling in love with their partner to know it doesn’t have to mean time to leave, that re-gaining attachment and the ensuing feelings of connection and desire “to love” can return (not in all situations) and two, it can help those who have been left by someone who “fell out of love” with them to know that what they are saying is that there has been a breakdown in the relationship that has occurred for too long, affecting the bond between them. So it is not that they don’t like who you are anymore (feeling like a personal attack), but that the complicated aspects of life and relationships has injured the relationship, the space in between, and his/her ability to feel safe.