I recently finished reading Relationships by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. Like many similar books it examined several relationships including friendships, family, dating, and marriage. However, I was caught off guard as I came to the end and discovered an entire chapter on breaking up. While it’s an unfortunate reality that takes place far too often, I have not read another book that has dedicated a whole chapter to the subject.
Maybe other books do not cover breakups because they are so difficult and bring back a flood of unwanted memories for both authors and readers. But maybe breakups are difficult, in part, because there are so few pages dedicated to addressing them. Since we do not talk about breakups, people enter them like a traveler entering the wilderness without a map.
One of the most common reasons for breaking up or splitting, is that couples say they “fall out of love.” Often the feelings that they once had for one another are no longer felt and so they decide to call it quits.
These are dangerous grounds.
There are certainly many good reasons to break up, most obviously (hopefully) when it comes to physical safety. But “falling out of love” is often a shortcut, passive, and even irresponsible reason for splitting up. Speaking from personal experience and counseling others through relationships over the past several years, “falling out of love” is an easy excuse for not trying.
That may sound harsh, but again, I’m speaking from experience. I used that excuse when I was young and unaware of the pain that it would cause others. My own short-sightedness of love led me to believe that “falling out of love” was a legitimate reason to break up. It does not help that our culture supports the “falling out of love” excuse or that some would advise to “not put off the inevitable.”
There are several things that happen which we attribute to “falling out of love”. Biologically, neurotransmitter levels change in the brain and that once euphoric feeling dissipates. We may also allow other things to steal our heart and attention like people or work. We begin to recognize flaws in our significant other that we swear were not there when we first started. While these things happen, they are not reasons to legitimize “falling out of love” as an excuse to break up or split.
However, they are reasons, to pursue love. When we recognize these changes, we get to make a conscious decisions. Do you break up? Or do you instead try to make love work, to pursue love deeper than you have before?
Love takes work. It takes effort. We have degraded love to just a feeling and so when that feeling is gone, we decide that we are done. But love is so much more than a feeling. Love is also an action. Love is going the extra mile for your significant other, even when you do not feel like it. Love is cleaning up messes that you did not make. Love is staying up late after an exhausting, long day because your wife or husband is sick. Love is putting others’ needs above your own. Love, real love, takes work and it takes sacrifice.
We choose to fall out of love, because we choose to stop making an effort to love.
What should I do, if I feel like I’m falling out of love?
- Recognize that your significant other or spouse isn’t perfect. Two imperfect people don’t make a perfect one, they’re still imperfect and you’re still imperfect. So give grace, forgive where forgiveness is needed, and learn to grow and mature together.
- Acknowledge the external influences that may be affecting your decision making. Is the weather or your health contributing to your feeling? Are you experiencing stress from work or school? Have you just experienced a significant life event? Are you hungry?
- Put love into action by taking steps to serve. Go out of your way and serve the other person, without expecting recognition, a pat on the back, or anything else.
- Pick up a book like The Five Love Languages, Saving Your Marriage before It Starts, or The Meaning of Marriage. Even if you’re just dating, these books on marriage offer a solid perspective that will help you.
- Finally, seek counsel. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help in navigating your relationship. It will not only help your dating relationship or marriage, but it can also equip you to make a good relationship and great one.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” Songs of Solomon 8:6-7