Love is one of the most complex and poorly understood emotions for all that it is been talked and written about throughout history. It can feel so baffling, crazy-making, euphoric, and contradictory at the same time, and it certainly does not help that we are all inundated with images in the media of what the perfect relationship looks like -- especially when it does not necessarily match up with our real life experiences.
We are taught that love is supposed to be everlasting and anything but capricious, but some people may experience the feeling of falling in and out of love with a partner over time, which is an experience that could make absolutely anyone feel unstable and uncertain. Understanding how men fall in love, as well as how women fall in love, can help you determine your own feelings around this topic too.
In this post, we will look at what happens when you are falling in love or, alternatively, falling out of love.
Why Do People Fall In Love?
Falling in love is ineffable – it is hard to explain exactly why or how anyone does it at all, and attempts to describe it in concrete terms often fall short.
However, people attempt to nonetheless model the emotion and how it should work. Many psychologists subscribe to a “triangular theory of love,” which proposes that there are three dimensions that describe different types of love -- intimacy, attraction, and commitment -- which constitute consummate love; what we think of when we envision the perfect marriage or long term relationship is typically a perfect consummate love.
The first characteristic of true love is intimacy -- the two of you have some kind of connection. You may share similar values, you may have similar goals, or the two of you may just “click” on some deep level. Friendships are intimate, as are familial bonds, and true love needs to have the same kind of connection or else it can run into trouble. Knowing your partner and wanting to know them more deeply every day is part of what makes love so beautiful, and is part of why many people who are deeply in love might call their partner their best friend.
The second is romantic attraction, or passion -- the two of you are physically or emotionally attracted to one another. Sexual attraction is prevalent at the beginning of a relationship, but true love will always have some form of sex regardless of the state of the relationship. This aspect distinguishes true love from friendship or other forms of companionship.
Third, there needs to be some form of commitment -- short term, commitment is the decision to be with someone in a romantic capacity; long term, commitment means a desire to build some sort of life with them, and to be there for them, consistently. Being committed to someone might mean you want to move in with them, work on the same life goals, start a family, and grow old together, or it might simply mean you want to be with this person in whatever capacity you can.
Research shows that love involves a release of hormones. When you fall in love, your brain releases feel-good chemicals that are associated with reproduction, calming, and happiness. If you have ever looked at a past relationship and wondered, "how did I ever fall in love with them?”, hormones could be partially to blame -- there was something about that person that made you release a bunch of chemicals that made you associate that person with good feelings and bliss.
Regardless, however, the experience of falling in love is still deeply complex and difficult to pin down to any one single theory or cause -- many people who have gone through it describe it as an awakening, like being struck by lightning when this new person came into their life. We fall in love all the time with people we never expected to love, or even people who do not follow any of our traditional formulas. Given how little we understand about the human brain, there is at least a little leeway to chalk up the experience of falling in love to magic, fate, or any other myth of the sort – it is only fair.
Falling Out Of Love
Falling out of love is quite interesting. Sometimes, it can be gradual. Little things about your partner bother you and break down the feelings you have, or enough knock-down drag-out arguments with your partner over time might leave you feeling resentful or mistrustful enough to erode your love.
However, sometimes you fall out of love instantly, and sometimes you may feel like you fell out of love for no good reason. It is a scary thought: not only might you one day suddenly completely change your own life when you realize your feelings have dissipated, you might also be liable to break the heart of someone you care for without much cause or warning.
Often, however, the process of falling out of love can be somewhat predictable; it is rare that it comes completely out of nowhere. Let's look at a few reasons you may fall out of love:
Why Do People Suddenly Fall Out Of Love?
It can be a very jarring experience to fall out of love suddenly. There was likely no direct cause; the person was nice, the sex was good, you had a lot in common, you shared values and cared for each other, your lifestyles were compatible, so what gives?
A simple explanation for why you might have fallen out of love at break-neck speeds might be that you were never actually in love with this person in the first place -- instead, you might have been experiencing lust or mere infatuation. Lust is when you are sexually attracted to someone but there is little to no true intimacy. You don't feel connected with a person, and you do not feel like you are committed to spending the rest of your life with them.
Confusing love and lust frequently happens with young couples who do not yet understand the difference between the two feelings, but it can also happen to anyone, too. Love blindness happens at any age, and it can affect even those who think they're experienced.
Sexual attraction is often temporary, and once you get your fill, there needs to be something to keep the love afloat. Usually, it's because you have a connection to that person, and you feel like you can spend the rest of your life with them. If there's no connection, you may call things off suddenly.
Additionally, you might have been swept up in the excitement of a new fling and have ignored your partners’ flaws and indiscretions. This is a problem with feeling infatuation for a partner -- you may revel in their attention and feel as though you know them intimately, but the good feelings might leave you blind to their flaws. When your feelings settle down, you may see that they are in some way fundamentally incompatible with you and call things off.
On Again, Off Again
Another phenomenon that is quite interesting is the couple who falls in love, is in a relationship for a while, ends the relationship, and then gets back together. This usually repeats in a cycle that is frustrating to watch for an observer, and it can be frustrating for the couple as well. This can happen with young couples, but may also happen at any age.
There are many reasons why a couple may break up only to make up again later on down the line. Beyond external factors, like separations of great distance or other prohibitive life circumstances, it can be because of the couples' personalities. Some people may break up easily because of one fight, but find it easy to forgive and return. Other times, it may be because they can't find anything better and find comfort in returning to a well-worn relationship. Some people who come from emotionally turbulent homes may find the process of fighting and making up reminiscent of childhood patterns with caretaking, and necessarily feel comfortable in patterns of chaos and uneasy in periods of stability with a partner.
If you're in a cycle of on-again-off-again, it may not be good for you. Try to figure out the reason for your behavior and end the cycle, be it keeping the relationship on again for good, or ending things forever.
If you're having relationship problems, you may think there is shame in seeking a relationship counselor; it can feel like you’re throwing in the towel by reaching out for outside advice and help. In truth, a counselor can help you to strengthen, fortify, and rejuvenate relationships, in addition to helping you to make sense of your love life, no matter how complex it may seem.
Our habits when it comes to our love lives can be confusing and hard to unravel on our own. The good news is that a therapist can help you to uncover the patterns of what attracts you, and can guide you in your journey to find ways to improve those patterns if they’ve left you unsatisfied in your love life. If you’re struggling to come to terms with a breakup, sometimes a relationship counselor can teach you skills to cope with your feelings, in addition to helping you figure out why the relationship might have failed in the first place.
Additionally, pursuing therapy individually might give you insight into other issues with your emotional health that can cause problems in relationships, such as anger, anxiety, attachment issues, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder,
Finally, for those on again, off again couples, couple’s therapy may be the key you need to figure out how you can stay together and keep your love alive. Couple’s therapy can identify the reason why you keep breaking up, and it can help you to make changes to stay together for good or figure out if you're meant for each other at all. Couples or family therapists can additionally offer parenting advice to couples that might find themselves falling in and out of love in spite of having children together, and may be able to help stabilize your relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it normal to fall in and out of love with your partner?
It is perfectly natural -- and even expected -- for one’s romantic and sexual passion for their partner to fade over time, which can often feel to an individual like they are falling out of love. However, in long-term committed relationships, it is more like you are lifting the veil of infatuation to see the more stable version of real love, and this can feel like you are falling back in love. It is also quite normal to have your interest in your partner wax and wane intermittently, just like it is perfectly normal for you to crave one food more than another depending on the day, or to be crankier on one week than another. As for falling fully out of love, it is quite normal -- it happens in a lot of relationships, unfortunately. But there is always the potential to rekindle that romance.
In fact, arguing and seeing your partner’s flaws is one of the phases of love. First comes the infamous honeymoon phase, then comes a more serious and deeper love, when you may start thinking about settling down with this person, then often comes a phase of arguing, when you become fixated on each other’s flaws, and you wonder if you can over come them. This is a healthy, and normal part of love, because if you decide that you accept this person along with their flaws, the love you have becomes much stronger. The biggest shift that happens after a phase of serious fighting is that you begin looking at your relationship differently—asking yourself what you can do for your partner to make them happy, rather than expecting this other person to prove himself or herself to you.
But maybe you never made that shift. Maybe you have decided that your partner’s flaws are too much, and you simply are not a compatible match. This is a fine conclusion, and it is why we date before settling down. You might need to try on a few different relationships and identities before you find the person you really want to be, and the person you really want to be with.
What is potentially unhealthy is extreme fluctuations between liking and disliking a partner, or on-again-off-again romances with dramatic break-ups and tearful make-ups. The chaos and drama can be stimulating, but it also potentially marks a romantic pattern that revolves around turbulence and undue forgiveness of slights.
What does it mean to fall in and out of love?
While affection, crushes, and attraction can be very fickle, true love is something long lasting. If you love someone, you love them even when you do not like them. If that loves comes and goes then it may not be love in the truest sense of the word.
This also depends on what you are looking for. Some people prefer to keep their distance in romance, which may mean never establishing a long-lasting, consistent love. For people like that, the on-and-off of falling in and out of love can be exciting. But if this is not what you want, and you prefer more stability, then you need to be honest with yourself and your partner about your needs. No matter how angry you are, you do not stop loving someone you really love.
But people change and grow over time, which means that your relationship will as well. Sometimes people are married, get divorced, then get married again. Sometimes couples break up, lose contact, then form a healthy friendship and love each other in a different way. These are the normal and healthy waves of life and there is no need to stress yourself out about them.
Is falling out of love normal?
Of course. Human relationships will always change over time. Sometimes people fall out of love, fall back in love, then fall out of love again! There are no rules when it comes to matters of the heart, and there is no reason to feel guilty or wrong for feelings that are totally natural.
Why do people fall out of love suddenly?
Without a dramatic inciting incident like infidelity -- which can be in-and-of-itself a good insight as to why the feelings of love dissipated -- people generally do not fall out of love all that suddenly. Instead, it might be the case that you were never really in love with your partner in a real, stable way. Additionally, it might be the case that your feelings of love were fading over time, but that one particular moment might have made you realize the severity of your lovelessness all at once.
How do you know when you’re falling out of love with someone?
Falling out of love is quite aptly named, because in many ways it is like falling in love in reverse. As you lose interest, your priorities and attention might shift away from your partner and your relationship; you might feel more stingy with your time, attention, or money; you might begin to experience feelings for other people; you might even feel disdain, disgust, or resentment towards them.
Do guys fall out of love easily?
Studies show that men fall in love much more easily than women, but it is hard to say the extent to which they fall out of love, simply because every person is different. If you are attracted to and fall in love with men, do not get wrapped up in anxious thoughts about that specific gender being incapable of loving you the way you love him. Every single person is different, and especially when it comes to matters of the heart, the variety is vast and dramatic. Some men fall in and out of love quickly and easily. Others never fall in love. Others love one partner their entire lives. The key is finding a person who wants the same things as you, and building a relationship based on mutual love, respect, and trust. Openly communicate with people, and do not be afraid o say what you really want. If you want commitment and stability, it is okay to be up front about that. That way, you can weed out the people who do not want the same thing.
Can you stop loving someone if you truly loved them?
It is possible that you may always feel fondly towards that person, or care deeply about their well-being, but it is more than likely that you will stop being “in love” with them over time. When we are getting over a breakup, the time it takes to move on may feel absolutely interminable, and it may seem like we will be hung up on the same person until we die. But the reality is that it almost certainly will not last.
Can love fade away and come back?
While it is admittedly somewhat rare, if not merely ill-advised, for people to fall back in love without committing to making major changes to whatever caused them to drift apart in the first place, it is certainly possible. There is always that small spark or feeling that causes two people to fall in love in the first place; though many people do not rekindle it, it is not really like it ever fully goes away. The key to rekindling love is the same as in any other aspect of life: create and maintain a deep respect for your partner and his or her emotions. Vocalize that respect and admiration, and also set your own boundaries and be consistent about them.
Can people fall back in love?
Of course they can. As we all change and grow throughout our lives, our relationships change with us. These are natural changes. It can even be fun to fall in love a second time and get to know a whole different version of someone. But remember that life is short, and it is best to spend it surrounded by people whose presence we enjoy; people who make us happy, who challenge us to grow, mature, and be better, people who we love and who love us back.