If your spouse says to you, “I love you but I’m not IN love with you anymore” … OUCH! You are experiencing a big OUCH to the Nth degree! Even if you’ve said those words to your spouse, I say OUCH! Those words cause a lot of pain to a lot of spouses. And it causes a lot of pain and huge upsets to a lot of families.
When those words are given, you are either the giver or the receiver of that pain. Either way there are horribly hurt feelings that are involved!
I Love But I’m Not IN Love With You
Tragically, that phrase of loving, but not being in love with the spouse is being said by marriage partners everywhere we turn. It’s like a deadly plague that is pushed out in epidemic proportions. And it’s infecting and killing marriages all over the world. We call it the “in and out of love” sickness. That’s because that’s what it is!
Now, I’m not throwing verbal stones. I have to confess that this same insidious sickness invaded our marriage as well. A number of years ago, I felt the same way about my husband, Steve. I was tired of what was going on in our marriage. As a result, I just wasn’t experiencing the same romantic feelings I once had for him. I concluded that I didn’t love him anymore and that this “love” would never return. All I could think was, I wanted out! So I understand the reasoning involved in saying those words. And it almost brought the death of our marriage.
Thankfully, God intervened and opened my eyes. All was not hopeless. I just thought it was. After some convincing, God then helped me to resurrect a new love—a true love for my husband. We now have a great marriage (with on-going work). And we have a deep, deep love for each other. Years before, I would never have thought that would be possible. But it was.
Because of that experience, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to pass along to you. Hopefully, it will help in some way. Whether you’re the one who has heard those words said to you, or you’re the one who is experiencing that “lost love” in your heart, I pray you will benefit from what I’ve lived, and learned.
Through the things I’ve experienced it has been revealed to me that: We can say the words “I love you” but that doesn’t mean that we understand what is involved in truly loving someone.
Words can be cheap. Love is lived out by our words AND our actions. We can get a type of high from the experience. But when that “high” leaves us, we’re ready to leave and jump into the next emotional high of “love.”
And in the wake of our jumping from one LOVE to the next, a lot of people —especially children, are left behind devastated. Somehow, we need to change this and reach for mature and growing love.
“‘I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you’ is a cop out. It basically means that I have no clue how to make a relationship last LONG-TERM. So I’m exiting to get high from another short-term romance. But whoever they’re IN LOVE with now will also eventually hear, ‘I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you.'” (Mort Ferel, in the Christian Post article, “I Love You But…“)
Love is more than feelings.
Feelings can deceive you. One minute you feel one way and the next you don’t. You may THINK you love. But you could actually be experiencing temporary infatuation, “lust” or a bio-chemical rush that lasts for a season. These feelings are unsustainable in the long-run if you don’t follow through with decisions to help it to grow.
A lot of this is discussed in a Today’s Christian Woman article written by Leon Scott Baxter titled, “We’ve Got Chemistry.” But I’ll sum up a bit of what he wrote in this article (and other talks I’ve heard him give on this issue). He writes:
“Why isn’t my relationship that exciting? The easy answer: because that’s ‘new love.’ That’s fresh love. That’s the love we used to have. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is one of the culprits for the excitement of ‘new love.’ PEA is a brain chemical that acts like an amphetamine (yes, the drug) during the early stages in a relationship. Your body reacts to it like it would an upper. But it’s without the harmful side effects and embarrassment of failing a urine test.
“Another effect of PEA is the release of the chemical dopamine. This little neurotransmitter—a chemical messenger that sends a message from one nerve cell to another in the brain—boosts both our energy levels and our motivation. Why do you think men write love letters and wear cologne and take showers early on in relationships? They’re being flooded with dopamine.”
Another thing that contributes to “new love” is:
“The hormone of desire. That would have to be testosterone. Dopamine is the spigot to testosterone’s faucet; but it’s not a hormone just for men. Testosterone is present in both men and women. It’s released to prepare our bodies for intimacy.”
This particular article (and other talks Leon has given) goes on to talk about “new love.” This is something we all know about. It’s exciting, and causes us to go into a euphoric state, physically and emotionally. I remember when I first thought that I was falling in love with my husband Steve. It was one of the most exciting times of my life. I thought about him all the time. I also overlooked his faults and only saw the “good” in him. It was a lovely time. Who doesn’t enjoy that kind of a ride and want to get back onto it?
Other “Contributions” to Feelings of Love
Other chemicals within us that contribute to the feelings of “love” that Leon Baxter talks about are Endorphins:
“They are the neurotransmitters our brains release to reward us for good behavior. When we win, laugh, exercise, have sex, or fall in love, endorphins are released. They’re the reasons why we want to continue winning, laughing, exercising, having sex, and falling in love. Endorphins motivate and energize us. They make us feel happy and alive. Additionally, they allow us to cope with stress easily.”
There’s also, Serotonin:
“It’s a neurotransmitter that women produce during the ‘romantic love’ phase. Serotonin eases women, relaxing them, allowing them to feel comfort, contentment, and optimism. But that’s only true if their husbands give them the opportunity.”
Two other chemicals that contribute are:
“The cuddle chemical …a pleasant side effect of increased serotonin is the release of oxytocin. This little bugger is just phenomenal. It’s been called ‘the hormone of love,’ and ‘the foundation of romance.’ It’s even called ‘the key to lasting relationships.’ And, get this, it affects both men and women. Not bad, eh?
“Oxytocin lets us bond with the ones we love. Instead of insomniac thoughts of our love interest, we feel peacefully warm, loving, and affectionate toward him or her. The release of oxytocin is often triggered by touch. This includes a hug, back massage, even a gentle brush on the neck. But the hormone can also respond to other types of cues. This can be a whisper in the ear, a song on the radio, or a pleasing fragrance. When oxytocin is doing its job, we feel the need to romantically or intimately touch the one we love. And this in turn, releases the flow of the hormone in your mate.”
When you look at all of this going on within our bodies, it’s no wonder why “new love” can be exciting. We’re on a bio-chemical high — one that scientist believe starts to dissipate “somewhere after one-and-a-half to four years.” It’s a time when “the body grows used to these natural stimulants that bombard our systems during ‘new love.’ When that happens, love changes.”
It has to, our bodies couldn’t take the continual high. But much of this chemical stimulation can still be experienced, plus new, more satisfying feelings can be lived out with your spouse, if you do the things that triggered the Oxytocin, and seratonin and such, that we first experienced when we “fell” in love. We’ll talk about that a bit further down in this article.
I didn’t realize this when I first fell in “love” and eventually married Steve. It’s easy to see as I look back that my “love” for him was probably based more on a bio-chemical attraction than anything else. I can totally relate to something that relationship expert Pat Love, explained about this type of “love.”
“‘Love at first sight’ can happen, but most often infatuation begins with fondness or comfort in each other’s presence. Later there comes a flush or a quickened heartbeat upon encounter, or maybe a heightened energy when you are together. As the infatuation continues, separation from your love creates a great deal of anxiety. When not together, you daydream about reunion and anxiously anticipate the next encounter. To comfort yourself, you might replay former encounters in your mind. You may sleep with a shirt left behind, or listen to a song that reminds you of him or her. Perhaps you’ll listen to an old message on your answering machine. As the relationship takes on special meaning, you long for further contact and spend time and energy scheming about ways to get together.
“…When the lover’s affection is confirmed, daily priorities get reordered. The workaholic misses deadlines. The penny-pincher blows a paycheck on plane fare. Sleep is sacrificed for [times together]. Long phone conversations and/or e-mails abound. Both people have a remarkable ability to emphasize what is admirable in the other partner. They may even feel compassion for negative traits to the extent of turning them into positives (‘He is so honest, he told me all about his affairs’).
“The brain is an incredible creation; it begins working long before your birth and doesn’t stop until you fall in love.” (Pat Love, from the book, “The Truth About Love”)
After the Infatuation Passes
Can you relate? I sure can! Not only can I relate to the fluttery feelings that infatuation brings, because I sure experienced that with my husband Steve for a long time, but I can also relate to the brain stopping —both during the infatuation stage as well as later as I lived out my own definition of love.
After the infatuation stage passed, I think my love for my husband evolved into something that was based more on how he made me feel. As long as he made me feel good about myself and our relationship, I was “in love” with him. But when the everydayness of marriage and circumstantial storms invaded our lives and many conflicts between us arose out of it all (plus, the fact that Steve and I were very young and immature), my “love” seemed to disappear.
As authors Dr Les and Leslie Parrott wrote in their book I Love You More:
“Without love there would be no wedding, and certainly no marriage. Love is the catalyst for commitment. Love is what insures that every marriage starts out good. But sooner or later every good marriage bumps into negative things. And that’s what honest couples discover —that love, no matter how good, is never enough.”
And it sure wasn’t enough for us —at least not the type of love we had for each other, based mostly on feelings. I may have loved Steve in my own way, but it wasn’t the sustainable love that would hold our relationship together when problems clouded over our feelings.
It was at that critical fork in the road in our marriage that God revealed to me that:
Love is both a noun and a verb.
In other words, “love” names and states your feelings (as a noun), but it is also something that demands action (as a verb) to help it to be and stay real.
Yes, I did many things for Steve (and complained about many of them when it seemed too one-sided), but I didn’t get the concept that my feelings wouldn’t always be pronounced or even evident at times, which would make me want to continue doing things for him.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is one of the many places in the Bible where we can see that God points this out to us. Every “love is” that is mentions in those Bible passages, such as “patient“, “kind“, “does not envy“, “is not rude” etc, puts a verb to it. That doesn’t mean that love is ONLY about actions, but it’s a very important part of it. We sometimes forget that.
What IS Love?
“While someone who says, ‘I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you’ seems to be making a distinction between ‘different loves;’ in fact, they are expressing their confusion about what love really is. And that’s why they’re having marital problems and maybe even an affair (because who are they IN LOVE with?).
“Love is something we articulate in the vocabulary of ACTION. Love is a verb. It’s not a feeling you get from another PERSON; it’s an experience you receive as a result of DEEDS YOU DO for another person. And those deeds are not a secret. In other words, love is NOT a mystery! There are specific things you can do with your spouse to solve your problems and build love in your marriage. (Mort Fertel)
Noun and a Verb
God taught me that I had to put feet to my faith to grow true love for my husband. Love is both a noun and a verb. I still needed to be loving in my actions, even though I wasn’t experiencing the feelings of love. As I did that, eventually the feelings did come along for the ride. I decided to do things for Steve, “as unto the Lord” and trust God for the result. I needed to exercise mature love. This is the type of love that Jesus showed us “while we were yet sinners” as He died for us on the cross.
“Most people think that the FEELING of love comes BEFORE we express love —and in the beginning of a relationship, that’s what happens. You fall in love and THEN you do acts of love. Your feelings inspire your actions.
“But mature love asks more of you. To create a strong LASTING marriage, you first CHOOSE LOVING ACTIONS. Your feelings will follow. After all, you don’t jog two miles or skip dessert because you feel healthy. You feel healthy because you jogged two miles and skipped dessert. So too, when it comes to your marriage, YOUR ACTIONS CREATE YOUR FEELINGS!” (From the article “Change the Momentum of Your Marriage” by Mort Fertel)
I’ve learned that you can learn to love the same person all over again with intentionality and God’s help.
I really didn’t think my love would come back for Steve. It’s something God had to work on in my heart and I had to trust Him for. It’s all a part of the faith-walk we are on this side of heaven. I’ve talked to many others who have found themselves in the same place with their spouses. They thought the same thing. But I did what I needed to do, and they did as well. As a result, our marriages got back onto the right track as a result.
It doesn’t happen this way for everyone, but I’ve seen that it happens more than we could imagine as we trust God to help us to live as we should, no matter what we see going on at the time.
For me, it was a journey that God took me on to learn what real love was all about. I needed to learn more about God, whose very name means LOVE. If He couldn’t teach me how to love and be one who is more lovable, who could? I got into the Bible and learned more about God’s ways. Then I learned more about my husband, and worked on my own issues. I became intentional in living out the principles of love I was learning even before I had the feelings I desired. It was a difficult journey but one worth taking.
I can relate to what author Nancie Carmichael wrote:
“Marriage can be better than ever, if we will do what Jesus says. We can be very complicated when it comes to restoring love. We wait for ‘feelings.’ But we don’t need to wait for the feelings of love —we can “do” love. Jesus says that we are to do what He says. What does it mean to ‘do’ what He says?
“It means to be kind to one another. It means we will lay down our lives for each other —which could mean truly listening to one another. Also, it means we speak the truth in love to each other and treat each other as we want to be treated. These are not dramatic, new ideas. But love never fails. It bears fruit. The amazing thing about Jesus is that feelings follow actions.” (Nancie Carmichael, from the web site article titled, “Fall in Love with Your Spouse Again”)
Again, something that marriage expert, Mort Fertel says applies as well:
“Just as there are physical laws of the universe (such as gravity), there are also laws for relationships. Just as the right diet and exercise program makes you physically stronger, certain habits in your relationship WILL make your marriage stronger. It’s a direct cause and effect. If you know and apply the laws, the results are predictable —you can ‘make’ love (from the article “I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You“).
I realize by saying all of this, that I may be “preaching to the choir.” You may be “doing” and “making” love until you’re ready to fall apart with no end in sight. And you may be exhausted barely hanging on.
I have to say that I don’t know the journey you are on in all of this. And I truly am sorry for your pain. It may be that you need to keep asking God to show you how to endure without seeing an end in sight. I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve actually been there before in other prayer areas of my life.
I’m reminded of Noah and Abraham and Joseph and Job, from the Bible. They probably saw no end in sight to their situations. But eventually they did see a positive answer to their toils and their prayers.
Not Giving Up
I think of missionaries who will go years and years without a single convert. Then eventually, because they kept going on and didn’t give up (despite continual discouragement), they saw a glimmer of hope. And hope was renewed; and prayers were answered.
I’m also reminded of the many gold miners in the United States, years ago, who gave up JUST before they would have struck gold. History records how close they came to victory. But someone else received the benefit of their labor instead. That’s because they gave up JUST before the going got good.
What I Can Tell You
I can’t tell you if that is the journey you are on or not. But I do know that it tells us in the Bible “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
And I can tell you that Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
It also says in the Bible that “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
God is Here for You
I can’t tell you that the “rest” or the renewed “strength” you will receive, or the “harvest” will come in the way that you expect. God’s ways can’t be boxed in and predicted like that. But just as Elijah found out, God is there for us, even in a whisper (see 1 Kings 19) or a completely different way.
When we trust him and “lean not upon our own understanding” as we’re told in Proverbs 3:5-6, He will make our “paths straight” for the journey we are on. HE will “not leave us or forsake us” (see Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5), even if others might do so.
He might be quiet for a while for whatever purpose He may have, but you can be assured that He loves you and is closer than you think.
Don’t Have All the Answers
This article cannot give you all the answers. I don’t have them. I’ve learned a lot through the years about love and marriage and not giving up and persevering beyond the strength I thought I had.
Some of you may have to live out tougher love than you ever thought you would or could. How I wish I could change that for you. I know the type of pain that involves and it’s worse than one can often describe. If you believe this might be the case for you, the following Crosswalk.com article may help you better understand this concept:
And then for a different twist, the following are some ideas to pray about from an article that isn’t written from a Christian perspective. (It isn’t posted on a Christian web site either). However, it gives serious food for thought. It’s something to prayerfully consider when your spouse says, “I don’t love you.” Please click onto the link below to read:
Again, we can’t give you all of the answers within this article. But in my research, I’ve learned a few additional things from other marriage educators and authors. I’d like to pass them along to you. It may be the reason you are to read this article, to gain a clearer understanding of your situation. Eventually the Lord will reveal more to help you in the future.
When a person says, “I love you but I’m not IN love with you,” not only is it emotionally traumatizing for the person on the receiving end of those words, but it’s also confusing. “Where did their LOVE run off to?” And “how can I make sense of all of this?” And “what do I do about the love I feel for my spouse now that he/she says ‘I don’t love you?'” can be a few of the many, many questions that come up.
The spouse who is delivering this horrible message to the other spouse is actually wrestling with other issues:
“The excuse ‘I’m not in love with you anymore’ is nonsensical. Let me tell you why. There is no such emotional condition as falling out of love; it’s a justification for doing whatever you are planning on doing. It’s a way to let your spouse down easy.
“What you’re really feeling and should be saying is ‘I don’t want to love you anymore.’ It usually means that the attitude towards your spouse and marriage is not what it once was. Perhaps you are talking yourself into having an affair or perhaps you have already had an affair.
“The person who says ‘I’m not in love with you anymore’ is searching for a feeling. The marriage has stopped giving them a feeling they want and expect to have.'” (Angie Lewis from the Beyondprose.com article titled “I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You Anymore)
As I said before, feelings can come and go.
“A person who says, ‘I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you,’ is making a distinction between 2 different feelings. But NEITHER of those feelings are love! When a person says, ‘I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you,’ they’re saying that I CARE about you but I’m not EXCITED about you.
“CARING about someone is a good thing. It’s reflective of CONCERN. But it’s different than love. I care about the starving children in Africa, but I don’t love them. Being EXCITED about someone is a good thing. But it’s different than love. I might be excited to have a relationship with President of the United States or a Hollywood star, but that doesn’t mean I love them. (Mort Fertel, in the Christian Post article, “I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You.” …You can also receive Successful Marriage Tips via the email, on his web site.)
Again, there is a difference in feelings and the label we can put upon the term “love” but true love is more than having feelings for a person. There is more required to truly live out a “life of love” as we’re told in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Do What It Takes
IF eventually, your spouse will listen to reason, and will put effort into making your marriage work once again, you both need to do what it takes to bring love back into your everyday lives with each other.
“The key to love is attention. More specifically Brett Williams, the author of You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married: Love-Based Solutions for Couples, believes that love is the free gift of our attention. ‘When couples are dating they bring all kinds of attention to each other on a daily basis. As a result, their love is never stronger. But after the vows are given, the pair stops pursuing. Their attention is instead turned toward their careers, their new family, and taking care of the home. This is when their love becomes starved for attention. And this is where the feeling of closeness begins to wane.’
“’Intuitively everyone understands this relationship between love and attention. This is so much so that the words are used almost interchangeably. Therefore in order to reconnect they need to bring attention to one another. What they need is a weekly date night.
“’A movie and dinner is not going to cut it. The way couples typically date brings very little attention. For the dates to be effective in creating closeness they must follow the principles that govern love/attention:
1) Attention is drawn to novelty
2) Energy grabs attention
3) Attention comes in three forms
“’A great date will contain variety, vitality, and attention in a style the other person wants.’”
To obtain ideas to get you onto a good footing to grow your love, please visit the Romantic Ideas topic. We recommend you glean through and use that, which will help you to grow your love for each other.
Lastly, on this issue, here’s a portion of what Pastor Mark at Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue said in a sermon titled, “Friends with Benefits.” It’s something for you to prayerfully consider:
“People may fall out of repentance, but they don’t fall out of love. God tells us we can love our enemies. How? Because love doesn’t begin with or emanate from us; God is love. Even when we’re not feeling particularly friendly toward our spouse, we can still love them with the love that God gives.”
I/we wish new and true love could be infused into your spouse’s heart for you. We also wish love could develop instantly in your heart for your spouse! Unfortunately, learning to love again and anew, takes more than hopes and wishes. It takes intentionality to learn what God can and will teach to those who are willing to participate.
Steve and I can’t do much more for you than what we offer in this article and on this web site. But what we can do is point you to the One who can renew your hope. We encourage you to believe that this is not the end of the world for you. The Lord can bind up your broken heart and bring healing. He can help in ways you may not be able to imagine.
I would like to share something with you that is written in Stormie Omartian’s book, Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage. It is a prayer, based on scripture, God can use to help you in your situation. It’s titled “Prayer for Breakthrough in Me.” You may want to use it as an outline to pray through, for God to minister to your heart.
You can’t MAKE your spouse participate in your marriage in the way he or she should. But you can ask God to keep your heart, mind and focus centered on doing things His way. You can ask Him to give you peace of mind in the process.
When you don’t feel in love, here’s a prayer:
“LORD I COME BEFORE YOU. I cast all my cares at Your feet, knowing that You care for me (1 Peter 5:7). I thank You that Your plans for me are for a good future filled with peace and hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Help me to remember that no matter what is happening in my marriage, You will never leave or forsake me.
“Lord, I confess as sin any time I have felt hopeless about my situation. Your Word says that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes, it is a tree of life’ (Proverbs 13:12). When time passes for so long and I see no change, I feel heartsick and hopeless. But I confess any hopelessness I have to You. You have said that whatever doesn’t come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). It reveals that my faith in Your power to change things is weak. Please help me to not hesitate to hope again out of fear that I will be disappointed. I commit to trusting in You at all times. I pour out my heart before You, knowing You are my God of refuge (Psalm 62:8).
“Help me to become a child —entirely dependent upon You. I know that this is the safest place I can be. I pray that You would ‘search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (Psalm 139:23-24). Enable me to become all I need to be.
“In the midst of challenges in my marriage I say, ‘Be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by’ (Psalm 57:1).
“We may suffer at times in this marriage because of things one of us has done or not done. Yet I know that You are ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’ (Ephesians 3:20-21). I will be strong and take heart because my hope is in You (Psalm 31:24).
“Thank You that You put my tears in Your bottle (Psalm 56:8). I pray that You would give me ‘beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ (Isaiah 61:1-3). Make me to be a pillar of righteousness for Your glory. Help me to not cease my ‘work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ I know You can change everything in my life (1 Thessalonians 1:3). In Jesus’ name I pray.”
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
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