What is the one-sentence that has ended more relationships than any other? “I love you but I’m not in love with you.” Although it may be overused, this one declaration can be painful for both partners in a romantic relationship. The unwelcome realization that the connection, the spark, the romance is fading away, and that your partner loves you, but they are not in love with you, can be devastating.
So what do you do when your partner loves you, but they are not in love with you?
“Jeremy told me that he loves me but he’s not IN love with me. When I asked him what he meant, he couldn’t really explain it. Something about no longer feeling the same way that he used to but nothing specific. I knew where this was going and sure enough, I was right. The next thing he said was ‘I want us to be friends, good friends’. Well, the very LAST thing I want to be with him right now is his friend. I don’t ever want to see him again!”
Ellen was upset, to put it mildly. Actually she was outraged, and hurt, and confused, and broken-hearted. And if you’ve ever been in Ellen’s shoes, you probably know how she felt. And if you’ve ever been in Jeremy’s shoes, you know what he felt, and perhaps had just as much difficulty articulating it as he did.
“I love you but I’m not IN love with you.” Linda and I have heard from so many people who were on either the sending or the receiving side of this message that we began to get curious about what was going on with them when they received or delivered it.
Some of the things that we heard them say about what they really meant but felt that they couldn’t say were:
— I’m not enjoying our relationship anymore and I don’t really want to continue being in it.
— I don’t think that we’re a good fit.
— The thrill and intensity of the initial infatuation have faded and now it’s not as much fun as it used to be.
— I think you’re a nice person, but I’m holding out for someone with whom there will be no fading effect and things will be easy, fun, and hot with us all the time.
— I’m beginning to notice that we have “issues” and I don’t like where this is going.
— I want to get out before it gets too difficult to leave.
— I’m thinking that you have longer-range plans for us than I do.
— I’m feeling claustrophobic in our relationship and I don’t know how to talk about it without making you upset.
— I’m having feelings that are uncomfortable and disturbing to me and I think that you’re causing them.
— I don’t want to hurt or anger you because then you might do the same to me so I’ll try to say what I need to say in a way that won’t make you feel bad.
— You don’t make me feel the way you used to.
— I want to slow/cool/wind down our relationship.
— I want out.
Not every relationship is meant to last forever, and more often than not, each partner may feel differently about whether or not it’s time to call it quits. But how do you know when it’s really over and when the discomfort that you feel is an indicator that there’s work to be done before you can upgrade your relationship to the next level?