What causes the feelings of romantic attraction to fade?

Countless couples complain of losing the “spark” in their relationship. Some chalk it up to evolved differences, a slow growing apart, or sheer familiarity. The wave of “deadness” that can submerge a relationship after the first few thrilling months or years has caused many couples to lose hope, and even look elsewhere for the excitement of newfound intimacy. Thus, it may be time to really examine what causes one’s affections to wane. What prompts the shift from helpless love to deep disinterest? What turns our heart-racing enthusiasm for another person to boredom and dissatisfaction? My take on this topic is that the reason that this happens is that either party (or both in some cases) do not simply put in continual efforts.

It seems to happen often enough. One day you are out with friends for dinner or take a vacation together. They look happy enough. And now, suddenly, you hear that they are splitting. No one plans on having their relationship disintegrate. If we could only go back in time and put our fingers on some of the early symptoms, perhaps we could prevent some relationships from falling apart. Many times we wake up when it is too late to turn back the clock. Words were spoken that shot daggers into the heart. Actions were taken that left imprints on the soul. Or an insurmountable distance has been created between the two. The gap that remains is wider than the love that is felt. A bridge of understanding would unite and bring comfort but all that is left is a deep and gaping hole. And sadly, the couple falls off the cliff.

One of the greatest dangers to lasting love is living life on autopilot. We begin to take each other and our relationship for granted. We perpetuate the behaviours that we know, deep inside, are hurting us. We have a nagging sense that this is not good but we let it slide because we can’t begin to imagine how bad this really is. It is only with time that we wake up one day and realise that we are not in a good place. We are not happy, we feel lonely and we do not recognize ourselves or our partner. These behaviors can continue for years, chipping away at the sacred bond of the relationship. But because it happens slowly we do not understand how harmful our negative patterns really can be. Imagine living with emotional carbon monoxide that is seeping in to the very air that we breathe. Our relationship begins to fade away right before us; yet we go on, oblivious as to what is happening in front of our own eyes.

The acronym FADE is one of the root causes for the ‘loss of spark’. F – Fighting about the same issue over and over again. There are some couples who find that they keep on arguing about the same thing all the time. Instead of resolution, this couple just keeps putting the subject on hold until the next time. As long as you cannot find peace this issue will be casting a shadow and coming back to stir up trouble. After a while, the argument feels tired and old and you start to avoid your partner in an attempt to avoid the routine arguements. A – Always bickering. This pattern brings us to a couple who cannot get through the day without constant little squabbles. It does not have to be about anything important; it does not even need to be about anything at all. The danger here is that you do not enjoy each other’s company anymore. You know that being together leads to tension and hurt feelings. Somehow, you have lost the feeling of pleasure and instead you have fallen into behavior that causes you both to swat at each other emotionally. D – Distancing yourself. We even forget to give each other a hug or a warm smile. We don’t remember to make time for the one who has always loved us most-our partner in life. E – Emotional detachment. It is important for us to feel for each other even if we do not always agree or understand each other. When we lose the sensitivity that we once had for our loved one, we begin to travel a different road. Somehow, we end up at different destinations.

Not making the relationship the permanent priority is another issue that we need to look at. Most couples will put endless amounts of time and energy into the relationship in the early stages, usually the first couple of years. The relationship is exciting and fulfilling and there is a lot of thought put into how to keep it healthy. Little wonder people thrive in this ‘honeymoon period’ of a relationship. Once couples are in their comfort zone, they start to take their eye off the relationship and expect it will continue to move along as it has in the past but without the effort. For many people, they believe that if the relationship is a good one, then is should not require effort. This is not true. Every relationship requires effort and the happiest relationships are the ones that have been given plenty of attention. For most couples, the relationship was given top priority at the beginning and fast track to the present and it is often given the lowest priority.

Communication gaps and/or grave silence can be detrimental to a relationship between two people. Many couples have difficulty in their relationships because of a failure to communicate well. One of the major reasons for the establishment of a communication gap between couples is due to the suppression of doubts and/or feelings they have about themselves, each other, or their relationship. The causes of doubts can be many, but when a person suppresses these feelings instead of talking through them with his/her partner, it can cause serious problems in the relationship, such as avoidance or neglect.

You start to focus on the few negative experiences in your relationship and fail to recognize or recall the positives, in turn donning the negative filter. Explanation four – You probably bring up past history in a series of complaints that sounds like you’re putting your partner on trial: “You were rude to me last week”. You may recognize the positive things in your relationship but disregard them: “Well, so what if he did that?”. This kind of an attitude slowly gives rise to constant bickering and fights which in turn lead to one or both of them harbouring anger. It then becomes an unending cycle of fights until one of you gets fed up.

It’s Not What We Say That Damages A Relationship, It’s What We Don’t Say. Without good communications, resentments and disappointments can easily fester and damage our relationships. In the midst of an argument or row we can all say things that we are not proud of. We may deliberately try to hurt our partners or control them with our words. These are clearly unhelpful in solving any differences that we have with our partners, but there are also things that we don’t say, and these are even more destructive. We will have a range of fears and insecurities that never get aired in the relationship, and it is these unmentioned issues that create so many problems for us. The things that we don’t talk about with our partner will be the things that we are afraid to raise for fear that the issues they contain will bring up all sorts of difficult or painful emotions. Perhaps our partner has been unreasonable or lazy recently and we feel let down and hurt. Our unwillingness to talk about their behaviour means that we will have to suppress our resentments and probably go into sacrifice around them. Our fear will be that if we tell our partner about these they will judge us negatively, and then they might push us away or reject us. The unspoken issues in a relationship are like time-bombs and they tick away continuously in the background of our lives. If we keep them hidden they will start creating the very things that we are afraid of.

The infamous power struggle is also one of the factors which cause the affections to dim. Some of us will act out our power struggle through arguments and rows, while some of us will use much more subtle forms of competition such as withdrawal and moodiness. You will know you have entered the power struggle if you are feeling anything less than true love for your partner! We might begin to doubt if our partner really is the right one for us and if this carries on, may choose to end the relationship, or find that our partner leaves us. This is often far too soon to make such a decision. Amazing as it may seem, the very traits that we find so undesirable in our partner are the same ones that we have failed to deal with in our own minds – that is why they annoy or disturb us so much. In the power struggle it is not unusual to see negative personality traits that we associate with our parents appearing in our partner.

For most relationships the honeymoon stage eventually ends, typically after six months to one year. We begin to see aspects of our partner which make us feel uncomfortable. They may react to situations differently from us, act in ways that we find difficult or begin to lose interest in us. During the honeymoon stage we and our partner deliberately (though subconsciously) hide the negative aspects of our personality and behaviour and focus on giving and receiving love. As we become more familiar and closer to our partner the negative traits are revealed. This can come as a huge disappointment because we realise that they are not as perfect as we thought – worse still they think the same about us! The sense of unease causes each partner to withdraw and this sets up a vicious circle and damaging pattern for the relationship and we end up not contributing any efforts to make it work! The relationship will gradually sink towards what has been called the Dead Zone. This is a time when we may become bored with our partner and life in general. They may bury themselves in work or a pastime and take little interest in us. At the heart of the Dead Zone is withdrawal and emotional dissociation.

In the Dead Zone a relationship loses its sense of connection and the feelings of love. Love may remain as an idea rather than a feeling – you will know that you love somebody but the emotion has lost the delicious sensations that you experienced when you first fell in love. We subdue our emotions in this stage because we are afraid to deal with the fears and negative feelings that might come up if we were to communicate our insecurities to our partner. We are afraid that they will not love us, think us bad and even abandon us if we were to be totally honest about how we feel towards the relationship and about our self. Unfortunately we are largely unaware of these feelings as they are hidden in the unconscious mind. By always choosing to move towards your partner with a feeling of love and compassion, even when they are in pain or behaving badly, allows the insecurities and fears that you both have, to rise to the surface for healing. You may have to do this time and again as many layers of pain come up from deep within your mind, but each time you will experience a new honeymoon stage.

Even if you return to the power struggle or dead zone now and again, your growing confidence in working with your partner on your issues and the wonderful sensations that come from re-discovering true intimacy will provide the incentive to keep going. Relationships are rarely fairy tales – we must be willing to continually work at them. If we have the courage to do this, then the rewards are assured. Remember – If you are feeling negative feelings or difficulties in your relationship, always move towards your partner and join with them with feelings of forgiveness, love and compassion – do this with an open heart and it never fails. Because deep-rooted and persisting efforts are the key to not letting that ‘spark’ fade!

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