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15+ signs you are falling out of love and how to move forward

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Most people don’t enter into a relationship thinking about how it will end, but the reality is that most relationships do end at some point.

A sociologist at Stanford University found that 60% of unmarried couples who were dating less than two months at the start of his study were no longer together the following year. The rate of breakup among the couples declined 10% per year until the 15-year mark, when the breakup rate flattened at just over 10% for gay couples and 5% for straight couples.

Couples break up for a number of reasons, but issues with a partner’s personality, breach of trust, and partner withdrawal were cited as top factors in a study by the University of Utah

Losing feelings for your partner over time is perfectly normal — and does not necessarily spell the end of your relationship. 

If you’re reading this, you might be wondering if you’re falling out of love with your own partner — or if they’ve fallen out of love with you. 

I reached out to several relationship experts to understand what it means to fall out of love, what warning signs to look out for, and what to do if you or your partner are falling out of love:

What does it mean to fall out of love?

To understand what falling out of love means, you have to understand the science behind falling in love. 

Lesli Doares, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Cary, N.C., has worked with individuals and couples on relationship issues for almost 20 years. She says the “in-love” phase is driven by neurotransmitters and is a biological reaction to someone with different enough DNA to create strong offspring. 

“It is a condition exemplified by heightened senses. Everything about this other person is over-the-top wonderful,” says Doares, who also hosts the radio program, “Happily Ever After is Just the Beginning” on webtalkradio.net and is the author of two books on building a lasting marriage. 

She says this “in-love” phase only lasts 18 months to about 3 years because our bodies cannot maintain this level of neurotransmitters over time. 

“So everyone eventually falls out of love,” Doares says. “The idea is that being in love is replaced by a steadier, more intentional, and deeper love and affection.”

Rachel Kuhlen, an ICF certified life and relationship coach based in Las Vegas, says falling out of love is when you no longer have that deep affection, interest, or pleasure in someone else.  

“It's worth noting that you can love someone as a person but not be ‘in love’ with someone in a profound, intense way,” she says.

How do I know if I am falling out of love?

Kuhlen says if you no longer take an active interest in your partner and you stop communicating actively and effectively, you may be falling out of love. 

“You would rather not spend time with them and look for ways to be apart,” she says. 

Kuhlen says this decreased interest and communication typically happens over time and as we add complexities into our lives and relationships — like children, mortgages, aging parents, work schedules, etc.

“We can start to drift apart, communication becomes about other things that are going on, everyone and everything else rises in importance, and the emphasis on our relationships is gone,” Kuhlen says.

Couples who are falling out of love tend not to focus on maintaining their relationship in practical ways beyond “date night.”

“They honestly don't know what to do to strengthen their relationship or even know that they need to keep working on their relationship,” Kuhlen says.

Annia Palacios, a licensed professional counselor based in Southlake, Texas, and owner of Tightrope Therapy, says it can be difficult to pinpoint when feelings begin to change. 

“Initially, it may feel exactly the same as it did yesterday,” Palacios says. “If we look back to how we felt 30 days ago, one year ago, etc., we can begin to notice the changes, disconnect, contempt, judgment, and dissatisfaction that have set in over time.”

Palacios advises couples to look back at the last 30 days of their relationship and ask these questions:

  • Has hand holding been replaced with pointing fingers? 
  • Have you told your partner what to do more often than you've asked them how they're doing? 
  • Has connection been replaced by independence, feeling like you're co-living like roommates rather than partners in love?

Signs of falling out of love

Doares says there are a lot of signs you could be falling out of love with your partner. She offered these examples: 

  • You start to be aware of your partner’s imperfections
  • Things you either didn’t notice or previously overlooked become a source of annoyance
  • You stop feeling pleased by their actions, and you stop wanting to please them
  • You stop focusing your attention on them and question what they’ve done for you lately

Kuhlen says communication is key to every strong relationship, and when communication breaks down, stops, is selective or argumentative and hurtful, that’s a sign you may be falling out of love.

“In my experience with clients, it's when the communication stops altogether that it becomes the hardest to turn things around,” she says. 

Jason Polk, a couples therapist at Colorado Relationship Recovery in Denver, says the most obvious sign you’re falling out of love is when your relationship feels dead. 

“When both partners have withdrawn for a significant period of time, that's worse than if they fight frequently,” Polk says. 

The pain of falling out of love

When only one person in a relationship starts to fall out of love, the rejected person’s brain registers the emotional pain of heartbreak in the same way it registers physical pain, according to a study conducted by Rutgers University

Falling out of love after infidelity

Palacios says that while falling out of love typically begins as a gradual decline with small changes in emotions, behaviors or thoughts of a partner, infidelity is a non-gradual catalyst for people to fall out of love. 

“These pivotal moments rock our sense of safety in a relationship,” Palacios says. “We experience shock, mistrust, betrayal, and more and can force ourselves to feel out of love as a way of protecting ourselves because we do not want to be hurt this way again.”

Polk says it's normal for couples to have trouble rebuilding trust after infidelity. However, infidelity can also be the driving force for a couple to rebuild their relationship.

“An affair can be a catalyst to transform the relationship and rekindle love if the couple can effectively work through the incident,” Polk says.

Why do people fall out of love?

Kuhlen says that falling out of love — whether it's because of a lack of chemistry, infidelity, or disrespect — is a symptom of underlying issues in the relationship that weren’t addressed or resolved. 

She says couples may not talk about these issues because they feel shame, have desires they are trying to suppress, or they fear judgment from their partner. Some examples might be a troubling past, sexual desire, or lingering financial issue. 

“We take actions like being unfaithful because it seems easier than facing the reality of what's going on inside our heads and trying to explain what we are thinking and feeling in a way that our partner will understand and accept,” Kuhlen says. 

Palacios says people fall out of love simply because they’re human. 

“We fall out of love when we allow life to get in the way of our relationship,” she says. “Being in love means choosing each other — every. single. day.  

She says choosing to prioritize your partner can be hard to do with a never-ending to-do list, overflowing laundry, family obligations and increasing work demands. 

Chemistry can play a role when you fall out of love

Research from the New York University School of Medicine found that the experience of romantic love is caused by three major neurotransmitters: dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin. 

Dopamine is the primary pleasure neurotransmitter of the brain, which plays an important role in both sexual arousal and romantic feelings. Oxytocin and vasopressin are related to attachment and bonding, both romantic and maternal. Both are released during orgasm, childbirth, and breastfeeding. 

When a person falls out of love, the level of these neurotransmitters gradually drops, reducing our romantic feelings, sexual interest, and feelings of attachment.

You feel disrespected

Polk says falling out of love is usually a combination of not trying and disrespect. 

“Feeling disrespected may also be a reason for not trying,” he says. 

You have feelings for someone else

If you develop feelings for someone else, falling out of love with your current partner may be a natural result. Regardless of whether you act on those feelings, your relationship now has an underlying complication, which as Kuhlen previously noted, can affect you individually and as a couple if not addressed.

“You must ‘start over’ as a couple, and any actions or inactions that were happening previously (i.e., not communicating, infidelity, disrespect) have to stop,” she says.

Kuhlen says couples should put in additional work to figure out how to move forward and create safe spaces for communicating their feelings. 

The moment I knew I was falling out of love

Before I met my husband, I was in my first “real” relationship. He was about five years older than me, and I think that had a lot to do with how serious we became in a short amount of time. 

Looking back, I don’t know if I really loved him or just loved the idea of being in a serious relationship, but I do know that things felt heavy. We were constantly together, I spent a lot of time with his family, and I started pulling away from my own friends and family. 

We discussed marriage, kids, our plans for the future — he said he would follow me wherever I happened to get a job after college. But after a few months, the excitement and novelty of being in a serious relationship started to wear off, and I began to see the red flags I had been ignoring.

He was a smoker, which was previously a dealbreaker for me, but I had convinced myself in the beginning that I could get him to quit. He did make an attempt to do that, but I think he resented me for not accepting him as he was. We would argue all the time about little things that I excused as “passion” in our relationship. 

He had numerous female friends who he claimed were like sisters, and I would get jealous when he spent time with them. He would scold me in front of his parents if I made a joke at his expense. If I made plans with friends on a night he wasn’t working, he’d make me feel guilty and like I wasn’t making him a priority.

He put me on a pedestal and would make me feel like I was the most beautiful woman in the world, but I don’t think he was really in love with everything else about me — the stubborn, independent, ambitious person with strong opinions.

While I knew in my gut we were falling out of love, I didn’t have the confidence at the time to end things — until he cheated on me with one of those female friends I was always so insecure about.

I found a Reddit thread asking people to share the moment they fell out of love. Check out the thread and some of the responses:  

Reddit story about falling out of love with rich ex.

“When I realized that I let a 30 year old man, who lives in a house that his parents bought him, who drove a Lexus that his mom made payments on, who bragged about how much money he got from the VA for faking his PTSD, make me feel like absolute dogshit for living at home, and working a low paying job, and trying to save my money to move out.

‘You don't even have the means to be self sufficient. I don't work, and I'm fine.’

Oh my god, I was so repulsed.” — spaghatta111

Reddit story about falling out of love with wife.
Reddit story about infectious disease student falling out of love .

“I told him I was thinking about getting my degree in infectious diseases. He said “lol no one is going to hire you with your last name” (I'm Egyptian) then got mad at me for telling my mom before I told him. I stayed with him a while after that, he'd threaten to kill himself if I ever left. I regret every moment that I stayed after that.” — SpaceAgeUnicorn

Reddit story about boyfriend falling out of love .
Reddit story about breaking up with boyfriend after falling out of love.

“I was sitting on the bathroom floor, sobbing while he was screaming at me. He kept mocking me for crying and it was like someone just flipped a switch and I completely gave up on him. I was done putting up with him and trying to make things worse. I stood up and walked out after a grueling 4 year relationship. Never talked to him again, but he would call and text me, sobbing and saying he was sorry. He's engaged now and getting married this summer.” — wanderingtacos

What does it feel like to fall out of love?

“When you are lonelier with them sitting right next to you in the same room than when they’re not around.” — Casey

“When I realized the idea of us not being together anymore felt like relief.” — Susanne

“After the fact I realized I was more anxious than comfortable in their company.” — Jasmine

“I honestly didn't care if he cheated again, I just didn't want to know about it.” — Kristen

“My realization came during a family trip. Like a bolt of lightning, I had the revelation that I'd spent the last 10 years trying to converse with, entertain, and engage with someone who did not want to converse with me, was not entertained by me, and had no interest in engaging with me. I'd been working my butt off for nothing. It was never going to get better. — Trish

“I knew I had fallen out of love when 1) I could not look him in the eye 2) I had a negative physical reaction to him being near me let alone touching me.” — Amy

“I think love is a verb. So to me, you chose love. You chose that person. Everyday. If you don’t nurture the relationship (by neglect or for valid reason) you can lose feelings.” — Sue

“When I stopped caring about his well-being. When doing anything for his benefit felt like a chore rather than an act of caring.” — Nicole

“When I looked at him and realized I had zero respect for him as a human being.” — Nicole

“Apathy is the opposite of love. Most people think that hate is the opposite of love. But hate is still loaded with passion.Apathy.That’s when you know you’re done… when you don’t care.”

“I wish I had paid attention to the fact that it was getting harder and harder to find a card for special occasions that I could give. I couldn’t give an untrue card, and I wasn’t feeling/believing most of the things any of them said.” — Chelsea

What to know about dating while going through a divorce

Lori is content to be in love with her ex — but in a new way: “Even after learning about his affair, my love didn't stop. We divorced 9 years ago, we both had lots of growing to do. We are good co-parents, and both have supportive partners now. The love between us will always be there, we have kids together, we have a history together, but our love is not romantic love anymore, just real soul-to-soul-lives-intertwined kind of love. I don't think it was ever a fall out of, or into love, it's growth within myself and allowing a peaceful state of new love.”

Do you feel guilty for divorcing a really nice guy?

According to the Rutgers study, the physical pain of falling out of love can lead to clinical depression and in extreme cases, thoughts of suicide. If you are struggling with your mental health in your relationship, you can seek help from a licensed therapist on BetterHelp. Check out our BetterHelp review here.

And if you are having thoughts of suicide, please do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.

Is it normal for couples to fall out of love?

Palacios says it is absolutely normal for couples to fall out of love as they grow as individuals. 

“We have to be intentional about growing together because it can be very easy to grow apart, even without meaning to,” she says. 

Can you fall back in love after falling out of love?

“Yes, you can fall back into love,” says Wyatt Fisher, PhD, a licensed psychologist specializing in marriage counseling in Boulder, Colo., and author of Total Marriage Refresh: 6 Steps to Marital Satisfaction. “The first step is to work through all areas of resentment in the relationship. The second step is to build back friendship and affection. The third step is to build back your sexual connection.”

Doares says that while you can fall back in love with your partner, you probably won’t experience the same initial “high” because you can only experience “new” with someone once. But you can focus on the things that make you feel good about the person. 

Her advice?

Don’t ignore their imperfections, but “let the positive things they bring to your life take priority.”

Divorced mom Carolyn Barry offers this wisdom:  

“The initial honeymoon phase won’t come back. But you can build mature love if you both want it.”

Is it okay to fall out of love?

Palacios says most couples (if not all) will drift apart as their relationship goes on and can begin to gradually fall out of love. 

“We have to be intentional about recognizing it and course-correcting to get ourselves and our relationship back on track,” Palacios says.

But not all relationships are meant to last forever. If you are in an unhappy relationship or toxic relationship, it is OK to leave your partner, even if that means getting a divorce

Advice on what you should do if you think you are falling out of love

If you think you are falling out of love and want to salvage your relationship, Palacios offered these tips to reconnect with your partner:

  • Focus on physical connection: Hold hands as you walk into the grocery store, hug each other for a few seconds, kiss like you mean it.
  • Find ways to spend quality time together: Find a hobby with your partner that you can bond over together. Shared interests and commonality build and reignite connection.
  • Appreciate each other: At the end of the day, ask yourself what you appreciated in your partner that day. 

“It is OK for this to be tough, particularly when you haven't felt connected to somebody,” Palacios says. “Share what you appreciate directly with your partner to build mutual connection and respect.”

Polk says the most important thing is to tell your partner what you need and want. 

“See if you can help them come through for you,” he says. “If they can't, consider couples counseling and see if what you are not getting in the relationship is a deal breaker for you.”

What does it mean to fall out of love?

Lesli Doares, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Cary, N.C., has worked with individuals and couples on relationship issues for almost 20 years. She says the “in-love” phase is driven by neurotransmitters and is a biological reaction to someone with different enough DNA to create strong offspring.

How do I know if I am falling out of love?

Rachel Kuhlen, an ICF certified life and relationship coach, says if you no longer take an active interest in your partner and you stop communicating actively and effectively, you may be falling out of love.

Is it normal for couples to fall out of love?

Annia Palacios, a licensed professional counselor, says it is absolutely normal for couples to fall out of love as they grow as individuals.

Can you fall back in love after falling out of love?

“Yes, you can fall back into love,” says Wyatt Fisher, PhD, a licensed psychologist specializing in marriage counseling.

Is it okay to fall out of love?

Annia Palacios, a licensed professional counselor, says most couples (if not all) will drift apart as their relationship goes on and can begin to gradually fall out of love.

Leighann Bacher is a writer/editor based in Pittsburgh, Pa. She received her degree in journalism from Kent State University and has since worked for major metropolitan newspapers, marketing firms and city magazines. Leighann was named one of Pittsburgh Magazine's '40 Under 40 Honorees' for spearheading a social media campaign to connect people with COVID-19 vaccines and resources. Her greatest joy is spending time with her two kids and dabbling in her creative passions of photography, dance and art.

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