I don’t know if I dread hearing those words from someone more than I dread knowing I don’t feel it for my lover any longer: I am not in love with you anymore.
It seemed harmless enough when you heard it used as a pick up in Top Gun:
You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips
You’re trying hard not to show it, (baby)
But baby, baby I know it
You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone…gone…gone…woah
Now there’s no welcome look in your eyes when I reach for you
And now you’re starting to criticize the things I do
It makes me just feel like crying (baby)
‘Cause baby, something beautiful’s dying
But then you live it. And you know something beautiful is gone. Possibly for good.
But Jed Diamond says that is not necessarily the end. It is the invitation into deeper love. He reminds us that psychology has mapped four stages of love. These are:
Stage 1: Falling In Love
Stage 2: Becoming a Couple
Stage 3: Disillusionment
Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love
When we hit disillusionment, many couples believe they are with the wrong person. They do not lack love – they lack the skills to get through to something deeper.
“We get sick more easily, sometimes seriously sick…We usually don’t recognize the illnesses as stress reactions. It’s terrifying to feel love slipping away.” -Jed Diamond. I used to get chronic bronchitis at this time of year. My cough could get so bad that I had to sleep sitting up. And when my dying relationships ended, so did my coughing.
“This is the stage where many marriages fail. We go our separate ways, eventually fall in love again, we repeat steps 1, 2, 3, and the cycle repeats itself. But that need not be the case. Disillusionment does not mean you’ve picked the wrong partner or the love you thought you had has drained away. It means you are ready to let go of the illusions of love and get down to the real thing.” – Jed Diamond
I have been in a few serious relationships and I can attest to repeating steps 1 through 3 across a decade. The disillusionment stage has led me to look elsewhere instead of going deeper. In fairness, I have not had those skills and so I attracted partners who did not either.
“Now having been married for thirty-five years, I understand that there can be some pretty terrible times. But getting through those times together is how we learn about real, lasting love. Over the years we learned to heal old wounds, quit blaming our partner for not fulfilling our needs, and reclaiming our lost power. It’s not easy to work things out together. But knowing about the four stages of love and remembering the words of Carl Rogers and the look of love between him and (his wife) Helen has guided my journey. I hope it will help guide yours as well. The end of “being in love” is the opportunity for “real, lasting love.” It doesn’t happen fast and it isn’t ever all sweetness and light. But there’s nothing better in the world to do with our lives than to learn to love, deeply and well.” -Jed Diamond
I recall Adyashanti describing the one thing spiritual partners need to keep a relationship healthy. They both need to value the third entity they are creating – the relationship. I cannot imagine what it takes to be willing to open myself past the disillusionment stage. I don’t even know if I will open to the falling in love stage again.
But I agree – there’s nothing better in the world to do with our lives than to learn to love, deeply and well.