Restoration of love in a relationship.It’s truly possible to take a turn toward getting back the love you once shared
with another person. The short answer to the question of whether we can stop ourselves from falling out of love is
yes. Staying in love is possible, but like most good things in life, it usually takes some effort.
Romantic relationships tend to run a quite predictable course. Initially your partner can do nothing wrong. You are
wearing rose-colored glasses. But over time, differences become annoyances and the novelty of your relationship wears off.
Most couples hit an impasse at the 2 or 3 year mark, when many couples end up breaking up or divorcing. Even
those partners who stay together, may end up living emotionally disengaged lives and struggling to maintain their
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Couples researcher, Sue Johnson, brings us an optimistic message. She believes that we now understand why love
and affection is so difficult to maintain over time, and that we now have the answers that can help us restore love when love begins to wane.
Love she says, is not some mystical feeling that we either feel or don’t feel, and we are not simply at the mercy of
serendipity. Instead there is a science behind love and a predictable way to cultivate it.
This science is not new but goes all the way back to the 1950s when a man named John Bowlby began to study the
interactions between mother and child
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The science of adult attachment originated in Bowlby’s observations of what happens to children when their primary caregiver leaves them.
Based on these experiments, Bowlby made several observations that have relevance to understanding human motivation and adult relationship distress.
The first conclusion is that it is extremely distressing for a child to lose connection with a caregiver. The child needs the connection to feel safe, and when they lose it, they work hard to get the connection back. Bowlby, in other words, stumbled across a human need to feel connected that is so powerful that any threat to it is a real threat to our survival.
The second conclusion is that babies go through a series of predictable stages when trying to reconnect with a loved one: First they amp up their engagement level and fight for the connection. If this doesn’t work they actively protest by crying or screaming. Finally, if no response is forthcoming, they give up and numb themselves.
Have a look at this more recent experiment called “Still Face”:
Attachment Theory and Your Relationship:
So what does attachment theory help us understand about adult relationships?
Committed relationships are strong attachment bonds.
We need what Bowlby calls a secure attachment: a sense that we matter to our partner, that our partner thinks about us, or that we occupy a special role for our partner.
Why Couples Lose their Love Connection:
What happens in most adult relationships is that one or both partners begin to feel insecure about whether or not
they really matter to each other. In this fearful state, they begin to react based on wired-in survival mechanisms.
Just like the child fearful of losing a connection with a caregiver, partners first try to fight for the connection, then protest against their partner’s lack of care or concern, and finally begin to withdraw emotionally.
Over time this corrodes the love in the relationship and replaces it with a fear-based struggle for survival.
Instead of risking vulnerability and sharing their more tender sides, partners now begin to see their partner as withholding, emotionally uninterested, demanding, or critical. The relationship becomes filled with dissatisfaction and the risk of being vulnerable becomes too dangerous.
Partners start doing a dance with each other, where one partner’s insecurities fuels the other partners insecurities in a never-ending cycle:
If you protest by complaining that I don’t care enough to do the dishes, I might withdraw emotionally to protect myself from feeling criticized in the relationship. This then fuels more of your angry protests, which makes me withdraw even more. And round and round we go…
How to Restore Love in Your Relationship:
When couples come to couples therapy, they often don’t know that fears have taken hold of their relationship. They are not aware of the underlying feelings of insecurity and lack of safety that are causing them to disengage or feel dissatisfied with their partner.
Couples therapy can help couples get in touch with their underlying vulnerabilities and longings that they have shut out in order to be strong and protect themselves.
It can help them reestablish safety in the relationship so that needs and feelings can be expressed directly without a fear of being “left hanging” or being “shot down”.