How to Fall Out of Love
Sometimes I wish everything was as direct and straightforward as teaching algebra. Where every concept begins with a clear definition, which can then be followed by a specific series of steps that, when followed correctly, will always lead to the desired solution.
But life is not as direct and straightforward as algebra.
Especially when it comes to love.
Poets, philosophers, clergymen, psychologists and even scientists have wrangled with its definition for millennia, yet no consensus has been reached. Most of us have experienced being in love, yet all struggle to assign words to the experience.
Even with the nebulous nature of love, I think we all agree that it feels overwhelming amazing while it’s growing, comforting and supportive once established
and unbelievably agonizing and distressing when it ends.
This is especially acute when the ending is unwanted. And the rejection absolute and sudden.
When you still love the one that no longer loves you.
We speak of the beginning of love as falling, as though we have no control once we’re within the field of the gravitational force of attraction. The coming together seen as inevitable.
Which means falling out of love is working against that gravitational pull. A slow and deliberate climb away from the influence of the attraction.
And much like gravity, its effect lessens as you move further away. But those first few steps are tortuous.
Even though love cannot be defined, it can be broken down into some of its constituent parts. And even though love has no formula, there are ways to address each step along the road out of love.
When you’re in love, you have companionship. Your “Netflix and chill” partner lives in the same home. You know how you’ll spend your evenings and you know who will sit across the dinner table from you. You probably spend less time with others than before you married as your spouse naturally becomes your primary social contact.
To fall out of love, fill the voids in your life. I liken the feeling of being alone post-divorce to sitting in a cold and empty bathtub after a bathing companion has left. When the cold porcelain is chilling your bones, you turn back on the water. When you face the void at the end of a marriage, seek to fill the voids in your life. Was Thursday night pizza night in your home? Sign up for a class to keep you occupied on that night. Buy more pillows to occupy the now-empty space in your bed. Instead of staying at home, replace date night with “reconnect with friends” night. Wherever there is a void, find something to put in its place.
When you’re in love, you have a sense of being known and accepted. One of most driving needs of all of us is a desire to be seen, understood and loved as we are. And that’s one of the most magical parts of love – we can be our imperfect, messy selves and still feel as though we are honored and respected. Our partner is the one who knows our greatest fears and our biggest dreams. They can anticipate our needs and know just how to cultivate a smile.
To fall out of love, focus on getting to know yourself again. It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting that your spouse will make you happy. As a result, you may have lost touch with yourself – your needs, your desires and perhaps most importantly, how to take care of yourself. Court yourself. Get to know yourself. Fall in love with yourself.
When you’re in love, you have somebody you can count on. There’s a comfort in having a name and number to enter in your “emergency contacts.” It’s nice to know that somebody can pick up the Advil when you’re sick and the slack when you’re busy. Your spouse easily becomes your primary support structure. Always there with your back.
To fall out of love, build and nurture a larger support system. It’s easy to take your spouse’s support for granted. It’s dangerous to place too much weight on any one person; things can happen (not just divorce). Build your community. It’s scary to reach out and ask for help, yet people often are waiting to help once you tell them what you need. It’s okay to take more support than you give right now. Just don’t forget to pay that kindness back once you’re able.
When you’re in love, you have biochemistry on your side. Love is a drug. What we call “falling” could also be described as “tripping,” as our brains are awash in hormones that cause positive feelings, bonding and relaxation. The body wants you to create a stable relationship for long enough to have and at least partially raise children. And biology is a powerful force indeed.
To fall out of love, view your residual unwanted feelings as signs of withdrawal. If love is a drug, divorce is going cold turkey. Be patient with your cravings. They are to be expected. Accept that it’s going to be hard, especially at first, and that you will have relapses. And seek help if you need it. There is no shame is asking for assistance.
When you’re in love, you have a shared history. A private language of relieved moments and memories. There are the inside jokes, the special places and the family rituals. There are the shared family stories about the first time you met or the birth of the first child.
To fall out of love, reconnect with people from your past and/or layer memories in your present. It’s a lonely feeling when you lose the only person that speaks that private language. But there may be others that also know you well. This is a great time to reach out to those long-lost childhood friends. Laugh over shared early memories. The more pictures unearthed, the better. You can also work to create a new shared history through intentionally layering new memories over the old. It’s a way of reclaiming those memories instead of allowing them to limit you.
When you’re in love, you have a teammate. Someone on your side. Someone to work with. A coparent. A coworker. A copilot. You fight life’s battles together. And you celebrate life’s victories together.
To fall out of love, celebrate your new freedoms. Having a teammate is a bit like approaching life as though you’re running a three-legged race. You are working together, yet you are also somewhat limited by your partner. When you’re on your own, you have to learn to be stronger yet you are also more nimble. Explore those freedoms. You’re in the driver’s seat.
When you’re in love, you have sexual energy and release. You have a horizontal dance partner that has learned your moves and hopefully mastered theirs. You don’t need to woo your lover or spend energy wondering if you’ll find a lover.
To fall out of love, channel that energy elsewhere. Sex has two components – the physical release and the mental release that comes from a switch from a more analytical brain to a more animalistic and intuitive one. Address both.
When you’re in love, you have shared dreams and goals. You work together to overcome obstacles and build a shared life. The shared goals become a life organizer. A reason for every action and decision.
To fall out of love, create purpose. Volunteer. Sign up for something with a finish line. Pour yourself into your job. Or parenting. Make you matter.
When you’re in love, you have attachment. You and your partner grow together. And you bond. You feel affection. You become accustomed. Your spouse becomes almost a part of you.
To fall out of love, depersonalize rejection. Just because it happened to you does not mean it happened because of you. Such a simple statement, yet one of the most difficult to accept when you’ve been rejected. The truth is that the rejection says more about your former partner then it does about you. Learn to separate yourself from what happened to you.
When you’re in love, you have idealization. You place your partner on a pedestal, highlighting the good while whitewashing the bad. And those rose-colored glasses help to preserve love as you see the best of your partner and they see the best in you.
To fall out of love, focus on the negative. Tear out the pedestal and shine a light on your ex partner’s flaws. Remind yourself of all that you don’t like in them. Take it to the extreme if you need to right now. Once you’ve fallen out of love, you can strive for more balance again.
When you’re in love, you have security. You know who is waiting for you at home. You know that you can cry or scream and that person will still be there.
To fall out of love, embrace the power of vulnerability. It takes great courage to be vulnerable. It’s scary. Especially if you fear rejection. Yet there is a beauty, a realness and a rawness, that only exists when people are willing bare all. Explore it.
When you’re in love, you have anticipation. You look forward to your partner’s embrace. You miss them when they’re gone and count the moments until they return again. Time before the time together passes slowly in delicious agony.
To fall out of love, schedule smiles. Take out your calendar and pencil in activities and events to look forward to. Bonus points if you invite someone to share in the smile with you:)
When you’re in love, you have a spiritual partner. Perhaps you share a spiritual practice and a common view of your place and purpose in the world. Maybe your marriage and family is your center and gives you a sense of meaning.
To fall out of love, recommit to your your spiritual journey. If you belong to a church, this may be the time to dedicate more energy. If you don’t have a church, this may be a time to find one. If you’re a spiritual do-it-your-selfer, commit to what speaks to your soul. Spirituality is a wonderful reminder that we are not alone and that our problems are smaller than we often believe. It’s a gift of perspective.
When you’re in love, you have trust. You depend upon your partner. Rely on them. Have faith that they have your best interests at heart and they will always be there for you.
To fall out of love, build self-confidence. It’s good to trust others. And it’s even better to trust yourself. Believe that you can do this. Have faith that you can be happy again. Trust that you can fall out of one love and into another.