What Happens When the Love in Marriage Is Gone?

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Most people rank love high on the list of ingredients that are essential for a happy and healthy marriage. But sometimes people have unrealistic expectations of what love should look and feel like. Much like marriages and the people in them, love is subject to evolution. If you feel as if the love in your marriage has pulled a disappearing act, you might be wondering what happens next. The future of your marriage may depend largely on how much energy you and your spouse are willing to invest in rekindling the passion and reconnecting with each other.

Where Did the Love Go?

For the average couple facing what might seem like the loss of love within the relationship, it’s usually more a case of mistaken identity than it is an actual lack of love. Time and experience change the shape of love, and sometimes it’s easy to confuse love’s evolution with its disappearance. You are more likely to lose the rose-colored glasses through which you view your beloved than you are to lose love itself.

In the early stages of a relationship, love is like a drug that lights up the brain’s reward centers and delivers a powerful feeling of euphoria. New love is passionate and exciting, but the euphoria it produces is also temporary. As the relationship evolves over time, it's inevitable that the passion starts to fade, the rose-colored glasses come off, and your brain settles into a calmer state. When you reach this stage of your marriage, which typically happens at some point within the first three years, you might be tempted to think that the love is gone, but what is truly missing is the "high" that same love once gave you. Even if you ended your marriage in pursuit of the next high with a new person, that euphoria would eventually run out too because passionate, romantic love has a limited shelf life. But while the passion is not meant to last, it does have the potential to be rekindled intermittently. A little bit of effort and commitment go a long way to get that elusive, fiery passion burning again once in a while.

Rekindling the Love

Love cannot sustain a raging, passionate fire for very long. No matter how much you try to feed the fire, it will eventually subside into slow-burning embers. While the original wildfire that burned between you may be lost, it's possible to fan the embers and help bring the flames back to life from time to time. Taking deliberate steps to reignite that spark of love can keep your marriage happy and healthy long after the initial passion has fizzled out.

Make a conscious effort to increase physical contact with your spouse. A satisfying sex life is important, but physical connection can happen outside of the bedroom too. Cuddle up close while watching TV on the couch, hold hands, enjoy a prolonged embrace, engage in a little flirting and kiss each other like you used to when you first started dating. Skin-to skin contact and lingering hugs can release oxytocin in the brain and help revive some of those pleasurable sensations of the early love high. Be generous with compliments and expressions of gratitude for your spouse. Show him how much you appreciate him and the little things he does for you and the family. Take a romantic vacation together or plan a surprise date night for the two of you. Take the time to gaze into each other’s eyes for a few minutes at a time. You might feel awkward staring into each other’s eyes, but it can help strengthen the connection between you. If you take proactive measures to engage and connect with each other more meaningfully, you might fall in love with each other all over again.