When you’re in love with someone, you’re probably not thinking about when or how you’re going to fall out of love. You’re probably thinking about how cute your partner is, or about the date you’re planning for your anniversary, or how dreamy their voice sounds when they first wake up in the morning. You might not realize the relationship has run its course until after the dust settles and you find yourself unhappy, asking yourself whether you can actually stop being in love with someone. The short answer? Definitely, and you can start to notice these changes after the honeymoon phase is over.
“In general, there is that delicious period where we fall in love with our partner,” Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples’ therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily. “The reasons we do may be based upon physical attraction, qualities we see that we really like about them, and the promise that this person is or may be your ‘soulmate.’” Dr. Brown says this period of falling in love (otherwise known as the aforemetnioned “honeymoon phase”) can last from a few weeks to a few years. It’s easy to over-idealize your partner during this time, but once you get past the gloss and start experiencing life together — and all the good and not-so-good it brings — that excitement and newness can begin to fade. “Sooner or later, there is going to be a period where we transition into real love based upon the understanding that our partner is, indeed, not perfect… nor is even the best of partners,” says Dr. Brown.
But the end of the honeymoon phase isn’t a death sentence for your relationship. “This is perfectly normal and natural,” says Dr. Brown. It’s how you adjust to life together that determines whether or not you’ll work out long-term. “What we see with our eyes more wide open, and how we deal with what we see in our partner, is now going to determine the viability of the relationship.”
Falling out of love can be really overwhelming. According to Dr. Brown, these feelings can range from “apathy, to confusion, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or relief if you’ve known for a while that the relationship is not right.” Maybe your busy schedules are making it impossible to spend time together, and when you do have the time, you’d rather be alone or with someone else. Perhaps you’re fighting on the reg — so much, that you feel yourself growing bitter toward them. This resentment can result in a lack of attraction. “The fire seems to have gone out,” says Dr. Brown. “You just don’t feel attracted to them anymore. You don’t see anything special about your partner. You neither feel respect nor gratitude for them.” All of this can cause you to crave single life, or a relationship with a different partner. And ultimately, all of these factors can lead to falling out of love.
This process can be painful. You’ve invested time and energy into a relationship that ultimately didn’t give you what you needed, so it’s easy to feel disillusioned by your ex. But falling out of love doesn’t mean you and your ex have to go your separate ways forever. In some cases, friendship isn’t totally off the table. “You can have loving feelings for someone long after you’ve chosen to not be in a relationship with them,” Susan Winter, an NYC-based relationship expert, tells Elite Daily. “This is a compassionate, human type of love.”
According to Winter, romantic love is tricky, because even if the breakup was painful, you might still find yourself desiring your ex. And in most cases, if you still have romantic feelings toward them — no matter the reason for your breakup — a platonic relationship is unlikely. “Platonic love comes after the physical desire has been removed,” says Winter. “Only then can we see our ex as a person we esteem and admire.” Dr. Brown says achieving this kind of relationship — a platonic friendship with admiration and respect — might take awhile. “This will especially be true if the breakup was not mutual, and if it wasn’t, it may not be possible to transition into a platonic relationship at all.”
Not being able to be friends with an ex is far from a failure. Going from being in love with someone and planning a future together, to what can feel like a “less significant,” friendly relationship can be extremely painful — even impossible for most exes. That’s OK. The important thing is that you feel comfortable in whatever relationship — or lack of relationship — you have with your ex. You don’t have to pursue friendship with someone you still care for if it’s going to be too painful. And even if you do still have love for them, it’s OK to say goodbye for good.
Dr. Gary Brown, Los Angeles couples' therapist
Susan Winter, NYC-based relationship expert
Additional reporting by Veronica Lopez
This article was originally published on