Relationships
experts explain the stages of falling out of love

Here’s What Falling Out Of Love Really Feels Like

It can happen slowly or all at once.

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Falling out of love is fun for no one. But if there’s any silver lining when it comes to calling it quits on a relationship, it’s this: The one that doesn't end will likely be worth all the trial, error, and heartbreak along the way. One way to think about it is that each breakup is another step toward finding something that fits you better. While that's the ultimate goal for most people, the road there can be tough. Sometimes it means your relationship will end in an epic, explosive fashion, but more often that not it’s more of a slow decline as you or your partner go through the various (and brutal) phases of falling out of love.

There’s no such this as a standard path when it comes to falling out of love. It may take weeks, or months, or, in some instances, much less time. “Falling out of love can be a journey or process,” Sarah Trance, LMFT, a relationship therapist in NYC, tells Elite Daily. “It doesn't always happen after just one significant event or with the snap of a finger.”

It certainly can feel as if one day someone flipped a switch and you only realize later that it had actually been building for a long time without you consciously noticing it, but a slow grind to acceptance is a bit more common. Regardless of how quickly or slowly it plays out for you, anyone who has fallen out of love one time (or 10) will recognize some of these stages. So, grab some tissues and cue up some Olivia Rodrigo, because it’s about to get brutal out here. Let’s run through the phases of losing that loving feeling.

01
You Stop Feeling Butterflies
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When you first got together, you would feel butterflies whenever they were around. Every touch was like magic. But suddenly, those feeling are gone. “You feel 'blah' or nothing — when you don't feel the good feelings or the low feelings, it can be a sign that you're checked out,” Trance says. You might try to remind yourself that this is normal, it’s just a sign that the honeymoon phase has ended, and every couple goes through it. But there’s some quiet doubt that it’s a sign of something more serious.

Of course, losing butterflies is often also a natural part of long-term, happy relationships. In this case, it morphs into something deeper — the move from infatuation to love. "When [the flutters] end, as they always do, it means the relationship needs to transcend biology and evolve into something more substantive," Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist, dating expert, and founder of Rapport Relationships, previously told Elite Daily.

Regardless, the loss of butterflies is telling. It defines whether you feel like you want to be around this person even without early stage butterflies or the butterflies were all that were keeping you there.

02
Your Partner Starts Getting On Your Nerves

Spend enough time with anyone and they are going to annoy you from time to time. But this is different. According to Trance, “increased feelings of frustration, irritation, or annoyance around basic communication” are common signs that you're falling out of love. Instead of passing, the irritation persists, and it’s not even over legitimately annoying things, its just — everything. You can’t seem to stop side-eyeing everything they do, and you feel “less flexibility and willingness to see the good” in your partner, as Trance adds.

03
You Stop Putting In Effort

Remember when you used to hang onto their every word? Well, those days might feel over. You might find yourself just wanting to tune them out at times. And honestly, you don’t really have the energy to tell them much either. Conversation just requires so much effort.

“A sign that the relationship is nearing the end is when you stop prioritizing one another and putting in the effort,” Trance says. “Relationships take energy. When you're no longer interested in being with your partner(s), the effort and energy you put toward building that connection often drastically shifts.” If you start feeling like you’re just on autopilot in the relationship, that’s a big tell that things are shifting.

04
You Stop Wanting Intimacy

Intimacy in a relationship comes in a lot of different forms — emotional, physical, sexual, and so on. What it comes down to is “having less interest in your partner(s) and spending time together,” and maybe even a general “lack of desire for sexual intimacy,” as Trance explains.

It might feel as if someone flipped a switch and suddenly the touch or actions you used to crave aren’t really on your wish list anymore. “No more hand-holding, no light touches on the back, no gifts, and important dates like anniversaries start to get forgotten,” Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach, previously told Elite Daily. “This happens when you just don't feel like it, so you don't put the effort into keeping the connection alive.”

05
You Feel Distanced

Perhaps the feeling doesn’t pass and, instead of trying to push through and salvage the relationship, you find yourself just wanting more space, both physically and emotionally. “You feel less inclined to check in and communicate regularly,” Trance says. “Ultimately, if you're feeling that emotional distance between you, and there's no desire to bridge that gap, it can likely be a sign that your feelings have changed.”

06
You Become Critical Of Everything They Do
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At first maybe your annoyance was reactive — they were doing things that got on your nerves. Now, though, your irritation feels proactive and ever-present. You are critical of everything they do, and might do, and should do but don’t. And you may even begin silently (or not so silently) judging them for just about everything or constantly complaining about them to your friends — even if they’re not actually doing anything particularly wrong.

If that’s the case, your wants and needs might be changing. “Relationships are meant to enhance your life,” Trance says. “If you get to the point where you can sense that you care less, or feel that your life wouldn't change much if your partner(s) weren't around, it could mean that you've outgrown one another and the love you once had has shifted.”

07
You Start Comparing Them To Everyone Else

Perhaps your eye has started to wander. There are so many other people out there, so many other experiences that you think might be better. You compare and contrast your partner to everyone, and maybe you find that they aren’t coming out as the favorable option anymore. “You find yourself wanting something more or someone different than what you already have,” Trance says. Even if you’re not acting upon your thoughts, the thoughts themselves are telling — essentially saying that you’re looking for a way out.

08
You Fight Constantly Or Stop Fighting Completely

Arguments play a big role in relationships. And to some degree, they are healthy and can actually strengthen communication. When things are going south, though, either you begin fighting constantly because you’re both frustrated to the point where it boils over but never really gets resolved, or you stop fighting completely because one or both of you has checked out and don’t have the energy to fight about it anymore. Neither is good.

“Increased arguments may be a sign of contempt and lack of flexibility in the relationship,” Trance says. “When arguments aren't followed by repair, it's likely that the relationship will suffer considerable damage over time. Without repair, our needs often go unmet which can lead to significant discontentment in partnership(s).”

Similarly, a lack of fighting can also be a direct sign of a breaking connection. “Not fighting at all may also be a sign that there's a serious shift in a once-happy connection,” Trance continues. “A lack of fighting can be a sign of exhaustion and defeat which can signal that folx have given up. When there's no emotional gas left in the tank, it can be difficult to discuss, or work through, any sort of disagreement.”

09
You Start Finding Excuses To Spend Time Apart

You used to do everything together, but now your calendar is filled with activities that keep you apart. Maybe you even find relief when you get away. Space, of course, is important in any relationship. But if you find that you actively want to spend time apart, that’s not a good sign for the strength of your relationship. “When you begin to feel less available and less vulnerable, that's usually a signal that the special connection has changed,” Trance says. “If it feels like there's nothing left to fight for, the relationship might be coming to a close.”

10
You Don’t See Them In Your Future
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At some point, that little voice that has been whispering that there's a problem is now shouting and won’t be ignored. “You feel uncertain about your future together and if that's something you want to plan for,” Trance says. When you envision your future, be it long term or even short term, they aren’t in it. And if that’s the case, you’re starting to accept that they just aren’t the one and you’d be happier without them.

11
You Fight It

The part of you that remembers how amazing it was at first fights to hold onto hope. You may even try going through the motions to see if pushing through these thoughts will help reignite the passion. It’s common to doubt your own feelings when you feel like you’re falling out of love. “Doubt often exists in relation to uncertainty whether that be about our feelings, our perception of a certain situation, or ourselves,” Trance says. “It's also normal to feel doubt when you're experiencing something challenging or difficult. Try to let yourself tune into that doubtful place as it might be trying to tell you something important.”

12
You Accept It

At some point, you understand that it’s for the best that things end. “If someone or something doesn't feel worth your time and effort, it's likely not going to last,” Trance says, and the sooner you know and accept that, the sooner you can be honest with your partner about it. Your heart may be breaking, but there is also a powerful sense of relief that comes with accepting that you’re just not in love anymore and it’s time to move on.

Falling out of love is heartbreaking, but sometimes it just happens. Try and be gentle with your partner if they aren’t on the same page. You’ll get through it, and you’ll both find love again.

Experts:

Sarah Trance, LMFT, relationship therapist in NYC

Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist, dating expert, and founder of Rapport Relationships

Cherlyn Chong, dating and breakup recovery coach

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