Losing the spark – simply, if you will, falling out of love – is a natural and widespread phenomenon in long tem relationships.

As a matter of fact, most long term relationships experience an ebb and flow that is quite normal and even to be expected.

The normal ebb and flow of relationships involve at least 3 distinct stages: in love, out of love and wanting out.

In love

This is certainly the most fun and enjoyable of the three stages. It’s when you just can’t get enough of each other. This can be in the early part of a relationship, as well as in many different times throughout a relationship, when couples experience fun, passion and excitement.

Couple Tips:

• Pay attention during these times to what you are doing that helps you to enjoy each other.

Out of love

This is the stage where you are just sort of going through the motions of day-to-day living. Nothing is really wrong, at least nothing you can put your finger on. While you may still be having fun together, there just doesn’t seem to be much excitement or passion in the relationship. Many couples have described this stage to me as “it seems like we are just roommates or something.”

Couple Tips:

• Don’t panic, this can be very normal

• Remember and then do the things you did when you felt the closest.

Wanting out

This is the most frightening stage of all. We think things like “I wonder what it would be like to be single again?” and “Who is this person I’ve married?” We are typically not well prepared for these thoughts and feelings.

Couple Tips:

• It’s best not to make any major decisions during this stage.

• This can be a normal phase, and only a phase, of marriage.

• Remember you do not have to act on every feeling that comes up.

• It’s OK and helpful to talk about the feelings involved.

• If you are feeling stuck, get some coaching and counseling.

While it’s certainly not always easy, hanging in there through the ebb and flow can often be very much worth it.

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist.

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