“May I suggest a topic? Why do couples fall out of love? I’m asking because it’s happening to me and the girl I love.” This was the request I received from avid Thought Catalog reader. As intriguing as Lee’s proposal is, before we can go to “Why” we must first focus on the “How.”
Which led me here: the brave yet delicate real-life stories of three guys and three girls (two of whom have dated and are talking about the other, can you guess who?) on how they went through the gut-wrenching reality of losing that connection with the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with. Six people, six walks of life, different ages, different countries. All have one thing in common – falling out of love. All names have been changed.
1. The years together is merely a number.
“It began when we got too caught up with work three months ago. We hardly talk anymore because I’m also juggling school, but I want to make sure we still have time together. I drop by her office before work and after classes, and instead of resting on my days off we hang out. After six years, I realized things between us changed, if you know what I mean. I confronted her, “Are we okay?” She out right replied she was scared she was falling out of love with me.
We decided we wanted to fix it. We gave each other space because she wanted to do things without me. However, now, she is slowly fading away. She only texts or calls if she feels like she really has to. It got worse when my mom had an operation because her appendix ruptured. Of course, I had to take care of her, but that made me and my partner drift apart even more.
When we go to bed, we sleep right away. We rarely cuddle, and when I look at her, I can really see it in her eyes – she’s no longer happy. The way she looks at me, it’s like she wants to say something, but just doesn’t want to face the repercussions. Last month she finally said it; she’s afraid to lose me, but ultimately she is more afraid of losing herself.”– Lee, 37, IT Consultant
2. Don’t hold on too tightly.
“We were high school sweethearts. And college is the bringer of death to any high school relationship. She had always been a bit possessive, but when we didn’t enroll in the same university, she kept an extra eye on me.
Once, I was texting a friend who needed advice on her problem and my girlfriend got pissed when she found out. Another instance I had to unfriend my female BFF on Facebook just so my girlfriend would stop finding a reason to be jealous.
We were always together and I didn’t have enough time for myself, like if you wanted to hang out with friends you would really have to convince her before she’d let you.
I admit I eventually became attracted to other girls and acted sweet with them, but I never dated them. So for the 5 years we were together we had a lot of arguments stemming from jealousy. Sometimes warranted, sometimes not. But every wrong move I made, we’d have a big fight and it just reached a point where I was exhausted. I acted like an asshole on purpose to make her break up with me.
Then I realized my mistake. I asked for forgiveness and we worked it out. Or I thought we did. We were going on vacation, but last minute she decided to fly early with her friends. I followed a few days later. When I arrived at the airport, instead of a hug she greeted me with a, “I met someone else, let’s break up.”
This really sucked because I thought we were good, it felt like we were getting better again. I tried to change her mind, mostly because my ego couldn’t accept she found someone else that fast, but when I flew back home I realized this was my chance to be free to do whatever I wanted.
It was good for both sides, I think (even though they did break-up after). She’s happier with her latest boyfriend and I can see she’s finally matured, so I’m glad for her. I feel like the break up made her a better person, and, besides, I’m happy with my new relationship, too.
Thinking back, even after the fall out we still had our moments, like when we were sweet and had a lot of fun. But, yeah, it was just a cycle of getting suffocated where eventually you had to decide whether you wanted to stay, or to breathe. I chose the latter.”– Malachi, 22
3. You can’t blame them when you know the problem is you.
“Your partner falling out of love with you is one of the most agonising things to witness. Every day, you see them slipping away.
The thing is, it starts slowly, almost unnoticeably. One day I didn’t get a reply to my text, and I thought it was because she was having a bad day, so I didn’t think much of it and she eventually acted normal. But then it happened again.
I asked her about it, but she said everything was fine and I shouldn’t worry. So I didn’t, or at least I tried not to. As more texts went unanswered, I worried more but each time I brought it up she either told me nothing was wrong or she was only tired or busy.
As far as I knew, I hadn’t changed anything in the way I acted, the way I treated her. Then I realized – she was losing interest. You see it happening before your very eyes, you hear it every time you talk. Suddenly going on dates isn’t so appealing because you know the conversation will die out, and instead of smiling and gazing into each other’s eyes, her gaze will drop down or dart towards the other people in the room. When you compliment her, she’ll say “thanks” without that familiar blush. Even her smiles become less lively.
Every little thing catches your eye and it hurts more than the last time.
At first you try to hold on with everything you have, but like sand she slips through your fingers and you know there’s nothing you can do to stop it. So you do the only sensible, the only right thing there is to do: you let go.
Maybe you can remain friends, but you’ll never forget the pain because unlike her, you still have feelings for her. When you see her after you break up, it feels like glass shattering in your heart. You’ll pull yourself together only to see her again another day and fall apart once more.
Watching your partner falling out of love with you is the worst because you never get closure. There’s no big fight, no bad feelings between you. Instead, there’s nothing.
And you can’t even blame her because in the end you know what was wrong is you.” – Erik, 26
4. He took us for granted.
“I began to fall out of love with him 3 months after my mother died. I don’t know how to describe how I was. Psychologically disturbed? Crazy? On the outside I was normal. I was a restaurant supervisor. New job. A month after mom died, I knew I wasn’t ready to return to work, but I had no choice since I had to financially help my father. At random times of the day I’d burst out in tears even at work.
At home I would lock myself in my room, distracting myself with movies, TV shows, Facebook. But still I’d end up crying. Witnessing my mom die was traumatizing and the memory wouldn’t stop replaying in my head.
My boyfriend and I had been together for 8 years then. Maybe after such a long time, men in general become lazy? He’d watch TV in our living room while I’d be in my bedroom. He didn’t even notice I had begun to think about killing myself just to forget the day mom died. Had I found a gun back then, I wouldn’t be here to tell you this story now.
So I confessed to him, “Babe, I’m going crazy. I promise you my brain is turning insane. I can’t trust myself.” Those were my exact words. I was scared what I’d do to myself and asked him to always be around me, talk to me, watch shows with me. We were together everyday. Slept together everyday. We were best friends. Even now, I still think we’re perfect for each other.
The downside was he became too comfortable. He was there physically, but emotionally I couldn’t feel him anymore. I was very honest by telling him something was wrong with us. We need to fix this. We need to maybe date, go out, eat out. Date! I can’t feel you anymore.
He always replied, “We’re fine, nothing’s wrong.” I said, “How can you say nothing’s wrong when one of us thinks otherwise?”
But I let that conversation go so many times. The same conversation repeated itself maybe twice a month for four months. Nothing happened. He thought I was okay, we were okay. We started going out with our friends. We were a big group and, oh, it was fun! We were drunk almost daily. Our problem worsened. He was having the time of his life partying, doing the things we didn’t experience because it was always just him and I for eight years. And though I was there with him looking like I was living it up, too, deep inside I was mourning my mom and escaping the memories.
One night, we had another fight and I told myself if he’d still say nothing was wrong, then I’m done. And he did. Immediately the next day, I didn’t feel anything for him anymore. I wanted to enjoy life by myself. I didn’t want him to be around me. I wanted to prove to myself I could live without him.
Our friends became divided because of us. It was chaos! I developed feelings for other guys and I began to hate myself. I quit my job, moved away to another place, hoping I would find myself again. Instead, I got crazier, wilder, emptier.
It’s strange I never fell out of love when he cheated, lied, made up stories, etc. years before my mother died. I was too weak before, but when mom passed, I didn’t want my relationship to add more pain so I finally got fed up and left.” – Jackie, 30
5. The person you love is a stranger.
“My last relationship lasted 6 years. When we broke up we both knew we weren’t getting back together, but I guess it’s difficult to get out of your routine, so we continued to communicate.
On what was supposed to be our seventh anniversary he texted me “Happy Anniversary” even though he was already dating someone else. He would update me about his life, his new job. He would tell me if he misses our spontaneous moments or if he came across a song that reminded him of us. I didn’t mind because, as I said, routines are difficult to stop.
One day he said he wanted to cut it out. He said he wanted to respect his new relationship and he didn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend anymore. “As much as I’m still in love with you, I want to try to work things out with her.”
And that’s when I knew.
When the texts became scarce, when “how are you’s” started to sound more mandatory than a legitimate question. I knew he was falling out of it (whatever it was) because he was choosing her over me.
Maybe I was selfish for still wanting to have what we had despite not being in a relationship, but then I realized once you build a habit, even if that habit is bad for you, it’s nearly impossible to break. But that doesn’t mean you can’t.
Yeah, I’d be a liar if I say the classic thought of “I wish you chose me instead” didn’t cross my mind. Or that I didn’t cry when I recently found out they’re about to be married. But at the end of the day, it had to happen. We had to separate, for the better, and I don’t regret we broke up.
I can’t get over a painful lesson I learned, though: that there are people you spend time to know, only for them to become a stranger after.” – Alison, 24, Professional traveler and librarian
6. We pushed each other to our limits.
“Sometimes I still read the emails we sent right after we broke up.
In my head he left me, but the truth I discovered is I left him. We were in two different countries and that weighed on us, but eventually we started going from both of us wanting to move forward, to only me wanting it. He was stuck and started to pick more fights, started to tease me more to the point where I knew he wasn’t just kidding anymore, but he pretended he was.
I remember in the beginning, I was so in love, I felt physical ache when I was away from him. That quickly went away after we were in a relationship a bit longer, and he just didn’t let me go out at all anymore. He was controlling, I got pissed off about it and pushed his boundaries, and as a result he fell out of love with me. I didn’t, but I knew that he wouldn’t change if I forgave him all the time, so he needed the jolt.
Writing this was harder than I thought it would be… I could talk and write about him for ages, but then I’d just start crying. I hear he’s engaged now and with a kid, so I guess it worked out. Just not with me.” – Sara, 23