There is a word in Russian for “the melancholy feeling of
falling out of love” – razluibit. I have no idea how to say it, but I am
touched that it exists. Its existence in another culture and language allows me
to notice that in my language there is no such word. We do not have a simple
reference point for this particular human state. It is as though by not naming
it, we can pretend it doesn’t happen.
What do we know about falling out of love? How does it
happen? What is the starting point? How does one know if love is gone for good?
Do we ever really stop loving someone we once loved? I would have answered each
of these questions differently at different points in my life. But today, even
as a couples therapist, I will say, “I don’t know.”
Some days I sit with people who are facing these questions.
I see the struggle to reexamine all that came before in the presence of new
feelings, or fading feelings, they are faced with now. I have seen love end
with a sudden realization about the other person, maybe a moment in which
respect was lost or when there was a clarity about what one could truly expect
from the other. The fact that so much can change in one moment is humbling to
me and reminds me to take care in my relations to others. I have also seen love
that has starved over years, a series of closing doors and quiet mouths until
one person is an absence to the other. There are times when someone looks for a
misplaced love and finds it is no longer there. I have seen love that is newly recognized
as something different altogether, as a now resolved need or a pleasant habit
or a settling for what could be. I have seen love compared to something new and
But I have also seen love that was fading, revived. People
who were falling away from a partner reach out a hand and grab hold with a new
passion. I have seen people find new love with the old partner. I have seen
love develop that maybe had never been there before.
Still in all that, I haven’t found one truth about how or
why we fall out of love. Or how or why some people manage to stay firmly,
happily in love. I can say that I believe that sometimes love cannot and should
not be revived. I believe we must transform and change and therefore we must
have love that transforms and changes with us. I believe love requires tending
and attention to stay alive. I believe love flourishes when we can stay engaged
in new ways to be in love with our partner and new ways to uncover ourselves to
What can I can say most confidently about real human
possibility of falling out of love? Like so many realities of human life, we
can navigate it better if we can name it and therefore share it.