Here are a few possible underlying meanings or distinctions for the “I Love You but am Not In Love with You” outburst.
1. An ongoing or possible affair relationship.
Your partner may have a strong attraction to another person, and lacks the knowledge or insight on how to handle such an attraction. S/he may lack the self-awareness it takes to place such an attraction into its proper context or his/her personal neediness may dominate and control his/her actions.
Your partner may equate an affair with “falling in love.” And, s/he may equate the eventual demise of romance in a relationship as “falling out of love.”
2. You are not mirroring your partner as s/he is accustomed.
Some equate love with significant others mirroring back to him/her what s/he believes s/he needs. This is the essence of romance, in which two people mirror back to each other what s/he believes the other wants to hear. Such reciprocity perpetuates those great feelings (s/he adores, loves, cherishes me, thinks I’m special, great, knows me, knows what I’m going to say or do before I do it, etc.) The ego is flattered and inflated.
Of course, such mirroring soon diminishes in a relationship of mutual investment when the human foibles and day to day demands of problem solving emerge.
One who relies upon mirroring for a sense of worth, when the inner self feels empty, may utter, “I love you but am not in love with you.”
3. Life may feel stagnant
One may work very hard controlling self and the world around him/her. Effort is expended attempting to order his/her internal and external life. The hope is that one day, when everything is under control and working properly, life will be good.
And, of course, a tremendous amount of energy, time and effort is pointed in this direction. Life is work. Relationships are work. Marriage is work. Play is work. And a great feeling of pride and accomplishment may accompany each attempt at ordering his/her life.
However, over time, the effort of the need to control takes its toll. There is no joy. The thrill is gone. There is no cutting edge. Life is the same. Life is blah. Life is dead. Passion has vanished.
4. I need drama in my life.
Love frequently is associated with need for drama and the emotional high that comes from living a life of drama. What one feels often reigns. Obtaining or maintaining that high, giddy feeling is paramount.
Such a life may be filled with intrigue and secrets. In a marriage your spouse will work at keeping you on the “edge.” Social needs and attention from others often are a powerful force. S/he is often unpredictable, volatile and needs that extra stimulation.
Being “in love” therefore is vital or at least longed for. Romance novels may line his/her reading shelf.
It is obvious then that the statement, “I love you but am not in love with you” means that that internal dry, boring desert has been reached.
5. The attractors become destructors.
You often “fall in love” when you experience an attraction to what appears to be your opposite. For example. you may be attracted to his/her need for fun and excitement while feeling like your life lacks such spontaneity.
Or, you may be attracted to his/her calm cool approach to life, when you feel scattered and unsure.
You may be attracted to his/her artistic and creative side when you see yourself as extremely practical with black and white thinking.
Or, you may be attracted to his/her aura of certainty and steadfastness when your mind seems to wander from one opinion to another.
But, then the attractor becomes the destructor. His/her need for excitement and fun is seen as irresponsibility. His/her calm and cool nature you may believe to be control. His/her creative nature becomes detachment. His/her practicality becomes rigidity. etc.
6. Addiction and shame
Your partner, when approaching you with “I love you but am not in love with you,” may utter those words to push you away. Your spouse may experience his/her life in a downward spiral grabbed by some sort of addiction or obsession.
By pushing you away, by creating distance, s/he assures his/her isolation; others will leave him/her alone. The isolation enables him/her to pursue the object of addiction.
The words, “I love you but am not in love with you” are spoken often to a spouse of someone garbled by pornography and/or cyber sex addictions.
7. Submerged anger
“I love you but am not in love with you” may be a hostile statement. Your spouse may know of your sensitivity, the depth of your feelings and your vulnerability to pain.
Rather than dealing directly and confronting you with his/her anger, resentment s/he may use the “I love you but am not in love with you” statement to exact revenge.
Years or months of disappointment and his/her incapacity to confront you with his/her personal needs may fester and boil within. Rather than assume responsibility for his/her lack, you may become the target of his/her anger.
The outcome to him/her may be: There, take that! I hope you feel as badly as I feel! Maybe now you know what it is like.
Some affairs are based on this dynamic.
8. The illusions are shattered
Many enter in a relationship with an unrealistic illusion of the nature of marriage. Marriage is for those who “fall in love” and continue to “love” one another.
Marriage means romance. Marriage means expecting romance. Marriage means: they lived happily ever after. Marriage means that “love” will continue to grow and grow. Marriage means my needs will be met…always. Marriage means I will be safe, secure and always cared for. Marriage means we will always communicate and be close. Marriage means we will always be soul mates. And more…
You enter marriage with cultural illusions and delusions about what will happen between husband and wife.
Sooner or later (often sooner) those illusions are at least called into question. Sooner than later the reality of two individuals with different personal need systems, different expectations and different ways of coping and relating becomes strikingly apparent.
Your spouse may believe, I’ve “fallen out of love.”
9. The weariness of the negative cycle
You and your partner will encounter the negative cycle. It’s the place where you emotionally and relationally get “stuck.”
You know the place. You say to yourself, “Here we go again. I know what s/he is going to say and do and I know how I will respond. We go round and round in circles, each knowing we’ve been there many times before.
And, even though the cycle is terribly familiar, there seems to be no escape. Once you are there, it repeats itself to the end (one usually walks away.) Try as you might, changing the flow of that pattern, removing yourselves from that painful, terribly frustrating cycle is impossible.
And so, s/he says, “I love you but am not in love with you.” The weariness, the frequency and the intensity of the ever present cycle takes its toll. The warm feelings have evaporated.
10. Who are you?
You may settle into the familiar patterns of relating to one another. Distance may become an old friend. Conflict may erupt periodically. Extreme frustration with one another may be an undercurrent. Simmering hostility lies beneath the surface.
This is all you know. You lose touch with your spouse. S/he begins to feel like a stranger.
There is no growth. There is no discovery. There is no unique self disclosure. There is no depth. There is no exploration of one another. It’s the same ole… same ole.
You may look across from the breakfast table in the morning and in the back of your mind a part ruminates: but I don’t know you. Who are you?
11. Fear of conflict
You and/or your partner may not know how to embrace and welcome your differences. And those differences may become a source of internal conflict, wishing s/he were different or more like me.
A lid is placed on that internal conflict and dissatisfaction. No discussion takes place for fear of hurting the other or upsetting the calm in the relationship.
A rule resides in the relationship: no conflict. Do not disturb each other. On the surface the relationship looks great. Others may look to the relationship as a model of how a relationship should be.
Everything seems well in relationship-ville until one day your partner approaches you with the “I love you but am not in love with you” anymore.
Your world and illusions are shattered.
12. The exit
Your partner has decided it’s best to leave the relationship.
Perhaps s/he has had an ongoing affair. Perhaps after months and weeks of agonizing and debating, s/he made the decision to leave the relationship.
Finally s/he musters the courage to say, “I love you but am not in love with you anymore.” S/he intends this to be the initial step in leaving the relationship.
S/he believes s/he knows your response and is ready for that response. There may be a great deal of guilt and pain. However, it seems as if the decision has been made.
The phrase: “I Love You but am Not ‘In Love” with You holds myriad of possible meanings. I’ve listed 14 reasons, but many more can exist depending on the makeup and history of your marriage. These 14, however, cover the major reasons and patterns I’ve encountered in my clinical experience.
When you hear this phrase from your spouse, be ready to explore what lies behind these words. As you explore, as you dig, as you strive to understand, the chances for marital growth and reconstruction are considerably enhanced.