When Love Stops Working – Getting It Going Again

Posted on Saturday, July 18th, 2009 at 7:45 pm by Jennifer Lehr MFT
in All Posts, Marriage & Relationship Help.

Almost everyone wants love in his or her life. It is a vital ingredient of our humanness. We are born through the bodies of our mothers, most likely have nursed on her breasts, were held, touched and attended to. We develop in connection to others. Our survival depends on our relationships. We are not designed to be without relationship. We cannot exist without them.

When relationships stop working, there is often a wound that needs to be attended to. Many of us grew up in homes with various kinds of disconnection occurring. Whether our caretakers were preoccupied, angry, needy or impatient, we may at times have felt uncared about. We may have lost someone we loved, or have been completely disregarded or abused. As children, we had to survive this pain. We may have learned to push our feelings out of our awareness. Ultimately, we developed ways to tolerate and survive these disconnects. These are the survival techniques that we have brought into our current relationships. And they often don’t work.

Connection and safety are intricately bound. Our relationships trigger primal survival needs and feelings, and when threatened, the primal fears of an infant emerge. Survival is at the root of our relationships. It is difficult to play or be vulnerable when you do not feel safe. When our relationships are threatened or we are insecure, we become afraid of abandonment or of being overwhelmed or trapped. Those feelings emerge as rage, fear, longing and grief, and cause us to react rather than respond reasonably. We often do not see where these feelings are coming from. We have no way to link them to an actual past events. All we know is that something feels awful and we are in a struggle to be seen, heard, and understood. The emotional dance that emerges is not logical, but born of deep longings for safety and connection. Feeling safe, asking for what we need and being responsive to the other is paramount to our health and happiness. Safety must exist for both intimacy and play to be present in a committed relationship. While we do not necessarily have to delve into the past to change things, it usually helps. And we do have to start looking at and improving our current relational skills.

Do you accept too little in a relationship ? – If you accept too little, it is time to decide that you deserve more and figure out what is stopping you.

Are you too demanding? – If it always has to be your way, you will need to trust you can get enough of what you need without misusing your power. The cost of powering your way through a relationship is too high.

Can you ask for what you need? – Do you believe that you have impact, that you are worth listening to and being responded to? Why not?

What are the ways that you disconnect? – Are you willing to re-engage?

Do you feel safe and loved in your relationship, safe enough to both be vulnerable and to play? – What do you need to help you feel safer and more connected?

Are you responsive to your partner? – This will help your partner feel safe with you.


We are imperfect beings, who love and are loved by other imperfect beings. While disagreements and differences are part of life and growth, conflict can make us feel vulnerable and react to these differences. Deep down, we are afraid of losing or not getting what we need, of not being loved. Are you secure enough to have your feelings, yet also listen to your partner’s feelings, without making them wrong? Sustaining a connected relationship (with the right person) requires a number of skills. Mostly, we have to be solid enough to tolerate differences and still stay in responsive and loving contact even when we are uncomfortable.

Originally published here, also published on GoodTherapy.org

One response to “When Love Stops Working – Getting It Going Again”

  1. Jason says:

    This is exactly where my wife is at. Unfortunately after keeping her traumatic relationship to herself, and not addressing it 5 years ago on the advice of a marriage counsellor, she now is, but somehow she has created a block with me that makes it too much to address her past and place with me at the same time. As a result we are about to begin a seperation. After months of doing all I can to be supportive and the last month where she has begun to explore the past, I find myself an unintended victim and have no idea of what happens next.. It took me a long time to see how real this was and wish there was a way to support her through it and remain together.

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