Don't Let Your Love Slip Away

“My greatest regret is that my eyes did not light up every time my children walked into the room.“ He was in my office because their love with slipping away.

I leaned forward and quietly said, “And what about her? (Pointing to his wife). Do your eyes light up when she walks in the room? Don’t let your greatest regret be that you let the love slip away because your eyes do not light up in her presence any longer.“

Many people say that exact same thing to me. Perhaps it was one of Oprah‘s greatest interviews. Internationally proclaimed author, Toni Morrison, was speaking about how we gain our worth by the expression on our parents faces when we walk in the door.

The same is true in our marriage is an intimate relationships.

Most people have experienced moments when they have felt their love slipping away. Just as this couple came early on to do anything possible to keep their love from slipping away, I’d love to make sure it doesn’t happen in your relationship.

Vince Gill made the phrase: “Don’t let our love start slipping away” in his number one song:

We’ve been up
All night long
Trying to solve a problem
Til it’s almost dawn
Ain’t no time for sleepin’
If our love is wearin’ thin
Cause I ain’t givin’ up
And you ain’t givin’ in

Don’t let our love start slippin’
Love start slippin’ away
Cause the life we’ve been livin’
Gets harder everyday
Don’t let our love start slippin’
Love start slippin’ away

A wounded love
Walks a real thin line
And no communication
Will kill it every time
So open up your heart
Baby we can work it out
Cause we’ve got the kind of love
People dream about

It’s past the point of right or wrong
Let’s find a way to just hold on

Don’t let our love start slippin’
Love start slippin’ away
Cause the life we’ve been livin’
Gets harder everyday
Don’t let our love start slippin’
Love start slippin’ away!

Whether your love is strong, whether it’s slipping away, or even if it seems beyond reach to get it back, I hope you will stay with me for this blog and find hope and methods to turn it around!

Love has been defined in many ways, but one of my favorite definitions is: “A desire to enter, maintain, or expand a close, connected, and ongoing relationship with another person.“

And for me, the greatest definition is the one from Corinthians:

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud,never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

Love actually releases chemicals in the brain that wash over us; and feel so refreshing, calming, and connecting! But when love begins to slip away, a completely different set of chemicals are released in the brain. These are chemicals that create anxiety, along with the fight or flight syndrome.

I’ll be sharing with you how to choose the fight over the fight!

First, let’s take a look at what makes love slip away? Research has indicated a plethora of reasons, but Dr. John Gottman’s research, conducted with thousands of couples over long periods of time, indicates these factors:

1. Ongoing criticism

With very little exception, ongoing criticism has been cited as the one factor that chips away at the foundation of love. When it becomes a key part of a relationship, it will erode the foundation rather quickly.

What is criticism?

  • The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
  • The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anyone or anything.  
  • The act of making an unfavorable or severe judgment.

We all do it. But it is not productive, and definitely provides an opportunity for love to begin slipping away!

It is why Drs. Helen Hunt and Harville Hendrix recommend a “zero negativity” policy among couples. Not only is criticism toward one another damaging, but criticism between a couple about others and other situations creates the same deterioration.

To avoid love slipping away, adopt a “zero negativity” policy in your important relationships!

2. Contempt

Contempt is a certain destructive force to any relationship.

What is contempt?

  • The feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.
  • The act of despising.
  •  A feeling that a person or thing is beneath one’s dignity and unworthy of one’s notice, respect, or concern.

Ouch! Even reading the definition stings! Certainly receiving contempt stings.

When I see contempt in a couple’s relationship, I find that there is usually a power struggle to determine who is “right” and who is “wrong.” When I am asked to referee that (as I often am) … I tell couples, “You can be deemed ‘right’ … or you can have a relationship, but you can’t have both!”

That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree, but you must give up the battle of who is right and who is wrong. One of the best ways to end contempt is to find things you do agree on, and show respect to one another on those topics.

3. Defensiveness

Defensiveness is usually an indication that someone is not accepting responsibility in a relationship.

What is defensiveness?:

  • Anxious to challenge criticism or to avoid it.
  • Devoted to resisting or preventing aggression. 
  • Warding off having to experience some unwanted feeling or admit responsibility for some disowned act.

When training with Pia Mellody early on, I learned a key phrase that she used often in speaking to addicts: “Addicts defend, ADULTS DON’T!”

Often the best policy in relationships is this: when you feel the need to defend, remain silent. Ask yourself what you are feeling, what you need, and what you desire. Then speak from the desire!

(Example: Instead of “I was going to do that but you ….” – Speak from the desire: “Would you be okay with giving me 24 hours to complete a task?”)

4. Stonewalling

Because of my personal experience of being the stonewallee, I call this “going into funks.”

Stonewalling is defined as:

  • Delaying or obstruction of a request, process, or person by evasive behavior.
  • To be uncooperative.
  • Refusal to communicate or cooperate.

Certainly, if things are intense, it is acceptable to ask for a break to process, and regain your emotional mastery. However, stonewalling that goes on more than a few hours is a sure dissolvent to the love in the relationship.

Unless you are actively processing (not in the locker room, or in a girls night out) with a professional, a mentor, or a clergy member, your brain will err on the negative side unless carefully trained! Setting aside time away from your partner in other settings other than above is normally a time to reload your emotional ammunition, justify your wrongs, and/or nurse your wounds.

Decide to courageously step up to the plate, and address issues with emotional maturity. Otherwise, stonewalling will push love far away!

Of course there are other things that encourage love to slip away. Things such as infidelity, lack of affection, financial issues, etc. But regardless of what has caused your love to slip away, let’s look at how to recapture what’s slipped away, AND MORE!

How to recapture love that is slipping away:

1. Create lists of what makes you feel loved and share them.

One of the first things I encourage people to do when they are rekindling love is to create a list of 100 small things that make them feel loved, that require less than a few minutes, and cost less than a dollar.

Things such as:

  • Put your hand on my arm while we’re driving
  • Wink at me when we are in a crowd of people
  • Hug me for no reason whatsoever
  • Text me one reason you love me every day

When I give the assignment to couples they are always astounded. 100 things? Yes! I said… 100 things.

Often, people need help describing 100 things that make them feel loved. I suggest they google things like: “100 ways to love your husband” or “100 ways to love your wife”. You can find a lot of suggestions online.

Here’s the point, if you don’t know what makes you feel loved (and it may have changed from what made you feel loved early on), how on earth is your partner supposed to know?

No one passed Mind Reading 101!

I have the couple share the lists and deliver as many as possible daily. It brings love back to the relationship immediately.

2. Set your reticular activating system (RAS) in your brain every morning to look for positive things in your partner.

Our reticular activating system (RAS) is our own personal Google search engine. It will search for what ever you tell it to search for.

If you wake up in the morning thinking, “I wonder what snarly things she will say to me today…“ Your reticular activating system will do just that. Not only will it find every negative thing she might say, but it will block anything positive she might say.

When couples learn to wake up in the morning and spend just three minutes thinking of what they are grateful for about their partner (even if you have to go way back to think of something), your reticular activating system will look for more things to be grateful for throughout the day.

Practicing this gratitude regularly is one of the greatest gifts you can give your relationship in rekindling the love!

3. Reprioritize.

It is not uncommon for priorities to shift in relationships. You have children, and of course they should be a priority. You have a tough financial situation and work becomes a priority. These things happen.

All of those things are understandable for a period of time. But other than God, your partner should be your highest priority.

Where you spend your time and energy defines your priorities. I am aware that most people have to work, run a business, and do various other things to maintain financial stability.

I tell my couples that time is not measured in minutes, but in moments. Moments where you are present. Moments where you are focused on one another. (And yes that means turn your cell phone off! Turn the television off!)

There is research that indicates that those who survive our new generation of connectedness (being able to reach across the world with a click on FaceTime or a zoom) survive because they create moments without media.

When you create that time and that energy for your relationship, it creates sparks that can become bonfire of love.

4. Use TREKy talk.

TREKy is an acronym that I use to teach couples how to speak to one another appropriately.

T is for truth

R is for respect

E is for empathy

K is for kindness

When you speak to one another in truth with respect, empathy, and kindness, all of the criticism and contempt mentioned above (that steals and kills your love) melts away.

I have a whole blog about this called “No TREKy, No Talky!” (Click here to read more).

Making note of how you speak to one another day in and day out is critical to re-create love that has slipped away!

5. Light up when the other walks into the room.

I mentioned Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Toni Morrison earlier in the blog. Her comment was about children observing their parents faces when they walk into a room, and how it either builds or tears down their sense of worth.

The same is true with your partner. If you continue reading the newspaper as if they never walked into the kitchen, that does not feel like you regard them very much.

The newspaper will still be there, (or watching a news reel on your phone), if you get up and say good morning and give them a kiss on the cheek.

It’s a small thing that you can do that goes a long way. 

When he gets home from work, it only takes a moment to greet him with a big smile and a welcome home comment!

Light up when they walk into a room, and love will light right back up!

6. Never walk away without a plan.

Recently a couple was sharing with me about how they had had some rough exchanges. It was still early in the evening, and she had offered an olive branch by saying, “It’s a nice evening, would you like to go for a walk with me? “His response was blunt, “No. I’m going to bed!” She went out on her walk, and he went to bed! In session, she was talking about how disrespected she felt.

He explained, “Well, Dr. Neecie, you said that when you need to process and know you’re not emotionally mature enough at the moment to resolve things, that it’s okay to take a break.”

I do say that very often, and I think it’s an important factor. But … whether you were going to bed, walking out of the room, or needing a break, you simply must leave it with a plan! Not open ended.

I explained it was perfectly acceptable for him to take a break but not without for saying something like, “I love you, and I know we can work this out. However I’m not in a good enough place to do it on a walk tonight. Can I get a rain check for tomorrow after work?“

And by the way don’t make a plan and then fail to follow through. When you get home from work the next day, initiate the conversation! Many people promise a plan, and then to avoid conflict, they act like it never happened. That is a guaranteed wet blanket on love that is slipping away.

7. Be affectionate.

Yes! Actually reach out and touch one another.

Research indicates that after the first few years of marriage, the couples that continue being affectionate have higher marital satisfaction, and a greater percentage of staying together.

Those that only continue touch around sexual activity have lower marital satisfaction, and are in a higher risk group for divorce or separation.

It’s a small thing… Hold hands while you fall asleep. Hold hands in the car. Hug in the kitchen. Touch his shoulder as you walk by. Rub her shoulders while she peels potatoes. It costs absolutely nothing, takes seconds, and increases your chances of reigniting your love significantly.

8. Start a forgiveness process.

As time goes by, we are all imperfect human beings and there are many needs for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a process, but starting it sets your reticular activating system to letting go of the negative.

Many people misunderstand and think that forgiveness is for the person who hurt you or offended you. It’s not for them … it is for you. As long as you hold unforgiveness in your heart, it is a huge gaping hole for love to slip away.

How do you get started? Start a journaling journey. Make note of what you want to forgive. Make a commitment to yourself to begin the process and make progress every day.

Daily write something that you can do yourself, or request from your partner, to help you let go of the unforgiveness.

However if you choose to ask for some thing from your partner, you don’t go and say, “Hey, I have this long list of things that you’ve done wrong that I’m trying to forgive you for and it would help me if you did X – Y – Z…“

That is misusing the whole process. Instead, think of something that they could do to help, and ask for it with no reference to the unforgiveness.

For example, recently I helped a wife who is working through a forgiveness process. The event was that he had embarrassed her in front of a group of their friends by speaking out some of the negative things that she had done. I asked her what might help her. She said,  “If he would speak positive things about me around our friends.”

So her assignment was: at the right moment, just say, “Hey, when we go out Friday night with our friends, would you be willing to honor me by saying some of the positive things I’ve done?“

He said yes, he actually did it, and it helped her tremendously with her forgiveness journey.

Start your journey of forgiveness immediately. The only person harmed by harboring unforgiveness is you. Don’t do that to yourself, and don’t let it be a gaping hole for the love to slip away through!

9. Become loveable and irresistible.

Couples look at me like I’m speaking Greek when I give them this assignment. Usually I hear responses like: “I have no idea how to do that!” I usually chuckle when I respond with: “Of course you do! You did it when you met.”

The same is true for you. When we fall in love and we need to lose 10 pounds, we hit the gym, go on a diet or starve ourselves. So … are you in good condition now? FIX IT!

Men will often go and help the “girl of their dreams” work in her garden, help hang the Christmas lights, hoping to win her heart. So … are you helping her with what’s important to her now?

Become loveable and irresistible. YOU CAN DO IT! Take down your walls. Enjoy each other. Laugh together! All of that makes you loveable and irresistible!

10. Pray.

Yes, pray. I’ve shared this before, but I teach premarital seminars that help couples get a large discount on their marriage license. There are always people from various religions, cultures and beliefs present.

Regardless, I tell them this:

Research indicates that the chances for separation/divorce are greater than 1 in every two couples. Further research indicates that the chance for separation/divorce in couples who pray together is 1% or less.

I suggest to them that regardless of their religious background, I think joining hands and praying a simple prayer daily, like: “God bless our marriage” is worth praying, regardless of religious background (or none!)

It is not unusual for me to hear about love slipping away in my office. Most are surprised when I boldly suggest that we turn it around instead of telling them how to “end it peacefully.” The truth is, that we are likely to enter another relationship and repeat the pattern. It is so much easier and more productive to work it out in the relationship you are already in.

(When I write these kinds of statements, I often receive emails and messages regarding abuse. I am not suggesting that anyone stay in an abusive relationship. However, aside from abuse, every other situation where love is slipping away can be brought back to life).

Engage in these 10 things, and you will see the holes where love is slipping away through will be patched in no time. The sun will rise on your love again!

It takes effort! If your contact was slipping toward the drain in the sink, you wouldn’t just watch it go down the drain with no effort to stop it, would you? How much more should we be dedicated to investing time and energy to prevent our love from slipping down the drain.

One of the greatest blessing for me is when I see couples take a dying ember of love, put in the time and energy, and set it ablaze once again.  Don’t let your love slip away! As Vince Gill sings:   

So open up your heart
Baby we can work it out
Cause we’ve got the kind of love
People dream about

It’s past the point of right or wrong
Let’s find a way to just hold on

Don’t let our love start slippin’
Love start slippin’ away!