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albany times union

Falling out of love - the ultimate rejection

By KRISTI L. GUSTAFSON, Staff writer
First published: Saturday, January 28, 2006

You love him. He's perfect. And you're perfect, as a couple. You go to the same gym, have the same friends, like the same foods and even share pet peeves and quirks. It's like simpatico explosion, and you've never been happier. But (isn't there always a but?) you need reassurance, so you ask:

"Do you love me?"

"Yes," he says, quickly.

"Are you still in love with me?"

The silence is almost more painful than the worst possible answer.

Finally ... "I don't know."

You feel sick to your stomach. Your heart tightens.

Do you cry? Throw up? Scream? All three?

When it comes to romance, nothing hurts more than finding out the one you trusted with your heart and your soul is no longer in love with you. And it can happen at any time: after months of dating or years of marriage.

Or following years of dating, as was the case with my friend. She had this "love vs. in love" conversation with her live-in boyfriend a couple weeks ago. They hadn't had a fight and neither had cheated. She just had a feeling something was up. He'd been acting a little distant and less supportive.

She was floored. Gut-punched, even, at this revelation. She cried constantly. She'd never loved someone the way she loved him, and he always said the same. She loved his family and had come to see them as her own.

She didn't know what his admission had meant, really; and she didn't know what to do.

Unreciprocated love -- especially when its source is the person you'd thought was The One -- can feel worse than cheating, or the death of the loved one, says John Seeley, author of "Get Unstuck! The Simple Guide to Restart Your Life," and those feelings have a lot in common.

"It's a withdrawal of love, coupled with rejection," Seeley says. "That combination is hard to accept, and often triggers feelings of not good enough, failure at relationship, insecurity, lack of trust and other (feelings)."

He suggests taking the "it's not personal" approach and looking at it as being free to look for someone who can really offer you what you want. But as sensitive human beings, it feels personal and it hurts, he adds.

My friend has talked with her boyfriend about this reversal of the L word a lot lately. He admits she's his best friend, and always will be. She's attracted to him, and him to her, but they wonder if maybe the lust they once had is gone.

If you've been there, you know it.

The happy memories mock you, especially when you're sleeping and forget all the bad times and start dreaming about the good. It's like an overwhelming feeling of incomplete.

"We can value and appreciate and admire and like someone, but the 'in love' is more specific," says Brenda Schaeffer, author of "Is It Love or Is It Addiction?" and director of Healthy Relationships, a counseling center in Minneapolis. "It includes desire, the want to be close. It's physical, emotional and spiritual."

Loving is easy. We love our friends, our family, even the household pet. But being in love with someone makes us far more vulnerable. You put yourself out there completely and, while that person can bring you more joy than just about anyone, they can also send you seeking the comfort of your mother's hug and home cooking in a single moment.

My friend certainly feels rejected. She expected to spend her entire life with this man. They'd even started looking at wedding and reception locations, and talking about kids and a house, and how their future as a couple would work with their careers.

For now, she's waiting it out. More than a week later, he still has yet to come to a conclusion. In fact, she says, one day he acts as if everything is normal, the next day he's distant.

I tell her to walk away, for her own sanity, and let him figure things out. I know he's not a jerk, he's just confused, uncertain.

Giving her advice is easy for me to do, of course, because it's not happening to me. If I were in her position, I'd hang on -- hoping, perhaps falsely, things would get better. This walks the line between logic and emotion, I know that, but in both our minds, the heart supercedes the head.

Kristi Gustafson can be reached at 454-5494 or by e-mail at kgustafson@timesunion.com.