Navigating the Emotional Fallout of Losing Attraction in a Long-Term Relationship

I never expected to experience the sudden, sinking feeling of losing attraction to my long-term partner. We had been together for years and suddenly it felt like the life had been sapped out of our relationship. It felt like I was navigating murky waters and desperately trying to find any hope at the end of the tunnel. It was a confusing, overwhelming and terrifying situation to be in.

My emotions were all over the place, and I had no idea what to do. As I began to process my feelings, I had to come to terms with the reality of the situation and try to find peace in a world that suddenly felt so unknown.

Acknowledging the Loss of Attraction

I considered it a personal tragedy when I realized the spark in my years-long relationship had gone out. My partner and I had transitioned from the passionate intensity of first-time love to a stable, secure kind of ‘knowing’ that was still amazing, but not as exciting. We loved each other, but we were no longer feeling and acting like two lovesick teens sneaking stolen kisses in the dark.

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Photo by Shira Gal

I grieved over what I believed was missing in our relationship, dwelling on thoughts of all that we could no longer experience together. It was a distressing period of transition that felt like mourning a loss.

But through engaging in honest communication with my partner and engaging in self-reflection, I began to appreciate what we could still share between us – our trustworthiness, shared history, commitment to each other and security were genuine gifts worthy of great appreciation. It’s not what we have lost, but what we still have once I chose to recognize its value. As long as you remain committed to your relationship and strengthen its values such as empathy, communion ethos and mutual understanding, every moment can be full of unique beauty even if thirst for passion isn’t part of your daily life together any more.

Coping with the Emotions

It took me a while to process the emotions that came with losing attraction in my long-term relationship. I felt like a part of me had been taken away and there was a hole in my heart where love used to be. That’s when I realized I needed to find ways of coping with the difficult feelingssadness, guilt, hurt, and even anger – before I could move on.

I learned about ways of managing my emotions and implementing self-care practices through therapy and self-help books. These strategies included:

  • Journaling my feelings
  • Practicing deep breathing exercises
  • Engaging in creative activities like drawing and painting
  • Spending time alone or with friends
  • Exploring new hobbies or interests that brought me joy
  • Engaging in physical exercise (like yoga)
  • Engaging in meditation
  • Writing positive affirmations each day
  • Getting enough sleep at night and eating nutritious meals throughout the day.

One of the most impactful things I did was reach out to friends who had gone through similar experiences or past relationships that ultimately ended because one or both parties had lost attraction in their partner. Talking to them helped me feel seen and understood while providing valuable insight into what worked for them in recovering from their breakups emotionally; it gave me hope that I too could move on from this difficult phase and find happiness again someday.

Grief

As I reflected on the end of my relationship, a wave of grief crashed over me. I felt as if I was in a vast and empty ocean, searching everywhere for something familiar. I ached to swim back to the life I had known, but each time I gulped for a breath, I was only met with the salty tears I had been fighting to hold back. I was completely lost.

Understanding the Five Stages of Grief

Grief can be confusing, complex, and overwhelming – especially when you’re trying to process the loss of attraction in a long-term relationship. Although there is no one-size-fits-all formula for dealing with emotions of loss, one useful way of managing these feelings is to recognize and accept the five stages of grief as articulated by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross.

The five stages, which are typically represented as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance are often ordered in this way; however, it is important to keep in mind that people will experience them differently and at varying speeds depending on their personal circumstances.

  • Denial serves to protect us from accepting that things have changed and makes our transition into new states easier by providing a buffer between pain and reality. But attempting to ignore the truth or push it away indefinitely only prolongs suffering – so it’s important not to cling too tightly for too long or try to discount sadness and emptiness when they occur.
  • Anger (hostility) is usually directed outward as an expression of frustration; an attempt at self-protection or an unconscious cry for justice in what feels like an unjust world. Thoughtful exploration can reveal both its underpinnings – allowing those frustrated feelings – while also gaining some degree of control over them so they do not spiral outwards senselessly.
  • Bargaining (anticipation) emerges from a desire – conscious or subliminal – for resolution to reconcile our dreams with apparent hardships. It may involve hypothetical tit for tat exchanges wherein we make deals with ourselves or external situations in the hopes that things will somehow be made right again without fully confronting exactly how precarious everything now seems beneath these protective bargaining options. Lost time may nag at us too; making use-of-time calculations in order to hold back tears and accept that recent losses cannot be reversed with regrets such as ‘if only…’
  • Depression (despair) often accompanies deep reflection on what once was but no longer exists within our lives now – whether tangible relationships, opportunities or concepts all associated with life before loss kicked in. This phase can be said to represent profound sorrow whereas happiness has seemingly been left sidelined by attitudes focusing on lost hopes and new reservations held close due mainly fear avoidance issues created by considering previously enjoyed but discarded activities once more leading us dangerously close again to feeling similar unbearable emotions we would prefer not entertain yet again soon after so swiftly this latest painful upset has triggered within us all over once more yet again soon after return from living within past chapter(s).
  • Acceptance is the final stage of grief and is characterized by the understanding and acceptance of the reality of the loss. It does not mean that one is happy or content with the loss, but that one has come to terms with it and can move forward. This stage may involve finding new meaning and purpose in life, and learning to live without the person, thing, or situation that was lost. It is important to remember that acceptance is not a onetime event, but a process that may take time and may involve setbacks and periods of revisiting previous stages. It is important to be patient with oneself and to seek support from loved ones and professionals as needed.

Allowing Yourself to Feel the Pain

As I began to navigate the grieving process of losing my attraction to my partner in a long-term relationship, I realized how difficult it was going to be. Intellectually, I understood that no-one can shut down their feelings – they will come and they will go in their own time. But this did not make it any less daunting when confronting the task of allowing myself the space and permission to feel what was truly happening inside me.

The hardest thing was that we couldn’t talk about our experience because it felt like such a secret and I could hardly believe what was happening. The idea of showing my true emotions scared me, as I felt certain he wouldn’t understand them. So every night when I went to bed, a cumulative sadness held me trapped like a fog welding itself around me, heartrendingly holding onto me even in the early hours of the morning.

It eventually became clear that after almost 12 years together, my unattractiveness for him had gauged a profound sadness within both of us; particularly for me because although it wasn’t his fault, there was still only so much he could do or say in trying to make things better. So instead, we both needed to allow ourselves the desolation of understanding that this may be never again revisited.

Grief exists as something deeply rooted within us all as an extension of our romantic relationships in our lives – but how do you reconcile yourself with that? It takes time; moments when you think you are strong enough during these experiences, but then your heart goes and betrays you, reminding you why letting go is so hard in the first place. But although terrifying, allowing yourself moments for heartfelt expression helps bring acknowledgement and insight into emerging from pain, into acceptance and healing from whatever happens next.

Anger

The anger caught me by surprise. After the initial shock of realizing that my long-term partner no longer felt the same way about me wore off, anger took root in my heart. It started as a quiet, simmering rage that slowly built until it felt like a wildfire blazing inside me. I was angry at myself, my partner, the world; angry at the way things had turned out and how powerless I was to change it.

Identifying the Source of Your Anger

As you search for the root cause of your angry outbursts, it’s important to first differentiate between a few key concepts.

You may question why you feel rage when your partner behaves in a way that isn’t necessarily wrong, but still makes you uneasy. What you may be feeling is deep disappointment or hurt instead of raw anger: It’s important to identify the difference between disappointment that causes one to want to lash out and actual anger. Similarly, one can also get angry when stressed or overwhelmed; it’s important to recenter and distinguish between these situations and genuine anger caused by another individual.

Once you have identified that your feelings are indeed rooted in intense anger, ask yourself why such a powerful reaction is taking place. Are these sentiments born of unresolved issues from the past? Are there feelings of fear or powerlessness? It could also be a combination of all three, or something else entirely unique to this situation.

It’s key to identify any underlying triggered emotions in order to understand why those feelings are coming up and how best to process them; however clear communication with your partner on what is making you upset can often provide further clarity on how things should move forward.

Recognizing Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Acknowledging feelings of anger and disappointment can be daunting and often leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s important to recognize your patterns of dealing with disappointment before it spirals out of control.

Angry outbursts, sarcasm, and communication devoid of empathy are all examples of how one can unconsciously attempt to deal with their emotions. However, these coping strategies further distance you from your partner, which could make the relationship harder to repair.

In situations where you feel overwhelmed by unfelt expectations or pent-up frustration, start by naming your feeling (e.g., “I am feeling frustrated”), rather than attacking the person (“you always …”). Taking a step back and reflecting on why you feel this way is also a vital part of self-regulation; understanding the root cause will help manage unexpected triggers in the future.

Finally, practice taking time for yourself for things that bring joy; reminiscing will do wonders for both mental health and overall resilience when navigating difficult terrain within any relationship. Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup – find solace in moments meant just for you!

Fear

Fear can be one of the most difficult emotions to navigate in losing attraction in a long-term relationship. The feeling of insecurity and uncertainty can be overwhelming, leaving you consumed with thoughts of self-doubt and fear of the unknown.

Fear can paralyze, causing you to second-guess every decision and ultimately feel stuck in the same place, unable to take the steps needed to move forward.

Overcoming the Fear of Abandonment

It’s important to remember that fear of abandonment is an issue for many people in romantic relationships. Even in a long-term partnership, the fear lingers in the background and often we don’t even recognize it. We might make excuses for our partner; feel as though we need to walk on eggshells; blame ourselves when things go wrong; or just feel constantly tense and nervous.

We all make mistakes and no relationship is perfect, but if you’re feeling anxious or scared most of the time, then something else may be going on.

The first step towards overcoming our fear of abandonment is understanding the source of these emotions. Where did they come from? What events or experiences have shaped them? Exploring our history can tell us a lot about ourselves and help us begin to heal from past traumas such as insecure attachment, neglect, betrayal, or abuse – all of which can lead to feelings of fear and insecurity in relationships.

After clarifying this history, a good next step toward overcoming your fear of abandonment can be focusing on concrete steps for increasing self-love, self-care, and self-intelligence. This means learning how to better support yourself through difficult emotions – with tools like soothing music, comforting activities or even just appreciating your own presence and company more often – so that you are better equipped to manage feelings like anxiety or loneliness without relying so heavily upon others for comfort.

Further action steps could involve:

  • Getting outside help, such as counseling, to process unresolved trauma that has been preventing personal growth.
  • Trying out activities with friends that reduce your dependence upon a partner.
  • Setting boundaries between yourself and any partner who hasn’t been meeting your needs within the relationship.
  • Communication exercises, such as talking about expectations openly with one another.
  • Identifying triggers for fearful responses within a relationship.
  • Learning how to better express needs constructively and advocating for yourself more firmly where appropriate in order to develop greater trust in yourself.

Taking these types of active steps can go a long way toward helping us stay secure emotionally even when losing attraction in an established partnership feels like an insurmountable crisis.

Reassessing Your Relationship Expectations

When facing fear in a long-term relationship, it’s important to first recognize and accept that you are experiencing this emotion. Fear can manifest itself in different forms – anxiety, apathy, or the urge to run away – but it is still the same emotion, no matter its form. Take some time to think and reflect on why you are feeling scared – what is it that causes you to feel threatened and insecure? Is it because of a lack of trust? Commitment issues? Are your expectations of your partner not being met?

Once you identify what creates your fear, it will be much easier for you to decide how best to move forward in your relationship. How realistic are your expectations for a long-term relationship with this person? Are there behaviors that need to change in order for you both to be happy? It’s important to have an honest conversation with your partner about what each of you wants from the relationship so that expectations can be adjusted if necessary. Ultimately, reassessing what works for both partners can help create equilibrium and mutual understanding within the relationship.

Acceptance

Realizing that the attraction I once felt in my relationship is gone is a hard pill to swallow. I’ve unraveled a perplexing web of emotions – an intense mix of confusion, guilt, sadness and feeling overwhelmed. For a while, I felt ashamed that I had these feelings, but it’s a normal part of the process. Now, I’m slowly accepting the new reality, wrapping my head around this significant but essential change.

Embracing the Change

Though it can feel shocking, challenging, and even devastating to realize that you are no longer attracted to your long-term partner, I want you to know that there is hope. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but embracing the change can bring liberation from the emotional traps of guilt and shame.

When we invite mindful acceptance of the present moment – however difficult or uncomfortable it may be – we can shift our relationship dynamics towards deeper understanding and connection. Instead of struggling against the current of change, we can learn to understand why these feelings have come up and how we might navigate them in a healthy way.

With an open heart and mind, we can make room for both ourselves and our partners by having honest conversations about what this loss of attraction means for us as individuals. We might find solace in realizing that mutual respect, admiration, admiration and kindness are all essential components in a healthy relationship – even when physical attraction is not present.

By engaging in honest communication with our partners (and ourselves!) about how this transition affects each one of us differently, we offer the possibility of creating something new together – something based on trustworthiness and support instead of romance or physical attractiveness. In this way, though our relationship cannot stay exactly as it was before, there is still potential to create a different kind of shared experience that honors each person’s individuality while still maintaining a deep connection with one another.

Finding New Ways to Connect

Living in the aftermath of losing attraction meant leaving my comfort zone to explore new pathways to a connection that felt real and meaningful.

In the past, we had each subtly come to rely on different dynamics within our relationship, but now it was time to find ways to both strengthen and re-define our bond. I knew that if we were going to remain partners, a great deal of effort would be needed.

So how did we do it? We began by asking ourselves what authentic meaning each of us found in our relationship? Instead of looking for quick fixes or bandaid solutions, this allowed us to consider which values and experiences we wanted our relationship to embody.

We also discussed the importance of understanding our individual needs – both within and outside of the relationship – so that each person felt seen and respected. This meant talking openly about all the elements that contributed towards making us feel fulfilled in having this exclusive connection with one another; from physical closeness, to intellectual pursuits, supportive acts, intimate conversations and creative collaborations – as well as activities outside it – such as time for personal growth or simply doing our own thing every once in a while.

By carving out space for honest communication and connection where both viewpoints could be celebrated instead of criticized, we attempted to create new ways of relating–building a deeper awareness between us while providing an environment that encouraged both security and growth.

Conclusion

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As I navigated the emotional fallout of losing attraction in my long-term relationship, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that our relationship would no longer work. It was a hard decision to make, and it was hard to let go of the future I had envisioned for us. But it was necessary for the well-being of both of us, and through it I learned the importance of self-care in any relationship.

Understanding Your Feelings

Exploring your own emotions in a long-term relationship can be a confusing and difficult journey. It’s important to recognize that there is no right or wrong way to feel. Many people experience a wide range of feelings, such as grief, sadness, numbness, and guilt. All feelings are valid and it’s okay to be open with yourself about what you are going through.

It can also be helpful to think about what needs to happen for you to move forward – both for your personal growth and for the relationship itself. Practicing self-reflection can help you gain insight into your own thoughts, beliefs, values and behaviors that may have caused the shift in attraction or may influence how you are currently reacting or responding.

In addition, it is important to recognize the profound impact that communication has on any relationship – especially one in which there has been a shift in attraction. Even though conversations may feel uncomfortable at first, communicating openly, honestly and respectfully will help both of you find clarity, acceptance and understanding of your individual emotional reactions more quickly. With time and dedication from each partner, any conversation about losing attraction in a long-term relationship doesn’t have to lead only to more confusion or separation, but can open new pathways for connection and personal growth for both individuals involved.

Moving Forward in a Healthy Way

The hardest part about losing attraction in a long-term relationship is the uncertainly. Change can be both thrilling and intimidating, but either way, leaving a relationship behind requires self-reflection and growth on both sides.

The key to moving forward in a healthy way is to reflect on yourself as an individual and focus on the things that nourish your relationship off and on-line. That could include taking a moment to appreciate what’s going right both personally and among the two of you, rekindling your interest in each other by using websites like The Gottman Institute or getting outside help with either couples counseling or working with an individual therapist to work through the loss.

It’s important to give yourself time and space away from your partner after turmoil has struck so that you can reconnect with yourself and nurture your own interests while still keeping an open dialogue between you two. By taking positive steps towards regaining your autonomy alongside communication, understanding, empathy, respect, listening intently when they need it most – it may help spark up old feelings of admiration, which will bring out more positive emotions all around. Ultimately, this healthy combination of self-care and communication will only foster more love within the relationship, no matter what type of outcome comes about afterward.

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Rasha

When I'm not volunteering my time at a local nonprofit, I write about family. Running a household isn't easy, but I'll do my best to share my insights!

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