It is natural to experience ebbs and flows of attraction in a relationship, especially after the initial excitement of newness and heady attraction wanes off. This is asked often, “What do I do if I don’t find my spouse physically attractive anymore? Can we move past this?” I see positive elements of hope in the way these questions are worded. This person acknowledges awareness, they know that they are missing feelings or thoughts about their partner that they once had. Secondly, they are seeking help. Thirdly, they want to move beyond the problem, and they want to save their relationship. This is a solid starting point to “move past this.”
Why People Feel Less Attracted as Time Passes
Feeling less attracted after the ‘honeymoon’ phase of a relationship passes is perfectly normal. When you are in the early stages of life with your person, you not only are physically attracted, but you typically align with your partner in areas that complement and complete a full sense of attraction.
It often looks like this…the special person aligns with your core values. You feel emotionally safe with your lover. You feel that your needs are fulfilled and that you connect with your person in mind and body, as well as emotionally and spiritually.
Even though society believes that the sexiest relationships are based upon physical looks and attraction, this isn’t quite so. Sexy long-term relationships exist and grow from a loving, trusting, and fulfilling foundation that includes sex, but one that is intimately meaningful beyond what happens in the bedroom.
Studies completed by several psychology professors and a researcher out of the University of Victoria, Canada, report that there is more than one path that leads to romance. In summation, friends-first is the preferred method of romantic relationship initiation.
So, what does this mean? Merriam-Webster defines a friend as one attached to another by affection or esteem, and the definition of esteem is described as a feeling of liking and caring for someone or something.
When we hold a person in high esteem, we always admire or respect them. It has nothing to do with being physically attracted to them, however, at the core, the mix of what we love in a person makes them attractive to us (mentally).
As time passes in a relationship, people and life circumstances change. We have children, we have ever-shifting challenging careers, and the world changes as well (i.e., pandemics, economics, social influences, etc.). As adults, most of us morph and grow as we live our lives. Think of who you are today, compared to who you were years or months ago. Are you the same exact person? Have you grown? Have you changed? Your partner may have also changed, and this can be difficult in a relationship, as we sometimes pine for the person that they ‘used to be.’
We can change, or not, along with our partners, but we must learn to hold them in high esteem. This means that we admire and respect the one that we love for their uniqueness. They are our person, and we value them and our relationship. They are not our entire life, but they are our priority. This is not always easy, and the human side of us can err. We can let what we don’t like about our person override what we truly love and admire them for. We can blindly smother what created our bond to begin with.
Digging Deeper (Beyond Physical Attraction)
The qualities that attracted us to our person would cultivate a shallow relationship if they wrapped completely around physical looks. Conversely, when we no longer feel physically attracted to the person that we are in a deep relationship with it is crucial to dig in and clarify the roots of our dissatisfaction. What is not working?
We can be blind to the true culprit of dissatisfaction in our relationship. Here is an example:
Kristine realizes that she no longer feels any physical attraction for her person. What Kristine discovered, through couple’s counseling, is that she was holding resentment towards her partner. Her partner had made a series of life choices without regard for her input. The mix of feelings that she experienced, including frustration, anger, and distrust, grew to the point where she felt that she no longer respected her person, and this (mentally) led her to no longer feel physical attraction. Is this an uncommon situation in a relationship? No! But finding the root of the problem without help can be challenging.
Here are some questions that can help you find clarification:
When did you stop feeling physically attracted to your partner? Can you pinpoint something that happened or several things that changed, that lowered or depleted your sense of attraction?
Are you holding any resentment towards your partner? Have they done something that you are having trouble forgiving them for, or getting beyond?
Have you lost trust in your partner? If yes, can you pinpoint why you no longer trust your person?
Do you feel that your partner is an intimate friend? Do you hold your partner in high esteem? Have you lost respect for your person? If yes, when or how did it happen?
Have you stopped interacting like romantic partners? Is your life with your partner in a mode other than romance (i.e., in a mode that is always parental or work-focused)? Has boredom become a way of life in your home?
Remember, the spark in your relationship does not have to go away due to familiarity, boredom, or routine. It can be reignited!
Has your partner stopped taking care of themselves as they used to? Has your partner experienced physical changes that are out of their control? Does your partner need to take better care of their health or hygiene? If so, are there any reasons why they might have stopped partaking in self-care (i.e., depression, anxiety, or other mental challenges)?
Make an Appointment with a Couples Counselor
Feeling a loss of attraction toward your partner is not something to take lightly. But asking the above questions can be a starting point in unearthing underlying issues and bringing your relationship back to health. It entails hard work, and it requires open communication and a joint desire for change.
When you’ve done all you know to do and things aren’t getting better in your relationship, it might be time to reach out for help. No matter how long you have been with your partner, all relationships can benefit from the work that is done in couples counseling.