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INlove: The Fluctuation of (So-Called) Unchanging Loving Feelings

My dad is a kidder and loves to tell jokes and one of his sayings when I was a kid was:

“My love is so great for you that I’ll swim the deepest sea.  I’ll climb the highest mountain.  I’ll see you tomorrow if it doesn’t rain.”

Yeah, isn’t that the truth.  So much for all these promises of fidelity and faithfulness and commitment and loyalty till death us do part.

Love has lost its luster.  It used to be something you could depend upon.  When someone told her spouse “I love you” it meant I love you, meaning love as an active verb.  Love was an action.  Something you did.  Something you chose.   Something you could see.

Now?  It’s as fickle as the wind, blowing this way one day and another day a different way.  I love you means I have loving feelings for you.  This is the great litmus test of whether or not our relationship is viable.  As long as my loving feelings are hanging around, I’m fine.  If not, too bad for you.

Loving feelings are not dependable enough to build a marriage on, much less anything else of any meaning in your life.

There’s no way loving feelings are going to last uninterrupted by any other feelings for 50-60 years.

Feelings come and go.  Up and down.

Loving feelings are not the old definition of love.  The old, dependable definition of love is that love is an act of your will, acts of being patient and kind.  You could see it.  It does not envy, does not boast, and is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.*

Always.  Always.  Always.  Never fails.  Never fails.  Never fails.  No matter what you feel.  Good days or bad.

Not any more.  No, sir.  If my feelings of love change for you then I am done.  Done.  Done.  Done.  I don’t dare show you any love because then you might be encouraged that I actually love you and I don’t want you to be encouraged that I love you, because then you would think that things are fine and things are not fine and I need you to know how precarious things are so that you get it that I don’t have loving feelings for you now.  This is serious!

The dreaded words are:

I love you.  I’m just not INlove with you.

I’m not sure where we got this saying.  People must get it when they go to Divorce School and take Preparing for Divorce 101:  “Class, before you divorce, one of the first things you must say to your spouse, to prepare him for your leaving is ‘I love you.  I’m just not INlove with you.’  Repeat after me: ‘I love you.  I’m just not INlove with you.’”

What in the world does THAT mean?

Near as I can tell, the explanation (believe me, I’ve asked) is:

I love you = I care for you.  I don’t want you to be mauled by a tiger or run over by a Yellow Caterpillar.  If you were struck by lightening and your innards were fried and your brain melted, if I heard about this, perchance from someone (you know like in ten years, after we’d been divorced a long while), I would have a brief moment of, Dang, that’s too bad.  A little twinge.  I don’t want any thing BAD to happen to you.  Well, maybe a little.

I’m just not INlove with you = You are not on my feeling radar screen.  My feelings are the arbiter of everything that I do.  I don’t choose anything.  I just live by my feelings…even though I don’t do this in any other area of my life.  I go to work even though I don’t feel like it.  I brush my teeth even though I don’t feel like it.  I get out of bed even though I don’t feel like it.  I shovel my driveway even though I don’t feel like it.  I pay my bills even though I don’t feel like it.  I love your children even though I don’t feel like it.  But you?  Nada.  My feelings have totally taken over my life.  They enslave me.  Just like a 2-year old.  I have no choice.  I have no say.  They are just there.

My feelings are telling me to do NOTHING whatsoever of a positive nature to indicate to you that I might want to be with you.  Somehow, mysteriously, my feelings are dictating my will and my actions and I am totally powerless to do anything about it.  No.  No.  No.  I could never Make Love to you.  Just the words are appalling to me.  Make Love?  That would indicate that my heart is moving toward you and my feelings are telling me to move away from you.  Hug you, even?  Okay.  But just like a teacher would.  Or the pastor at the back of the sanctuary after the morning service.  Nothing with any FEELING you understand.  Distance is the key word here.  Distance and victimhood.  I’m just a victim to my feelings.

But to actually do something to show you that you are my top priority?  Forget it.  You’ve been replaced.  My feelings are telling me to:

-ignore you

-be indifferent toward you

-not touch you

-withdraw from you or yell at you (maybe both)

-go to bed at a different time than you and then to sleep on my edge of the bed and to make sure even our feet don’t touch…even accidentally (See.  I have to work at being indifferent to you!)

-scoff, roll my eyes and shake my head you when you talk

-totally, absolutely, continually, vigilantly, refuse to be sexual with you.  PERIOD.

-not give you any indication whatsoever that I want you in my life

The curious thing is the things above in that list are things you can see.  And all of them are connected to your will and your choice and your actions.  And these things (Your will and choice and actions) are dictating your feelings.  It’s not the other way around.  Sorry.  And the message that you are sending is loud and clear: I despise you.

Ahhh, let’s see.  Love is something you see.  If someone can’t see your love it doesn’t exist.  If you tell someone you love them, and then you do absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to demonstrate that love, your words are just words.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  In this case, it ain’t love.

You can’t divide your personhood into these little categories.  Sorry.  Your feelings are connected to your will and your actions and your choices.  When you refuse to love (do loving things),

you are willfully choosing NOT to act in a loving way.

When you tell yourself, because you don’t FEEEEEEEL love, that you are justified in not GIVING love, then you have entered the land of selfishness.  I think it’s known as acting “childish.”  You teach your children, right?  To do the right thing?  Don’t you?  Do you teach your children that they are to only do what their feelings tell them?  What parent does that?  Our society does that.  The movies do that.  The romance novels do that.  Porn does that.  Juvenile delinquents do that.  Criminals do that.  Lady Gaga and Lindsay Lohan do that.  Drug addicts do that.  Alcoholics, too.

But look, all these folk are living like they are at most 14 and more likely 2.  Really.  Our society, as a whole, is operating at the age of toddlers: totally self absorbed and totally unaware of the consequences and onto this thing one minute and then onto something else, flip-flopping all over.

I thought you said in your marriage vows would last till death us do part?  That would mean the only thing that would separate us is death.  Death is pretty certain.  Yes.  Our marriage will eventually come to an end; you know…when one of us dies.

You didn’t mean that?  You didn’t mean death?  You meant, only as long as I make you happy?  Wait a minute.  Now it’s my responsibility?  You didn’t mean you would love me till death us do part?  You meant only as long as you FELT that way?  Why didn’t you say that?  If I’d known you were as undependable as all that….

INlove.  It’s a new word.  We’ve just reworked the historic definition of love.  Our new definition, INlove, changes reality to fit in with our selfish will so we can do whatever we want.  We’re as deluded as the Three Amigos inventing a definition of infamous out of thin air and then acting accordingly:

The rest of that movie is the Three Amigos acting as if infamous means something entirely different than what infamous actually means.

This what you are doing:  reinventing what love actually is and then acting as if it really means that and then passing the blame onto your spouse when it doesn’t match up to what you want.  Instead of love is patient, the new mantra for you is love is feelings.  How could anyone ever be patient if she used feelings as the engine?  The whole idea of patience is that you DON’T let feelings drive you.  You rise above your feelings and you are patient ANYWAY them.  Not you.  Your feelings change?  Screw it.

It might seem perfectly logical to you, this little mental gymnastics game you are playing.  I doubt your husband or wife will see it that way.  Your kids sure won’t.  Then you’ll go out hunting for another immature person that views love from the same, short-sighted vantage point and you’ll both operate on the principal that it is the other person’s responsibility to make each other happy and then you’ll burn through another life and leave more bodies strewn on your path.  Look at you with all your loving feelings.

There are not enough fumes from loving feelings to start a fire let alone keep the embers of tenderness and patience and kindness burning for a lifetime.

Love is something you see.  Loving feelings are secondary.  Loving feelings are the byproduct of loving actions.  You quit doing loving things and loving feelings go the way of the garbage disposal.  Bye-bye.  When you STOP doing loving things that is a CHOICE.  Your NONACTIONS are connected to CHOICES you are making and those choices are connected to your WILL.  Sorry.  Mental gymnastics or not.  YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LACK OF LOVING FEELINGS BY YOUR LACK OF LOVING ACTIONS AND FROM YOUR SELFISH WILL TO REFUSE TO ACT IN A LOVING WAY.

My writing this just makes you mad.  But listen to your logic:

You say, instead, Oh, I’m not INlove with you any more.  And my feelings won’t change. This is why I am divorcing you.  I just know how I feel today is how I’m going to feel the rest of my life and I deserve to be happy.  Wait a minute.  I thought you told me you’d love me until death us do part?  Sorry.  My feelings changed.  I thought you said your feelings don’t change.  Well, I did love you and then I realized that we weren’t compatible and we’re just two (too) different people and we are going in different directions and you deserve someone who (actually) loves you, so now I don’t love you in the loving feeling sort of way and those particular feelings of not loving you will never change.  The feelings of love I had for you back in the day did change.  I didn’t think (at the time) they would but they did.  Now these feelings that I have for you right now of not loving you, because we are no longer compatible, these are the feelings that I am sure will never change.  So I’m more sure about my feelings of not loving you are not ever going to change (Really.  You can trust me on this.), but my feelings of love for you that I had at one time and at THAT time I thought were unchangeable, those feelings changed.  Loving feelings that I thought were unchangeable at the beginning are changeable, but the lack of feelings of love I have for you now aren’t.  Follow me?  We’re just too different people.  We used to be compatible, but we changed.  And because we changed I know that I cannot change in my feelings.  These current feelings I have for you (the lack of feelings I have for you) WILL NOT change.  Therefore, I have to divorce.  See?  I’ve got this all figured out.

Really, I’m doing you a favor.  You deserve someone as a spouse who loves you.  Here, let me make that decision for you.  We’ll be friends, too, right?  Let’s make this a happy divorce.  We don’t have to be mean about like all those other people.

This is the logic of INlove.  Why don’t you just admit it that you are capricious and your feelings are as unstable as the wind and however the wind blows you’ll just bobble around on the sea aimlessly looking for someone else to make you whole?

Why don’t you just admit it?

* 1 Corinthians 13:4-8


Selfishness and loving feelings are kindred.  Check this out:

Selfishness: A Cautionary Tale


Dr. Wall rants about how selfishness destroys marriage and your life, too.

A surefire way to make sure you lose loving feelings is to limit, reduce or eliminate mutual sexuality from your marriage.  Careful.  If you say we can be sexual because I don’t feel close it won’t be long before you don’t feel close because you aren’t sexual.  Dr. Wall discusses that here:

Part One On Sexual Desire: The Second Saddest Thing Said About Marriage

Dr. Wall suggests that marriages cannot stay warm and tender without regular sexual encounters between husband and wife, so if one person in the marriage cuts that life-blood off, that person is spelling the demise of his or her marriage.

People who let loving feelings dictate their lives are immature.  Children let feelings dictate their lives.  Adults dictate their lives in spite of their feelings and do the RIGHT thing.  A lot of marriages could use a good dose of maturity.  Check that out here:

Grow Up Already!

Dr. Wall ponders the two paths that lay before us when we get married and become parents. One is a road to maturity. The other is not so pretty.


Dr. Bing Wall is a therapist specializing in marriage and relationships and issues facing single adults with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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