|From Lasting Marriage--The Owners' Manual (2007, Herald Press)|
As a marriage counselor I often hear people lament that while they still care for the person they're married to, they've somehow lost the 'in love' feeling that was once so strong and powerful. And they conclude that this means their relationship is no longer a real marriage. It's over.
Is that true, or might it be entering a new chapter that could lead to an even better "happily ever after"?
A lot depends on how we define terms like "love" and "in love".
In our English language we use the same word ("love") to describe our fondness for chocolate as we do for our devotion to God or to a valued family member. In the Greek language used in New Testament times, their were three distinct words for love, each of which is a part of a good marriage, as in the diagram above:
"Agape" is the divinely inspired ability to care for other people as we care for ourselves, the ability to unselfishly and unconditionally forgive and serve others. It forms the foundation for any enduring relationship.
"Philia" is the kind of warm kinship we naturally feel with close friends and family members, associated with the enjoyment of everyday kinds of living and working together.
"Eros" is the romantic desire we feel for another, the less rational and yet very powerful and natural attraction we feel when we are "in love". Eros is also the name of the mischievous Greek god of romance, known as Cupid in Roman mythology.
So if we were to say "I still have a strong God-given kind of unconditional and filial love for my spouse, but I no longer feel the same cupid-inspired desire for pleasurable intimacy with him or her", then we should ask, "OK, how can we get back more of what we once enjoyed?" And, "What's getting in the way of that very normal and natural enjoyment?"
Love isn't something we "fall out of" like Humpty Dumpty falling off a wall. Even the loss of Eros is likely happening because we haven't nurtured it the way we did when we were dating, and/or because too many other desires have gotten in the way.
For more on the romantic love myth see http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-dumb-durable-and-dangerous-delusion.html