I’m Not Attracted to My Partner Anymore
How Do I Get the Spark Back?
You know the saying, “Nice guys finish last?” That myth came to mind after someone reached out asking how to get the spark back in their relationship, writing:
“I have the perfect partner and the perfect relationship, emotionally speaking. He’s caring in so many ways, but he’s so sensitive that it can turn me off, sexually speaking. I don’t know how to approach this because I love how kind and emotional he is, but sometimes he’s insecure and shows low self-esteem. He’s really handsome and professionally successful, and I’ve said that constantly to him, but it seems like it’s never enough. Could it be that I’m only attracted to bad guys? I’m desperate to make it work but I don’t know how.” (edited for clarity)
It’s not a matter of being attracted to good guys vs. bad guys, or good girls vs. bad girls. It’s not even about “nice guys,” or particular to one gender (even though there are shades of socialization happening under the surface here). Ultimately, this question is about losing your attraction for someone: why it happens, and how to get it back.
The guy in question seems like he has great qualities, and, like all of us, deals with insecurity and some low self-esteem. Who doesn’t, right? But issues crop up in relationships when the other party is somehow made to feel responsible for that.
For instance, one person says, “I’m not enough. I’m not attractive enough. I’m not good enough for you. I don’t deserve you.” Naturally, the other partner is going to reassure them, saying, “You are good enough, you absolutely deserve me, you’re so attractive.”
We all have these moments of feeling down, but for some people, self-deprecation becomes a recurring mechanism as a bid for connection. They’re seeking validation or affirmation, and on some level they know that the way to connect is to self-deprecate, or shrink themselves, or express low self-esteem to get someone to pay attention to them.
If this pattern repeats enough and we’re made to feel responsible for someone’s self-worth or their feelings, we’ll start to lose the “spark” or the attraction. Generally, the honeymoon phase of a relationship can last anywhere from six months to three years. Then the period of elation is followed by the fall from grace, which is where we’re faced with the reality of the partner and the dynamics. Maybe you can look back at your previous relationships and see a pattern of when you started to lose the spark, and why. After the elation, partners become friends and sometimes codependents.
Psychotherapist and author Esther Perel talks about how love needs closeness and safety plus arousal and desire, which is often fuelled by mystery and distance. The distance and mystery requires leaving space between us and the other person, so we can maintain our own identities. Yet most of us learn codependency, learn enmeshment, learn to lose ourselves, and forget our own needs and interests while we adopt someone else’s. Is it surprising that we don’t wanna hump someone when we’re so enmeshed, or feel like we lost our identity?
It’s one thing to try out new hobbies as a way of connecting with a potential partner, and to give your current partner’s newfound interests a chance. But there’s a difference between trying out new hobbies and completely losing ourselves in our partner’s world. Are you also your own person? Do you have your own interests? Your own goals within the container of the relationship? Your own friends and social circles?
Adventure is an important part of creating and sustaining a long-term connection. Our psyche takes the newness of an experience and associates it with that person, so they also stay new. That’s how to keep the honeymoon phase alive. By constantly discovering new things, you’re discovering and learning about one another. We’re always changing as human beings, so you’re not going to be the same person at twenty-two that you are at forty-two, sixty-two, or eighty-two. The relationship you want is also going to change and evolve over time.
If you’re not taking the time to rediscover yourself as much as you rediscover your partner, you will grow apart. If you’re not growing and evolving as an individual, then you will not value growth or evolution in your partner or the relationship. It’s about celebrating passions and dreams, encouraging one another to have goals, and realizing that when your partner pursues their passions it does not pull them away from the relationship. By staying small, or controlling someone, or smothering their dreams and passions, or asking someone to stay small with them, it creates a crack in the foundation of the relationship.
Unless a relationship is built upon tenants of growth, adventure, and individuation, it’ll become brittle. If it has these qualities, it’s malleable. As you grow individually and collectively, your love deepens.
It’s not always rainbows and puppies though. As your love deepens, this is where responsibility comes in, alongside the willingness to learn what you’re not good at so you can communicate better. Most couples end up in cycles, fighting about the same shit over and over. As soon as you change one part of that dance by changing how you communicate, your intimacy deepens because you’re in a conversation you’ve never been in. Suddenly there’s mystery that wasn’t there before. So if your partner comes to you with feedback and your instinct is to get defensive, for instance, lay the weapons down and get curious.
To be in relationship with another is to love them and their suffering, their wounds. How do we do this, especially when it can bring up our own suffering and wounds? A relationship needs to be nurtured, and the best way to learn how is to hone our communication skills. Not over email or text, but real face-to-face (or phone-to-phone if you’re long distance) communication. Whether you’ve known someone for five days, five years, or five decades, there will always be new and better ways to communicate, and new aspects of them to witness or learn. Put down the distractions and the noise, and take time to really witness one another, to take stock of what you’re building together, and how best to grow.