Why Is Love So Hard To Keep Alive?

By Nicole Beasley |Updated April 27, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Ann-Marie Duncan, LCMHC

Most romantic relationships are doomed to failure. That's the simple truth, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because in each relationship, we practice love skills, hoping to get better at loving someone and accepting love from someone. If we all stayed with the first person we ever fell in love with, we'd likely miss out on the person we truly work well with — a potential long-term partner. At some point, most of us want some kind of secure connection with a person we love. We're ready to settle into the comfort of a coupled life. So why is love so hard to keep alive?

Why Is love So hard?

The love between romantic partners is complex, and many reasons contribute to the difficulty of keeping the bond strong. To know how to keep your love alive, you first have to understand why love is so hard in the first place. Do these reasons sound familiar to you?

  1. It's easier to quit than to work on it

Improving or even maintaining a relationship requires effort and motivation. It takes energy to pay attention to your partner. Also, relationships can be scary. They're uncertain. You don't know if they're going to last. Maybe you should just duck out before you get hurt, right?

Many people enjoy the head-spinning beginning of falling in love but shy away from doing the actual work of “relationship,” comprised of focusing part of your life on another individual's health, success, and happiness. As with learning a new activity, giving up can be easier than struggling through the new, hard, or frustrating parts. But if you never move past the first stages to the more established stage of your relationship, you never learn to improve and sustain your relationship skills.

  1. You're unsure what love really means

Love is hard to define. And it seems to mean something a little different toeach person. We all have a different love language. The difficulty in pinpointing what love really is and what to expect from a love relationship may make you uncertain as to whether the person you are with is whoyou really want. Or you may have difficulty knowing how to tell if another person is acting in a loving way toward you. This is especially true if you didn't get all the love and care you needed as a child. A simple rule of thumb is this: relationships are supposed to make you feel good, safe, and needed.

  1. People are selfish

Self-preservation is a natural tendency. In fact, it's a biological need. That means you are selfish in some ways and so is your mate. The only way to keep love alive is to give love, and compromise. If you can find pleasure in giving love to your partner rather than constantly seeking love, then your relationship has a really good chance. You should still pick someone who is worthy, but once you determine their worth, your goal should be giving.

How do I keep love alive?

Yes, love is hard, but you can make it work. It is an active process. It doesn't happen naturally, at least inthe longterm.

It's helpful if you understand the predictable stages relationships progress through.

First is the honeymoon or infatuation stage. This stage is defined by a surge of romantic and sexual feelings. You crave to be with your partner, lust dominates the dynamic, and you feel “high”from New Relationship Energy (NRE). This lusty, lovely stage lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Generally, decisions about a future with your mate should be delayed. You are not thinking with your rational self in this stage.

As infatuation decreases, the next stage is a more realistic assessment of compatibility. Basically, your partner is no longer on a pedestal and you begin to evaluate their worth from a slightly less rosy perspective. If they are a good match, there should still be plenty of passion and sexual attraction in this stage, but you can at least take a breather from sexy time as you evaluate your partner’s other characteristics. If you stay once the chemistry simmers down, you and your partner will experience power struggles. This is a test of your communication and conflict resolution skills. As you step back and take a breath, you redefine who you are and who they are with regard to the relationship. This can be a stormy stage. Often couples call it quits during this stage as it becomes clear they are not compatible. Relationships are end due to failure to communicate, inability to fight fair, or false expectations about what real relationships look like. The power struggle stage can last from a few months to a few years.

When couples survive the power and identity struggles, they enter into the long-term love stage. There is a cyclical nature to the long-term relationship. Healthy love in the longterm undulates. It waxes and wanes. Couples experience phases of being in love but also experience lulls. What this means in real life is some days you will live like roommates. You'll be copilots but love won't feel “big.” Some days you will be irritated by your mate and may even hate them. There will be periods of good-enough sex and dry spells. It is essential to embrace the highs and lows of this phase to avoid common pitfalls. It is essential to savor good times with your long-term lover and to sit tight through bad times without bouncing out of the cycle entirely (separation/divorce).

Essentially speaking, long-term love is difficult because it means you will need to tolerate periods of not feeling close. There may even be an absence of loving feelings for a while. There will be a reduction in intimacy. Commitment replaces the feeling of love and you must take the initiative to get back on track.

So now that you understand that your love will travel through predictable stages, let's look at how you can keep it alive.

Keeping Love Alive:

  • Be active, not passive. Over time you become used to your partner and feel more secure. Security in a relationship is good. Unfortunately, it can lead you to lose gratitude for your relationship and stop doing things to actively be loving. Remember: love is not simply a feeling but an active process.
  • Accept that not everything is in your control. Your relationship will not be a fairy tale. It's real life, and real life comes with pain and struggles. Remember those stages you read about? If you accept them at the onset, then you can deal with them in a way that benefits both you and your partner.
  • Focus your efforts on what's already good about your partner. Help them succeed where their strengths are. Appreciate those things. You cannot change your partner, so don't focus on the things you wish you could fix, and don't argue about them. Basically, accept the person you chose. Don't expect them to change simply because you'd like them to.
  • Keep having sex. Sex is one of the best signs of a good long-term relationship.
  • Pay attention to your health. Do what you can to feel and look good.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Fight fair.
  • Be vulnerable. Share your dreams and fears.
  • Do your research if you hit a rough spot. Would counseling or coaching help? What books or blogs can you follow that will help push you through to brighter days?
  • Tell your partner what you need. Don't indulge in the fantasy that they somehow know what you want. Get used to simply telling them!
  • Manage your stress. You can't be mindful about your own needs or your mate’s if you're mindlessly or robotically going through the motions.

Online Therapy for Couples

Online therapy is a new and exciting way for couples to receive counseling.A qualitative study of 15 couples receiving online counseling found that clients considered the experience to be overwhelmingly positive, commenting on how immersed they felt in the therapeutic process. Some couples reported that feeling more “distant” from the therapist also made them feel more in control and comfortable. Ultimately, couples felt that the online process enhanced the therapeutic alliance, which is the single greatest predictor of therapy success.

The Benefits of Online Therapy

As discussed above, online therapy is an exciting option for couples wanting to improve their relationships, especially as it can be difficult to find time in two busy schedules for in-person therapy. This is where BetterHelp comes in. You can access BetterHelp’s platform from the comfort and privacy of your own home. In addition, online therapy offers lower pricing than in-person therapy because online therapists don’t have to pay for costs like renting an office. BetterHelp’s licensed therapists have helped individuals and couples with relationship issues. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“William is a gem, tender-hearted and genuine. He has helped me with many things: relationships, grief, self-care amongst many other aspects of me and my life. I couldn't be happier, and satisfied with his work. I strongly recommend him and this program.”

“Nicole is amazing. As a queer nonbinary person, I was concerned about finding a therapist who would be able to understand the issues I was facing, but Nicole totally gets me. She has been able to help me realize what I want out of my life and relationships, and helped me have the strength to advocate for myself. I'm so grateful for her help.”

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