We are embarking upon peak divorce season, people. (… Hooray?)
Speaking to Sydney Morning Herald last year, family law expert Daniel Myers explained: “The influx tends to be at the end of January as a result of a separation that occurred after Christmas, and it’s when the kids go back to school that we really see the numbers.”
So popular is the decision to divorce over the new year period, that in Britain the first Monday back at work is referred to in legal circles as “Divorce Monday”.
Undoubtedly, the festive season – where the bustling rush, rush, rush of the year quietens into a hum of family, self-help and reflection – sees many women reevaluating their marriages and, often, their feelings towards their significant other.
In what can be an uncomfortable and confronting time, a comforting fact is this: If you’re feeling uncertain about the future of your relationship, you’re certainly not alone.
Knowing that so many women struggle with the big “do I stay?” question at precisely this time of year, we reached out to psychologist Amanda Gordon, the director of Armchair Psychology, for guidance on what the big signs that you’re falling out of love are, and what to do about them.
The big red flag
Despite what others might tell you, feeling attracted to someone who isn’t your partner – and having fantasies about that person – in no ways means you have fallen out of love or that your relationship is over.
“[To suggest] that is nonsense,” Amanda, who has been married for 42 years, tells Mamamia. “Being attracted to someone else is possible even in the context of a true loving relationship.
“When you are in love with your partner, though, as a rule, you keep your attraction to someone else as a fantasy and certainly don’t enact it. That is, you recognise that we are all sexual beings, and having chosen to be in a monogamous relationship, you abide by its rules – and if you’re smart, you’ll revel in your sexiness and bring it into your loving relationship, in the way you relate to your partner.
“Dress yourself up and throw yourself into making your loving relationship sexy, too – you’ll never regret having fun or enhancing intimacy.”
The sign women need to look out for is entirely different.
Working with couples for over 25 years has taught the New South Wales-based psychologist that "all relationships take work."
"It is impossible to NOT fall out of love if you are not actively working on your loving relationship. In my experience, the stopping work precedes the falling out of love every time."
Amanda tells Mamamia that "if a couple has both been working on their relationship, but the work is getting harder, more tedious, and less rewarding" it's a key "red flag".
"The work I’m talking about is the simple everyday work of communicating – communicating respect and concern, interest in each other, the specialness of the relationship," Amanda explains.
Actually, the health of your marriage is often apparent in how you first interact with each other in the morning, and how you communicate upon walking in the door that evening. Is it a kind exchange, or is it tainted with resentment?
"It can happen as you leave the house in the morning or on your return – the way you greet each other can mean so much (or so little). It can happen when you get up, as you go to bed, when you’re doing the chores. Practice makes perfect."
Listen: Does your relationship pass the loaf of bread test? It involves crusts. (Post continues...)
What to do about it
"If you do feel you have fallen out of love, and you’d like to rekindle the flame of love, the first step is to look for the good things in your partner," Amanda says.
"They won’t necessarily be the things you fell in love with in the first place, because love changes over time and so does our perception, but there will be some good things there if you look. And I don’t mean his body, or his income. Rather, I mean the greeting he gives you, the way he pours you a drink when he gets his own, the things you enjoy together, your mutual goals, the joy he gets from being with you.
"Looking for the good actually tends to change the way you respond to positive things, and can help you get even more good from him."
Amanda also strongly advocates "having an affair! ... with your partner."
"Make sex different, exciting, a priority, just as you would with a new lover. It will help your loving feelings and make you feel younger," she says.
What was the first sign that you were falling out of love with a partner? Let us know in the comments below...
For more advice and guidance from Amanda Gordon, visit Armchair Psychology or call 02 9362 3490.