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The way we fall out of romantic love

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  May 22, 2013 10:40 AM

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Tolstoy famously opened "Anna Karenina" with the line, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It seems, however, that the same may not be true for unhappy marriages.

Psychologist Joanni Sailor at Cameron University in Oklahoma interviewed eight people who’d fallen out of love with their spouses and, in a study published this month in the online journal The Qualitative Report, found consistent pattern of devolution across the relationships. The subjects repeatedly made comments pertaining to a loss of trust, of intimacy, and of feeling loved, and they tended to echo each other in the way they talked about the emotional pain and the negative sense of self they felt during the waning years of their marriages. And while most of the marriages declined gradually, the respondents consistently identified what Sailor refers to as a “pivotal moment of knowing,” when suddenly it became clear that there was no love left in their marriages.

"And I think at that moment it was like a stick just snapped,” one person said. It was over. It was flat done.”

Table 1, which begins on page 8 of the paper, collects respondents' comments. Some of these are pasted below:


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