Falling out of romantic love: A phenomenological study of the meaning of love in marriage
This study investigates falling out of romantic love (FORL) in marriage, a relatively unexplored pathway to marital dissatisfaction and divorce. The aims of this study were to identify the underpinnings and consequences of FORL, and to offer recommendations to individuals struggling in romantic relationships and professional clinicians who treat them. Other important goals included identifying factors salient to romantic love and marital satisfaction. Key theories that guided this research include Sternberg’s Duplex Theory of Love, attachment theory, social exchange theory, biological theories of love, and taxonomies of love. Purposive snowball sampling was employed to recruit participants from a midwestern state. Using phenomenology, the data were obtained through in-depth, individual interviews of 15 individuals, comprised of 10 females and 5 males, who had lived the experience of FORL.
Results highlighted the importance of family of origin experiences, personal relationship history, attachment style, individual attributes (i.e., self-esteem), mate selection processes, and emotional and physical connection to their spouse at the time of FORL. Further, results showed that FORL is a process, which happens over time, comprised of an identified point of recognition that the love has been lost and is unlikely to return (i.e., the point of no return). Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors included in the FORL experience were also identified and discussed with the participants. The results further indicated that FORL is a common phenomenon and that an intense emotional struggle can accompany it. Finally, strategies to remedy FORL were explored. Clinical implications were outlined, as were recommendations for individuals in romantic relationships.