Are Ups and Downs in Marriage Normal?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From Bulgaria: Me and my partner have a 10 month old daughter. We are both very tired, sleep deprived etc, you know all the stress that comes in a package with the joy of being a first time parent.

When I met him 2 years ago I fell in love so madly that I couldn’t even eat… Then I got pregnant and it all changed, it was a huge step (plus as a bonus I used to live and work in another country, we met when I was in my home country for the summer). I got very moody and started picking on him for everything (I admire his patience!).
There was a point when I didn’t feel like I loved him at all… And then it all changed somehow, we had a crisis and suddenly afterwards I was in love again and it was as beautiful as in the beginning… It was magical, I was falling in love with him over and over again.

Now a few months after our child was born I don’t feel in love anymore (yet again) and I worry very much. I wish I could feel the same flame as it was so beautiful, but it doesn’t work somehow (in my mind). I have the feeling that all my feelings have shifted towards my daughter and there’s little left for my partner… Is that normal? I desperately wanna feel in love with him again and I feel very guilty about not being able to.

I should also mention that I have been diagnosed with bipolar a few years ago (stopped taking my medication when I found out I was pregnant and have not resumed it yet as I am breastfeeding). I also suspect that I have OCD, I read an article a couple of weeks ago about OCD and it was totally applicable on me… After I read it some of my intrusive thoughts have become less bothering as I realise now they’re not real, it’s just OCD… So I also think that the idea about not being in love might acually be an intrusive thought and not a real issue (because I am very scared of not loving or not being loved enough).

Recently I have been feeling depressed and irritable at the same time (that must be the bipolar disorder) so I don’t know anymore if I should / can trust my own judgement and emotions… I am confused.

My question is – is it normal to be out of love in some point in a long relationship / marriage? (we are not legally married, but we live together and have a child). And then to fall in love again? Or what is the typical emotional dynamics of a marriage? I know the question is stupid, as every marriage is different, like every person is different too… But I mean – how does the intense feeling of being in love evolve in a long relationship?

Thank you,

A: First: No question is stupid. Life is full of possibilities. Asking questions is how we get answers.

So — the answer to your question is this: Yes, it is absolutely normal for there to be ups and downs in a marriage. As one wise person once said, “Marriage is an institution that keeps us together until we fall in love again.” Yes, I know you aren’t married but you have created a family. I hope marriage is the next step.

You have gone through many significant changes in the past few years. New love is different from married love. A baby does take most of our energy and love. Even the best relationships get less attention when there is an infant in the house. You have been off medication — which you may or may not need to restart. (Do talk to your doctor.) And you think you may have some level of OCD (another topic for your doctor). Whew! It’s a lot to handle.

My suggestion? Stop over-thinking all of this. Enjoy your baby. Love your partner as best you can. You won’t reclaim new love. That flaming new love only happens when love is new. But you will likely find something that is deeper and more meaningful if you give it a chance.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). Are Ups and Downs in Marriage Normal?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/04/are-ups-and-downs-in-marriage-normal/

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