Huh? What is my brain saying?
December 13, 2008 9:54 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I rarely fight. We were both tired and grumpy the other night and sort of snippy with one another. Suddenly, a thought popped into my head, "I don't love you." It freaked me to think that. I do love him as much as I've loved anyone. This is the person I committed to for life. Are thoughts like this normal?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Our brains chatter incessantly. Relationships aren't magic, and the same rules apply to them as do to the rest of our lives. For example, if I think, "I'm going to kill that guy who cut me off!", it doesn't mean I'm a murderer. I'm a murderer if I kill him.

If you love this man, you love him. A fleeting thought does not hold any power.
posted by ellF at 9:58 AM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Normal. Don't ignore it. But, at the same time, don't worry about it. If you're like me, you have wrong or unworkable ideas all the time. Some eventually lead somewhere, but not where you first expected.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:59 AM on December 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

When you are tired and frustrated, those thoughts would easily be classified as normal. The real test is after getting a few nights of good sleep you need the same.

Basically, yes they are normal thought.
posted by Spurious at 10:10 AM on December 13, 2008

"What is my brain saying?"

Your brain is saying "I am tired and pissed off, and this @&!#er is the closest object to take out my frustration on.
posted by Spurious at 10:11 AM on December 13, 2008 [13 favorites]

A passing thought or two like this means nothing.

The thing to pay attention to is how you treat him. Do you treat him like someone you love? If you treat him like someone you love, then he is almost certainly someone you love.
posted by milarepa at 10:15 AM on December 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Normal. Normal normal normal. And mild!

I like Chris Rock's quote: (Is too late to say NSFW?)
If you haven't contemplated murder, you ain't been in love. If you haven't seriously thought about killing a motherfucker, you ain't been in love. If you haven't had a can of rat poison in your hand and looked at it for forty-five minutes straight, you ain't been in love. If you haven't bought a shovel and a bag and a rug to roll their ass up in, you ain't been in love. If you haven't practiced your alibi in front of the mirror, you ain't been in love. And the only thing that's stopped you from killing this motherfucker was a episode of CSI: "Oh man, they thorough. I better make up. They might catch my ass."
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:23 AM on December 13, 2008 [60 favorites]

There's a difference between "After long and careful consideration and in the cold light of day, I have come to the conclusion that I do not love you" and "In the middle of a snippy and tiresome fight, in the heat of this exact moment I feel no love for your annoying ass."

One is a problem. The other is not.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:24 AM on December 13, 2008 [9 favorites]

If you're tired and grumpy and snippy, you are not likely to also be loving, affectionate and compassionate at the same time. That does not mean you don't love the person; it means you aren't showing it at this particular time. You're having normal thoughts. Don't read too much into the cognitive dissonance.
posted by desjardins at 10:25 AM on December 13, 2008

We can (and frequently do) hold conflicting emotions for those closest to us. We can love and hate our Significant Other but because the hatred is frightening and unacceptable to our psyche, repress it so that it remains unconscious... most of the time.

As the adage goes, whatever we bury, we bury alive, so at certain moments, the unacceptable feelings and thoughts rise to our consciousness. They may appear in the form of anger, apathy, desire for other potential partners, or passive-aggressive behavior.

The most well-adjusted individuals acknowledge the conflicting feelings, attempt to understand their origins, and deal with them. But others opt to ignore or deny the feelings, hoping they'll disappear over time.

It's okay not to always be in love with your SO. It's okay to even dislike SO at times. Be concerned only if your negative thoughts and feelings begin to overwhelm your positive regard for SO.
posted by terranova at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

"...a thought popped into my head, "I don't love you." It freaked me to think that. I do love him as much as I've loved anyone. This is the person I committed to for life?

I'm no therapist, but I find your choice of words there darkly fascinating. It might be harmless, but listen to what I just heard from the other side...

"Do you love me?"
"I love you as much as I have ever loved anyone."
"Yes... but do you love me?"
"I am committed to you for life!"


Maybe it's nothing, but I think you should probably explore those thoughts. Not that you'll be able to stop thinking about it for the next while, anyway, but don't hide from it. Think about how you really feel, and why. Try to ignore how you think-you-should-feel, or want-to-feel while you're at it.

Good luck.
posted by rokusan at 11:02 AM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm going to agree with everything that's been said above. Totally normally, but don't ignore it, either. Basically lay low and observe your own emotions for a while - don't force it, but don't panic about it, either. There are many things that influence your mood and emotions, and love doesn't necessarily have that much to do with it on a moment-to-moment basis. If it persists, ask yourself if the things you initially loved about your SO are still there. But until then, don't worry.

I came really close to breaking up with my current SO once, because I met him for dinner after an exhausting day at a tournament, and I didn't want to talk and didn't want to deal with people, and I was seriously asking myself why I was even seeing this person. Turns out I was just really really sleep deprived and mildly resentful that he didn't choose to subject himself to gruelling tournaments like that. These things do happen.
posted by Phire at 11:08 AM on December 13, 2008

Don't be alarmist. Love isn't a switch that gets flipped in your brain once and remains at a more or less constant level forever. It's an emotion about a person, and like any other emotion about a person, it's got to be maintained with work.

I feel like this is similar to someone who, overworked and unhappy, crosses over a bridge on the way home from work and has a moment of suicidal ideation - "Maybe I'll just drive off". This isn't likely to be a suicide. It's a pressure valve for the brain, and it's pretty normal. Work at your relationship and maybe tell your partner you're feeling less than ideal, and you can bounce back.
posted by crinklebat at 11:15 AM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

The shine is wearing off the relationship.

This is not bad, this is where you double down and commit, accept flaws faults etc. or exacerbate them in your mind and backtrack out of the partnership.

To live together will take the rest of your life, to back out can sometimes take years.

Its normal, and normalcy and dependability are what we seek in a long term commitment no?

You just encountered your first on/off switch, and said to yourself "I don't want to throw that switch."

Relax, it will happen again.
posted by Max Power at 11:25 AM on December 13, 2008

Honestly, the biggest threat right now is that you could get worked up about a passing thought to the point where it starts snowballing in your mind into something it totally wasn't.

Don't go down that road.

It's difficult to accept that sometimes your moods can cause you to say or do things you don't really mean, because we all want to maintain the illusion that we have absolute control over our own thoughts and actions. But the truth is that nobody has ever had that - we just *mostly* have control, and part of a successful relationship is learning to take the occasional random blip on your emotional radar in stride.

Relax, maybe make it a point to have a good date or do something special with him soon, but the best thing you can do right now is let it go.
posted by Ryvar at 11:29 AM on December 13, 2008

I think jumping to the assumption that your action to not tell your partner that you did not love him was bad is wrong.

Examine your words, because your word choice is the key to understanding this. You said to yourself "I don't love you," meaning him. You wanted to say the meanest thing you could to him because you were angry. But somebody up in the command center up there said, "nope, don't think that one is passing the lips."

If you were just dialoging with yourself the words would be "I don't love him."

So that was restraint. Its a thing we do to not hurt the people we care about.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:45 AM on December 13, 2008

Could be a confusion of "love" and "like"? My mom once told me, "I love you, but right now.. I really don't like you."
posted by czechmate at 11:46 AM on December 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

2nding basically everyone above, but i think there is something worth paying attention to in rokusan's post.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2008

milarepa: "
The thing to pay attention to is how you treat him. Do you treat him like someone you love? If you treat him like someone you love, then he is almost certainly someone you love.

TITCR. (This is the credited response, that is, milarepa has it exactly right.)
posted by demagogue at 12:18 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't love you right now is not the same as I don't love you anymore.

More thoughts like that, though, and I'd recommend you consider relationship counselling.
posted by Grrlscout at 12:19 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Love is a weird thing - I've often thought that it is very similar to the tide. Sometimes you love someone so much that it hurts - other times, you remember that you love them, but it's just an intellectual exercise. It's not a constant, steady state.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2008 [5 favorites]

Put this in a different context... Did you ever have a really horrible fight with your parents? Did you feel love for your parents at that exact moment? Did you at some point even tell your parents "I hate you" or something similar? Having answered all those questions: "Do you love your mom and dad?"

As human beings, we just can't spew loving feelings 24/7.
posted by bananafish at 2:30 PM on December 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

You know, I've had the thought you're talking about a lot. In some cases, it's scared me into leaving really wonderful relationships. In others, it's given me the momentum I needed to leave really awful ones. I've sometimes regretted listening to it, and sometimes been glad I did.

The conclusion that I've come to is that you can't trust the warm fuzzy "I love you" feeling (or, for that matter, the cold spiky "fuck off" one) one way or another as a barometer of how the relationship's doing. You need to think about the relationship itself. Do you respect your partner? Do you trust your partner? Do you treat each other well? Are you dealing with the problems you've got? Are you at least aware and mindful of the problems you've got? Are you still happy together more often than you're unhappy? Do you still want the relationship to work?

If you can honestly say yes to all those, then ignore the little blips of ambivalence and doubt and go on loving each other. If you're tempted to answer no to some, then you've got some concrete problems to deal with, and you should focus on solving those problems rather than agonizing over the momentary fluctuations in your feelings.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:42 PM on December 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

Relax, your mind change all the time, your feelings , your emotions, you might have tought that, tomorrow if he leaves you you might think he is your life and you can't leave without him..why to worry as much now? enjoy the fact you have someone by your side tonight to hug and love..not too many people are so lucky!
posted by zulo at 4:13 PM on December 13, 2008

To me, "I don't love you" sounds like an idea for blurting out something hurtful - not a reflection of your deepest, true feelings.

Thinking "I don't love him" would be more troublesome, but probably meaningless in the overall picture.

Don't you ever think "I hate myself" or "I am such an idiot" in flush of shame or frustration? If you do, that's no reason to put yourself on suicide watch. Thinking he's hateful or an idiot is no reason to think the love is doomed.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:42 PM on December 13, 2008

Sitting here reading metafilter with my loving SO and we both agree that this is normal. And we're crazy about each other.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:09 PM on December 13, 2008

Yep, normal.

On top of normal, I'm also with the "potential hurtful comment" crowd. And the "you must love him 'cause you didn't say it" crowd.

posted by Netzapper at 6:42 PM on December 13, 2008

Warning: this is long.

Mr. Angiep and I have been married almost 30 years, and I love him waayyy more now than I did on our wedding day. That said, in our history at least one of us has:

-- said "I can't stay married to you" and looked for an apartment ... and come home
-- fallen out of love for a period of time (minutes, hours, weeks) ... and fallen back in love again
-- said something we wish we could retract, and instantly did retract and apologize
-- said something we wish we could retract, but did not do so until much later

Early on (up until about 10 years of marriage) we went to counselling, alone and together, as necessary. We don't do so now not because we don' t have conflicts but because we've learned a lot about communication and conflict resolution from those counselling sessions. However, if we ever get to a point where our skills can't handle the conflict, we'll go get help again.

We also each had Myers-Briggs Personality Inventories done. Turns out Mr. Ap is an off-the-meter Feeling type while I'm an off-the-meter Thinking type. Sometimes he thinks he's living with Mr. Spock and I think I'm living wth an emotional volcano. But we've accepted (that was easy) and actually come to appreciate (a lot harder) how each of us expresses our love for each other. Once he asked me why I love him and I said, "I made a decision to love you," which at the time struck him as cold and unfeeling. He now understands the feeling my statement implied. When we're at our best, I help him articulate feelings that are threatening to overwhelm him and he helps me identify deep emotion that I have a hard time expressing that might paralyse me.

Love flows and ebbs a multitide of times in a long-term relationship. I'm nthing that your experience is utterly normal and in fact, completely irrelevant in the larger scheme of your relationship.
posted by angiep at 8:42 PM on December 13, 2008 [18 favorites]

I once had a boyfriend who was such a stickler for accuracy that he thought people should say "I love you right now" when they expressed love, since love was such an amorphous and unpredictable feeling... I think my response at the time was that that was intrinsic to the "I" - oh what a bunch of wankers we were.

Like that Chris Rock quote illustrates, lots of people think you're not really in love until you can trust each other enough to say hurtful things or at least feel hurtful things for a moment, but know you'll be able to pull through, that the underlying pool is deeper than the ripples on the surface.

But you have to interpret your own feelings. Sometimes people make big decisions based on a random fluctuation in how they feel - and they may deeply regret it or it may be the best thing that ever happened. Crazy world.
posted by mdn at 4:33 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's individual, yes?

If you're the sort of person, who, once you have ever had that fateful thought about something...
"God I hate this job/I can't take this job anymore"
"I'm bored. I don't enjoy drawing"
"Screw this, I'm leaving school"
And then actually followed through (in the bad way), on ALL those things...

Then that'd be a bad sign.
The vast majority of people don't though. And possibly it's something therapy can change. I have had moments where, I've had that fateful thought, and that's it. Usually hobbies. Maybe, I could fall in love with some thing again, but it'd have to be for all new reasons. I was considering my existing reasons when I thought that thing, and if it was enough, then boom. Lost my passion for it.
I don't think it's a good thing. I do think I'd like to be able to change it (I was getting pretty good at drawing too. :P )
posted by Elysum at 12:24 AM on December 15, 2008

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