I can still remember what it felt like to tell my first girlfriend, “I don’t love you anymore.”
I’d just gotten back from traveling through Greece and the Middle East (read my adventures) and I thought I was such a worldly, cultured man now.
I thought I needed to explore the world and see if there was anyone “better” out there. But the truth was pretty simple: I’d known before I left that we were going to break up. That’s why I filled an empty iPhone 3G case full of Trojans.
Because…you know…what if they didn’t sell condoms in Greece? That was a scumbag move, I know.
Incidentally, Greece actually has one of the highest abortion rates in the world and an entire spring festival devoted to the phallus - so I may have been on to something inadvertently.
It’s not actually that color. But the size is more or less accurate.
See, about 6-8 months before that trip, I’d just stopped feeling that “spark” for her. I couldn’t really place a reason on why.
But as soon as I realized it, my subconscious mind started looking for a solution to my “problem.” And, out of the clear blue sky, I got the genius idea to study abroad. It was classic psychological avoidance — and it was a way for me to blame the problems in our relationship on something other than my lack of attention to her needs.
5 years later, the situation feels a lot cleaner in my mind and my decisions seem much more deliberate in retrospect.
As I look back on my choices, starting with the roots of how I arrived at my decisions, I can see the fatal flaw: I thought that I’d “fallen out of love.” I WAS WRONG. In reality, my mind was just going through the natural transitions that EVERYBODY goes through when they do ANYTHING for an extended period of time. It’s evolution, disguised as boredom.
This idea of evolution-as-boredom came rushing back to me tonight — while I was at the gym bench pressing…of all places.
Because I fucking hate the gym now — AND THIS IS A BIG DEAL SINCE I USED TO BE MARRIED TO THE IRON.
Most of you don’t know that I very nearly became a pro natural bodybuilder at 19. In college, I even filmed a 10-minute documentary called Skin Deep on the psychological aspects of the sport — and how bodybuilding had affected my relationships. I think it has over 1,400 views now.
But now, I don’t get nearly the same thrill out of the gym that I used to.
I’d been feeling like this for a while, and honestly, it bothered me.
“Have I fallen out of love with the gym, too?”
FOCK! Shit shit shit. DAMMIT! I need this body. It’s my ultimate backup if all my businesses fail. I’ll just call my mom, have her shave my inner thighs again (see above pic) and I should be back in business at Swinging Richard’s.
I need to stay in shape. But at the same time, I just don’t care about being “jacked” like I used to. So every day (or 4-5x/week), I’d force myself to go in there, I’d do some stuff and I get out. I still stayed in great shape because of the foundation I’ve built over the years — but it didn’t feel the same anymore — and I was pretty sure that at the earliest opportunity, I’d find some excuse to cut corners.
In 2-3 years I’d be the hairy guy on the bosu ball saying things like “tone” and “core”.
Luckily, none of that has happened. And it won’t — because I’ve taken proactive measures.
The secret: Months ago, I hired a personal trainer.
Now, I realize that my feelings towards the gym weren’t boredom. Just like my first relationship, I was going through an evolution.
And that’s the insight: After several years of doing something — it won’t feel the same anymore. No matter how intense the feeling was in the beginning, inevitably, that feeling will transform.
When that happens, you’ll think you’ve “fallen out of love.”
So what how do you get the intense feelings back and encourage yourself to push forward? Here are 2 strategies to get you moving again:
Strategy 1: Get someone to help you push
Rather than assume that the gym will never be as exciting as it used to be and get complacent with lower levels of performance — I hired a trainer to add that spark back. It was a bit of an ego blow at first because I feel like I’m supposed to have the gym thing “under control.” But the truth is, for the first time in quite a while, I’m actually able to work out with the blistering intensity I used to. And it’s ONLY because I’ve acknowledged that I can’t do it alone anymore. Now I feel the intensity again. I’m back in love.
What if you could find someone to help you get your most important tasks done?
- Someone to remind you to write every day
- Someone to run with you or check in with you about your eating
- Someone to ask you “have you practiced your programming today?”
It makes a BIG difference having someone on your team, pushing you forward.
(Side note: My friend Maneesh wrote a great article on exactly how to find an accountability buddy here.)
Strategy 2: Realize that even the best things change
How many of us have been disappointed when our relationships stopped feeling “fresh”?
We met somebody and the chemistry was undeniable. We thought it would always feel like the first date.
So how do we deal when it doesn’t anymore?
In my current relationship, rather than “falling out of love” when that “new-new” feeling wears off, I continually find fun, interesting ways to explore the relationship on a deeper level that’s only possible because of how close we’ve grown. I’ve come to realize that as we grow, the way we see each other will continually change. And this is ok. This is normal. When that happens, it’s your responsibility to find new, exciting ways to look at your relationship.
(BTW – as corny as it sounds, the 5 Love Languages is a great book for figuring this type of stuff out.)
This isn’t just about romantic relationships. It also applies to other relationships with things you love.
Maybe you used to love playing the guitar — but it doesn’t interest you like it used to anymore. Have you tried learning a different style or getting a new guitar? Have you tried learning to read sheet music instead of tab, or performing for people?
These are just a few examples from my life — I hope they resonated with you.
Can you think of a time when you “fell out of love” with something you used to be passionate about?
What did you do to get the passion back? Or did you just let it slowly slip away…
Let me know in the comments.
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