Q: There have been times when I’m not absolutely sure that I’m still in love with my husband. I’m afraid this means we’re not right for each other, even though we’ve been married for several years. Can you shed any light on this?

A: There are many normal factors that can influence how you feel about your spouse. Today we’ll focus on something all couples experience (even though they may be unaware of it): the fact that love changes with the passage of time.

Your relationship will go through stages

It’s important to realize that long-term relationships go through a series of stages. It is perfectly natural for your feelings to fluctuate along with the tides of these stages.

The danger lies in misinterpreting these normal relationship changes as an indication that you no longer love your partner. One trouble spot is when your relationship transitions from the early blissful stage (a time when your feelings might be extremely intense and all-consuming) to what has been called the stage of disillusionment. Typically, this occurs two to three years into a relationship.

During disillusionment, the intensity of passion and infatuation wanes and you begin to notice the differences that exist between you and your partner–differences that require compromise, negotiation and patience. The calm sky that once steadied your relationship gives way to pockets of unsettling turbulence. Many couples are unprepared for these changes and wrongly assume that their relationship is inherently flawed or that they are no longer “in love” with each other.

Couples who make the hasty decision to end their relationship at this point are nearsighted; they fail to see beyond the immediacy of the changes all relationships face. When you understand that your relationship is evolving (and that there will be growing pains), you will be more likely to ride through the turbulence until the skies become calm again.

Let yourself fall in love with your partner more than once

Love is not a linear phenomenon–your feelings of love will ebb and flow. Couples who have been together for many years often describe falling in love with each other more than once (and in different ways) over the course of their relationship. There are naturally occurring relationship lulls intermixed with periods of greater connection and intensity.

Feelings change, love intensifies and wanes–over the lifetime of a marriage couples fall in and out of love with each other again and again.

Think of your relationship as a journey–a journey that will involve highs and lows, success and disappointment, discovery and rediscovery. Along this journey, successful couples hold onto the reasons they fell in love in the first place and they find new reasons to deepen their existing love.

It is the awareness of these normal stages of love and commitment to the long-term survival of the relationship that sustain couples during times of uncertainty and the stresses that all relationships face.