7 Lies About Love That Are Keeping You From Finding The Real Thing
To fall in love is natural. For love to last is not. We’re more likely to succeed in building a lasting relationship if we’ve chosen our partner wisely in the first place. To do this, we have to overcome these seven cultural myths about love.
1. You’ll know immediately whether they’re “The One.”
Yes, you’ll know immediately when you’re attracted to someone. But you need more than sexual attraction (or even a strong instinct) to find someone that will be a good life partner. You need a lot of logical data, which have nothing to do with how you feel. (Data aren’t romantic.)
How well does your lover get along with their family? Do they talk a lot about their disappointments in past relationships, jobs, or other life experiences and blame other people?
Do they own their part in the problems they’ve had? If they tend to see themselves as victims, the day will come when it’s your turn to be the one to blame. If they hold onto grudges, eventually they will hold onto grudges against you.
2. You’ll know the right person because they’ll seem so familiar: like you’ve known them your whole life.
This illusion is tricky. People often think a sense of deep familiarity is a sign that they’re soul mates — fated to be together. What might be truer, actually, is that you recognize and gravitate toward certain personality traits in them that also belonged to your parents. Some of those attitudes and behaviors might have been very hard to live with.
This tendency is nature’s way of creating a situation similar to the one in which we were wounded as children: Now we’ll go through the situation again, and this time we’ll heal ourselves.
For example, if we felt abandoned as a child, we might seek a partner who's remote and hard to stay connected with. We fall for their green eyes and beautiful hair and feel like we’ve known them forever. After a while, however, we begin to feel the same disconnected feeling we experienced as a child.
Only this time we decide we can learn how to be there for ourselves. Rather than get angry or become needy, we can practice the essential skill of self-soothing, of feeling sufficient inside ourselves. It’s possible to succeed at this effort. Some people do, and some people don’t. To try to heal old wounds this way, however, doesn’t mean we’ve met someone who’d make a truly compatible partner.
3. The more obsessed you are with a person, the more you should be together.
When you fall in love, it’s normal and healthy to think about your lover a lot. An obsession, however, means you think about nothing else, and this fixation isn’t a sign of great love. It’s a sign of great addiction.
4. If it’s “meant to be,” you’ll be able to resolve all problems.
The research shows that 68 percent of conflicts between couples never get resolved. Never. Apparently, the difference between a relationship that works and one that doesn’t depends on how well you learn to cope with your differences, how skilled you become in repair and collaboration, and how able you are to lose the expectation that you will ever always agree on everything.
5. Your mind and your heart will never wander.
It’s human and normal to think of your high school sweetheart, your college love, or the fellow fourth grader who gave you a Valentine’s Day card. It’s even normal to imagine what life might’ve been like with one of them. What’s important is what you do with these thoughts.
Allow them to pass, rather than act on them, and you’ll find your feelings for your partner usually return to the same place they were.
6. You’ll never feel bored, irritated, or wonder why you made this choice in a partner.
Boredom is part of life, and sometimes it’s natural to be bored and irritated by your partner’s same old stories, same old complaints, and same old way of responding to things.
If this reaction is a momentary thing, it’s normal. If you’re bored and turned off almost all the time, however, it’s a signal that you need to start to spice things up.
7. Sex will always be as spontaneous and easy as it is in the beginning.
Sexual cycles are like the cycles of love; they change, often, in a long-term relationship. For the first one to three years, our bodies retain all the chemicals in the so-called love potion, which keep us hot.
This is normal, and you can do something about it. Do the research, read some good books on how to get your sex life going again, and remember the things you did in the beginning to turn one another on and copy them. You might have to work at it a little harder later in the relationship, but your sex life can be as good as ever if you don’t just rely on spontaneity.
Long-lasting love results from the necessary work that two people do to create a strong, durable partnership over time. When we can combine the feelings in our heart with the wisdom and intelligence in our mind, chances are we will be able to choose someone who has the characteristics and ability to go the distance.
This post originally appeared in MindBodyGreen.
15 Universal Truths About Love
With that, here are the 15 things I’ve observed over time to be the most essential and universal truths about love.
1. Love is a feeling.
And like any feeling, it can come and go — sometimes unexpectedly. Loving, however, is a skill set, and one you can develop.
2. At its beginning, romantic love is passionate and exciting — so enjoy the ride.
Keep in mind, though, that the depth of your passion early on is no indication that your lover is a good person for you to commit to. We need other (less exciting) information to select a partner wisely.
3. One of the main reasons relationships fail is that we don’t choose someone who is right for us to begin with.
This seems obvious, but accepting this truth will help you be more mindful and self-aware when it comes to determining the difference between love and lust.
4. We tend to commit to those we think are like us.
And we move into a power struggle dynamic soon thereafter because we find out they’re different. Then we try to change our lover into the person we thought they were — or should be. That is the cause of so, so many conflicts I see in relationships.
5. Nobody can change another person.
You may get compliance and agreement, but they won’t last. Learning to practice the art of acceptance is an effort far more worth your while.
6. We often look out and see what our partner is doing “wrong.”
But any change we seek has to come from within us. Relationships are an inside job.
7. Waiting for your partner to change isn't the same thing as patience.
To be actually patient (with yourself), learn to accept your partner. Rather than wait for him/her to decide to change, sometimes all it takes is to make a new move yourself.
8. To find the right person is to be the right person.
Feeling good in your own skin is the foundation of a healthy relationship, period.
9. All couples have some irresolvable issues.
The difference between couples that thrive and couples that dive is how successfully they manage their issues, because every couple has some.
10. Nourishing the relationship doesn't happen on its own.
In addition to developing the skills to manage conflict, you also need to commit to nourishing the relationship (even when you don't want to). As I said, loving is a skill set — so make sure to put in the work to have fun together, to try new activities and to allow miracles to happen!
11. To be able to nurture the other person and the relationship, we have to keep our own tank full.
Giving and giving without receiving is a recipe for burnout. Not only should there be mutual giving in the relationship, but make sure to give yourself love, too.
12. You can live a full life even if you don't commit to one person.
People used to need relationships to survive and to keep the species alive. Now, by contrast, we are with particular partners by choice. So honor the power of your choice.
13. The #1 complaint in couple’s therapy is “I’m not in love with my partner anymore.”
But once again: love is a feeling. It comes and it goes, and is never constant. Good relationships have bad seasons and also dull ones. Most often, the feeling returns — so don't be in despair if you feel the ebb and flow.
14. It’s normal for sex to slow down and sometimes seem to disappear in long-term relationships.
No matter how dull or dead our sex life feels, we can jump-start it into something passionate and hot all over again, if we’re willing.
15. To fall in love takes a moment.
To learn to love takes a long time and is the most valuable thing we can learn in our lifetime.
I’ve been with my husband for thirty years of a (mostly) terrific marriage. I attribute this to the commitment we each made to learn the skills (and practice them) which make love thrive and to almost create a series of mantras for ourselves out of these points. In some ways I feel my own life experience are my most important credentials.
This post originally appeared in MindBodyGreen.
Why Falling In Love Makes People Crazy
Some lovers try to stay inside the love bubble as long as they can by creating their own private culture. They invent a language of their own that nobody else can understand. They share jokes with punch lines that are funny only to them. Within the perceived safety of the bubble, their merge feels at once total and eternal. It was in just such a bubble that film star Ingrid Bergman and her husband, Peter Lindstrom, named their daughter Pia, with the three letters standing for Peter, Ingrid, Always. Alas, the marriage fell apart, but Pia's name remained a reminder of love's possibilities and its fragility — always.
Of course, not everyone experiences the “urge to merge.” Some people never feel it at all. Or they enjoy an initial hit of ecstasy that quickly dissipates. Some people enter love slowly, with a friendship that gradually leads to an intimate partnership — one that may or may not be spiced with romance. Others choose a partner because they feel that “it's just time,” which may coincide with the accelerating ticking of the biological clock.
Still others focus on similarities based on ethnicity, race, religion, education, class and life goals. Indeed, in many cultures, selecting a mate has little or nothing to do with falling in love. Nonetheless, so much of our culture — songs, movies, fairy tales, novels — leads us to believe that idealized love is the norm. We await the hero or heroine who will kiss us awake.
A Kind of Madness
This first stage of love has been chronicled for as long as human beings have been on the planet. We hear most often of "lovesickness," a series of anxiety-related symptoms brought on by the intense changes associated with falling in love. Ibn Sina, tenth-century physician and father of modern medicine, viewed obsession as the principal cause of lovesickness.
We now know that he was right. The biochemical changes that take place in new lovers produce symptoms similar to in those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, including loss of appetite and sleeplessness. Ah, and how well we know the signs of obsession ... Fantasies of the beloved fill our days and crowd our nights; when we're apart, we feel incomplete. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also leads to constant chatter about the missing object of affection. This fixation and preoccupation are what others find tiresome about the love-struck. People roll their eyes and think us temporarily insane. Which, of course, we are.
In 1979 psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term limerence to describe this temporary state of madness and described the conditions associated with it:
- Overestimation of the good qualities of the beloved (and minimization of the negative)
- Acute longing for the object of one's affection
- Feelings of ecstasy in the presence of the loved one
- Deep mood swings from ecstasy to agony and back again
- Involuntary, obsessive thinking about the other
- Deep agony when the relationship ends
It startled me to hear how his words could have just as easily described what it feels like to fall in love with another person. “I just had to have it,” meaning alcohol and "I just had to have him or her" do not seem very far apart.
The reason for this is simple, if a bit surprising: new lovers do have much in common with addicts. Magnetic resonance imaging reveals that the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that is activated in lovers, is the same part that lights up in cocaine users and gamblers when they act out their addiction.
This recent discovery brings to mind the old adage: magic is science not yet understood. What we do know, however, is that the craving associated with romantic love is very real. Greek mythology provides us with imaginative and amusing ways to describe the felt intensity of romantic love. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, had a son named Cupid. His job, as an archer, was to dip arrows into his mother's secret love potion before he took aim. Once Cupid's arrow hit its target, the victim fell madly in love with the next person he or she saw.
This myth has given rise to some of the most extraordinary love legends of all time, including those of Apollo and Daphne, Helen of Troy, Antony and Cleopatra, and Romeo and Juliet. We now know that the “hit” of romance can be partially explained by biochemistry. Science tells us that the pounding heart that leaves us breathless, trembling, and longing to be with our beloved signifies an overabundance of particular chemicals and hormones in the brain and blood, including PEA (phenylethylamine), a natural amphetamine also found in chocolate and marijuana.
As they float on a sea of PEA, lovers report more sensational and adventurous sexual experiences than they've ever enjoyed before, such as “mile-high sex” and a heightened pleasure in sensory qualities that might normally be a turnoff. Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, once wrote to Josephine, “I’m coming home. Please don't wash.”
As if a generous shot of PEA weren't enough, the love cocktail is also spiked with endorphins, which boost pleasure and decrease pain, and oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding and cuddling. This cocktail infuses us with euphoria and extraordinary energy, which is why sleep and nourishment seem unimportant. Our perspective becomes so skewed that we see only what is good and beautiful in our lover; we're blind to all else.
To fall in love is arguably a passive process . For love to last is not. Long-lasting love results from the necessary work that two people do — the self-work, primarily — to create a strong, durable partnership over time.
This post originally appeared in MindBodyGreen.