Staying In Love for Life
You become infatuated or fall in love when you focus on someone’s positive qualities, real or imagined, and see the other person as your fairytale Dream Come True. Infatuation releases a rush of feel-good hormones into the bloodstream. Sadly or thankfully, this state of euphoria is temporary.
Psychologists call this ability to see only the positive idealisation. You idealise the other person, choosing to see your lover through rose-tinted lenses, all air-brushed, buff and gorgeous; the dazzling smile, the sparkling eyes, the scintillating personality.
You possess the remarkable ability to filter any awareness of their negative traits. As well as being blind to their faults, you also selectively show only your own best attributes, your most adorable, charming self, and this glossy image carries the unspoken promise that you are the one who can meet their every emotional need. You conveniently hide your weaknesses, character flaws and bad habits.
The Bubble Will Burst
Being in love is a state of intense mutual attraction. However new lovers can live in this ecstatic fantasy bubble for only a short time. Just how long it takes for the bubble to burst depends on how long you can sustain the idealisation and keep reality at bay. Sometimes it lasts only weeks, sometimes, a few months.
Inevitably once the infatuated couple re-enter the real world of mundane problems and conflicts, they start to register each other’s litany of faults; the fiery temper, the sulking, the insecurity, the selfishness, the bullying, the childishness, the dirty underwear left on the floor, always running late…the list goes on and on.
The universal distress signal: “This isn’t the person I fell in love with!” is wailed over a pint of beer or cup of coffee to sympathetic friends in pubs, cafes and kitchen tables around the world. The inevitable crash has happened.
What now? This is the boring part; learning how to co-habit as real, flesh and blood, flawed human beings, not fantasy figures. This is the stage where you learn to love; that is really care for each other in practical ways.
There are so many skills to master: how to show affection and intimacy, active listening, assertive communication, decision-making and problem-solving, working out values and goals, how to share household chores and financial responsibilities, loyalty and devotion, how to say sorry, how to forgive, and later you will probably enter the whole new scary frontier of parenting.
This stage of a committed relationship is called relationship maintenance. It is not as passionate and highly-charged as the initial stage of falling in love and mate selection but it can provide immense fulfilment if you are willing to put in the effort to learn.
Rather than deride falling in love as naïve and delusional, it is important to realise that this stage of idealisation has a higher purpose. By focusing on the positive and forming a strong bond and a collection of happy memories, the couple creates a secure foundation which supports them through the inevitable challenges ahead.
Make The List
Here is a natty idea for all those in a marriage that might have lost its zing. If idealising your partner is the key to falling in love, you can deliberately choose to focus on your partner’s good qualities and block out the negative whenever you want to revive those delicious feelings of being in love.
I recently made a list of my husband’s finest qualities and talents; all the things I fell in love with at the tender age of 22; his smile, his handsome face, his dark looks, the way he sings and plays guitar, his sense of humour, his creativity, his cartooning, his poetry, his boyish charm, his vulnerability, his gentleness, his kindness, his pure heart, his generosity and much more.
What’s your list? Cast your mind back and write a list, a long list, and give it to your partner and watch them melt. Whenever you are focusing on their faults, remind yourself of all these qualities and stimulate a few feel-good hormones!
At the same time you can deliberately show your best attributes, the way you did when you were doing the courtship dance. Make an effort to be physically attractive to your partner; slim down, dress up, rediscover your sexiness.
Go on romantic dates, be touchy-feely and engage in stimulating conversation. Ban all talk of mundane domestics and niggling problems. Jump into bed and you know the rest.
Human beings are intelligent. You can choose to fall in love and stay in love if you want to. You are not at the mercy of unconscious mind tricks and rampant hormones. You can use knowledge of how infatuation works to reinvigorate your marriage and experience the tingling euphoria of being in love with the one you really love!
This article was published in August, 2008 in XL Extra! an international magazine for entrepreneurs and business people.