“Love is the most powerful force in the universe.” Most of us actually believe that, if love is strong enough, it will create a healthy relationship in addition to changing the course of rivers and moving mountains. Forgive my indulgence in cynicism but the parallel is appropriate. For some relationships, a favorable outcome is about as probable. Many people are confused because the conventional wisdom about love is not very wise. The common assumption is that a strong love is an intense love and that the stronger the feeling, the longer it will last. Love songs proclaim “I want a love whose flame is hot enough to last.” Unfortunately, the reality may be that you will wind up with a flash in the pan.
One of the most erroneous beliefs about relationships is that intensity creates consistency. However, if you want to predict consistency and persistence in a relationship, you are better off fining a mate who is generally consistent and persistent in all relationships.
It is always amazing to me that people will overlook the obvious available data and be seduced by the other person’s intense feelings. Most people who are in covert relationships with married lovers are making this mistake despite the lies, alibis, and broken promises. It’s as if the reassurance of an occasional romantic interlude stokes the fire of misguided hope: the hope that because you and the other person love intensely, he or she will behave differently with you than he has in the past.
The sad truth is that some forms of love may be both intense and lethal. Certain personality disorders are capable of producing the most intense forms of love, yet their relationships yield a much higher homicide rate. Many others are somewhat less pathological but are still capable of episodic loving with intense passion as well as leading the partner’s life to general turmoil.
There’s a flip side to this coin. In early childhood it’s natural to think that you’re at the center of the universe. If you don’t receive the attention, consistency, and nurturing you crave, then childhood logic dictates that you must be doing something wrong – or just not doing enough. For adults who were children of dysfunctional families, this type of thinking has been doubly reinforced by an emotionally impoverished environment.
In adulthood, it’s an easy transition to apply the same logic with a slight variation: if you’re doing enough to bring about some occasional intense passion in your mate, then a bit more effort can probably bring about his or her constant devotion. This line of magical thinking is one reason why a higher proportion of children from dysfunctional families find themselves addicted to hopelessly inconsistent relationships. It’s unfortunate that so many people have such badly calibrated gyroscopes.
My point-of-view is that people are not made truthful and responsible because they love someone. They’re truthful and responsible because they love truth and responsibility. Love develops alongside the integrity of character that already exists. You don’t have to pursue the misguided hope of trying to make someone more consistent with your love. Instead, you can use the power of your wisdom to select a mate who already has integrity. If your partner doesn’t value his integrity sufficiently, then no amount of intense romance is going to change that.