Ahhh, that feeling! Your spirit soars. You feel like you’re being lifted higher and higher. If feels so good it must be right. Right? Maybe you’d better watch out for those cruel rocks below! How many of us have taken that flight, only to plummet to despair when our illusions are shattered. Perhaps the expression that you “fall” in love contains hidden wisdom that warrants attention. Falling is usually a passive act in which we don’t have much conscious choice about what is going to happen. We are victim to other forces beyond our control. Sometimes we land all right, sometimes not. Do you really want to remain so passive and trust in luck? Maybe so. But if you’re going to gamble, you’d better find out which way the dice are loaded.
The dice we’re talking about are the unconscious. Falling in love is really an extremely complex phenomenon that cannot be adequately described here. Let it suffice to say that there are usually unconscious motives interacting beyond the awareness of both partners. You don’t have to understand it. Call it your intuition and pay attention as to whether it works for you or against you in romantic relationships. Some of us may be brilliant thinkers and hold advanced degrees but we may have the lousiest intuition that leads us into one failed love affair after another. “Infatuation junkie” is one term for it. If you think your intuition has really led you into healthy, rewarding, enduring relationships, then go with it! Don’t mess with a process that works. But if your intuition doesn’t work….say you have a bent antenna….then consider another strategy.
Consider the alternative of climbing into love. It’s a lot more work and less glamour but the risks are far less and you can get there nonetheless. Consider the fact that the “in love” stage of relationships almost never exceeds three years and is usually much briefer. Being in love is going to be a short-lived phenomenon anyway. All romantic relationships must make a transition to a more mature form of loving if they’re going to remain stable after the “in love” stage. Perhaps it’s worth it for you to skip the risky part and move on to the stage where both of you must put in more effort. The reason why falling in love takes less effort is because it involves more fantasy than reality and fantasy is easy to manufacture. It’s more effort to maintain limits within the relationship while you ask yourself “Is this relationship really in my long-term best interest?” It’s more effort to reconcile how you both really are, warts and all. It’s far more effort to preserve mutual respect while you gradually explore your differences as well as your common ground.
Respect is a much under-valued commodity in relationships. It doesn’t give you the euphoria as does falling in love, it takes more effort, and it connotes more emotional separation between partners. However, some emotional separation is essential if your relationship is going to survive. Respect is the cornerstone of the more mature relationship that hopefully follows the in-love euphoria. A key point to take from this discussion is that you don’t have to fall in love in order to develop love. Respect is often a better starting point. From there, you may work your way to affection and from affection, to deeper intimacy as your trust grows more realistically.
Some of you may be wondering “Where’s the romance?” Take heart! Romance can grow just as well on a foundation of solid respect as it can on shaky infatuation. Many people assume that falling in love is the same thing as being romantic. Not true. Romance is something that can be actively created through choice and planning. Falling in love cannot. If you get romance confused with being the same thing as falling in love, you are likely to forget to plan your romance after the euphoric “in love” phase has departed. If you remember to plan those special times and special messages of affection, both you and your partner can enjoy a fulfilling and mature relationship.