Falling in Love
Monday, February 01, 2010
By: Lynn A. Vice, Psy.D

“Life is so short, so fast the lone hours fly, We ought to be together, you and I.” – Henry Alford

With Valentine’s Day approaching, our thoughts naturally turn to romance and love. Cupid’s arrows are about to fly and most everyone secretly hopes that an arrow will strike them. We are a society of people who love to be in love!

Being in love is that time in which we idealize the other person. We see in them the person we want them to be, not the person they really are. This occurs partly because people fall in love before they really know each other. We project onto the other person the qualities we want them to have.

Relationships go through a natural progression. We fall in love initially and this is what draws us together. Around five to seven years into a relationship, people have fallen out of love. We all know this as the proverbial “honeymoon is over”. As two people get to know each other in a relationship and come to learn who the other person really is, they gradually fall out of love. This means that we have discovered that our partner doesn’t put the cap on the toothpaste, sometimes belches at the table, leaves clothes on the floor, sometimes has a temper and sometimes doesn’t listen to us the way we want them to.

All of these “discoveries” serve to bring us in touch with the reality of who our partner is. Hence, relationships go through the stage of falling in love and falling gradually out of love.

The third stage is the critical one. This is when people need to learn to love each other. Love is defined as caring for another person’s well-being as much as we care about our own. Love takes time, energy and work. Many people are not willing to put the work into it. Many other people do not recognize that the work is necessary.

A major problem in our culture is that people mistake being in love for love. When they fall out of love with their partner, many people think they no longer love the other person. For example, I often will hear men and women say, “When I walk in the room, I no longer get that tingly feeling in my stomach when I see him/her. I don’t think I love him/her anymore.” I tell people it is normal to no longer have that tingly feeling when you see the other person. It is impossible to sustain the feeling of being in love with someone we see on a daily basis.

In a healthy, long-term relationship, love replaces being in love. Love is the deeper, more lasting state. We learn to love the other person by working on accepting them with their weaknesses and their strengths. We learn to love the other person by learning to communicate with them, learning to work cooperatively with them in managing a family or a home and learning to appreciate and value them for whom they really are, not our idealization of them.

Love takes work and most people in our society are either not willing to do the work or are not taught to expect to have to work on a relationship. In fact, when many people discover they need to work on a relationship, they think there is something wrong with the relationship or their choice of a partner.

This is because we are all taught (through popular songs) that “all it takes is love” rather than “all it takes is a lot of hard work”. In other words, being in love is not enough to make a relationship last.

Now, many of you may be feeling disappointed or disheartened as you learn that being in love does not last in a relationship. Many of you may lament having to give up that feeling. Do not despair entirely because it is possible to recapture some of those feelings of being in love within the context of a long-term relationship. This is why it is important for married couples to continue to date. When we go out on a date, we can recapture some of those same feelings we had in our early days of dating (Dating does not mean staying at home, wearing sweat clothes, sitting on the couch, watching a video and eating popcorn). When we get dressed up, hold the car door for our partner, go to a dimly lit restaurant and have a candle light dinner for two, it is possible to have some of those same tingly feeling again.

Some suggestions for maintaining romance in your relationship are:
Buy the book, “2002 Things To Do On A Date”.

Ask your partner what makes him/her feel loved or cared about (flowers, a romantic note or email, a phone call or visit at work).
Plan a romantic evening. Send the kids to grandma’s house, light a fire, put a sleeping bag on the floor and break out a bottle of champagne.
Think of the things you did at the beginning of the relationship that were special and try doing one of those.

Author : Lynn A. Vice Psy.D
Dr. Lynn A. Vice practices in Milwaukee, WI. You can learn more about Dr. Vice here on the Find-a-Therapist.com Directory.