Saturday, February 14, 2009

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

A buddy of mine, who is ironically down on relationships as a whole, recently indicated that he had become involved in a romantic relationship.

I swear it sounded like he was dragged into it kicking and screaming against his will. Apparently after meeting this girl through mutual friends and spending some time with her, his heart became dipped in a gooey candy filling, coated with a fine layer of quick-drying cement and tossed out to sea.

“It won’t last” he stated glumly. Aside from this being a long distance relationship that seemed to be a pretty pessimistic way to start off one of life’s more emotionally rewarding experiences!

Romance is something we seem to be born both wanting and fearing. It’s normal, but completely life changing. It touches us all at some point, mostly to tease us with what we want, what we think we want and what we expect love to be like. But romance in real life is not the quick fix of perfect characters who will live happily ever after upon meeting each other. It’s not the great epic of books and sure as hell isn’t the gushy, everything-will-be-alright-now experience that the movies make it out to be.

I think we’re all doing it wrong.

We’re certainly going about it all wrong.

A person must first know THEMSELVES- who they are, what they want, what they’re about BEFORE they’re ready to join their lives with another person. Only a person who likes themselves can find happiness in a relationship.

Too many people go into relationships with crazy expectations of another person. They feel they NEED someone who will MAKE them happy, complete them and fulfill them. But if you are not enough alone, you will never be enough with someone else.

No one can complete you. You have to complete yourself.

The true risk in a romantic relationship has nothing to do with needing someone, but everything to do with vulnerability. For that is what love does to a person: it renders them open and emotionally vulnerable. And while the fear of that causes many people to shy away from hope that their affections will be returned, as my friend can attests- love takes you hostage. It sneaks up on you and smacks you in the head with a brick.

Initially though, that first phase of “love” is just a great deal of attraction. True love doesn’t come until after you know a person- really know them. It’s not possible to know if you love someone the first day, week, or even month of knowing them. You might think you love them, but really, its just infatuation. That strong sense of “OMG, this person is AMAZING- EXACTLY what I’ve always looked for and wanted!”

But as most people have experienced in their life, once a little time has lapsed, they come to eventually see this person IS in fact human; prone to human mistakes, problems, issues and foibles. And there is nothing wrong with that. But you can’t expect being with this person or any other person to make all life’s problems go away. And you can’t expect that being in love with this person will transform you or them into being super human.

While it may seem like a good idea to move in together, get married or commit to each other while you’re still in the giddy, love-drunk phase of attraction- it’s a huge mistake.

People who ACT on their obsessions with another person, BEFORE they’ve had a chance to see all the sides of them- get themselves into trouble. They end up legally bound to each other in married, living together, promised to each other or having children- with someone they don’t really know. And then making the relationship work is harder than it would have ever been, because they feel trapped in the relationship. Stuck with the cement shoes, pulled down by the undertow of impulsive choices. In over their heads in frigid water, and now with none of the lovey-dovey feelings to get them through the tough times.

And THAT is also largely because after feeling of elation from just being around the person they’re infatuated had passed, their biggest question is: What will ‘I’ get out of this relationship? What will this person do for ‘ME’? What will they do to make ME feel loved, wanted, needed, satisfied?

Love is about giving, NOT getting. It’s about finding someone you want to bestow all the beauties and pleasure of the world on.

You get joy out of making THEM happy and bettering THEIR life. You can’t go into a relationship expecting the other person to make YOU happy. Your focus should be on making THEM happy. If they truly love you back, they will inevitably make it their job to try to please you in every way they can- but you’ll be too ridiculously giddy with the thrill of devoting yourself to them, to even notice. As long as you give more than you expect to get- your heart is in the right place.

Figuring out the best way to show you love someone can be tricky. We don’t all respond to things the same way and we all have different ideas on how love can and should be shown. Fortunately, there is a very good guide put out by Gary Chapman that breaks it down and makes it wonderfully easy to please the person you care about, and tell them how to make you feel loved. For more on this, check out The Five Love Languages.

If however, your love interest doesn’t love you back, you’ll have to make a choice. Accept that the feelings are not mutual and cut them loose, or turn yourself into their personal slave trying to make them love you and eventually become bitter, cynical and empty because you wasted valuable time with someone who is happy to take what you have to offer, but cannot return your love.

It would seem like a pretty straightforward choice.

But as most people can attest, the heart is not rational. It doesn’t care about logic. It does what it damn well wants to, without rhyme or reason. It sends your feelings lilting; flings you up to the clouds, blissfully soaring on warm waves of giddy anticipation and then lets you slam back to the hard unforgiving earth, aching and slightly numb, shocked, confused as hell and wallowing in a sudden darkness of depression and self-doubt.

Most people’s hearts have betrayed them at some point: Allowing them to fall deeply for the completely wrong person. Leaving them vulnerable to rejection and despair.

Some people stay in a one-sided relationship thinking (or hoping) the other person will eventually come to realize what they’ve got and suddenly pour out a truckload of affection on them like a lifetime of overdue Christmas presents plus interest. People don’t work that way though. Either they’re emotionally and physically committed to you or they’re not. And either you’re emotionally mature enough to respect yourself, recognize that and end the relationship, or you aren’t.

Waiting around for someone to “see the light” will just be a fruitless waste of your time and energy.
You’re better off trying to twist in a light bulb backwards. You’ll just get insanely frustrated and still be standing around in the dark.

Falling in and out of love is a human condition. It’s part of the human experience. As independent as people are born wanting to be, it’s unnatural for someone to be completely alone all their life. Everyone who hasn’t been in love yet, wants to. Those who are currently in love, desperately hope to stay that way. Those who had love and lost it, long to have it back.

Everyone wants to be in love, even when they claim they don’t. The feelings of euphoria and excitement from intense attraction to another person are unlike any other sensation in the world and it’s a very addicting feeling. Just thinking about it, talking about it and reading about it is thrilling.

There are programs available on every media format available to educate you on the process. You can take college classes, attend seminars or hire a special therapist to talk about everything from communication, to delving into subconscious relationship failure triggers, to ways to steam up your sex life. About 80% of all songs croon, morn or reminisce about love and relationships with other people. Even most religious songs are about love and devotion to some greater being.

A good question is though: Can you help whom you fall in love with? Is it something that you have no control over? Or can you tell that surge of intense magnetic attraction and primal physical response that renders you ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ overwhelmed… “Nah, I’m good! Haha. Thanks anyway!” Or can you tell your rational self: “This person has all the qualities I was hoping to find- now make me love them!”

For the person who’s fallen hopelessly and hopefully in love with another person, the answer would be an easy “No.” You find yourself magnetically drawn to a person who is somehow able to tug at you heartstrings without your consent and that can be excruciatingly pleasurable or painful. Sometimes, it’s both.

Either way, it’s a good idea for a person to make a list of all the qualities they would like to have in a love partner, and rank which ones are most important and which ones are negotiable. You haven’t a hope of finding a good match for you, if you have no idea what you’re looking for~

I’ve been reading a lot about love and relationships for the last year and even checked out the “Catch Him And Keep Him” program by Christian Carter for women. It seems to be pretty informative, but very wordy. Christian offers brilliant gems of advice that really seems like common sense, but it takes him half an hour to spit one out. If you can hang in there, he’ll impress you.

A buddy of mine tried out the “Double Your Dating” program by David DeAngelo. I haven’t checked it out, but he seemed to think pretty highly of it. I might take a look at it just to see what advice the guy is giving out about girls.

The truth is though, a person can paint all the pictures they want of the kind of person they intend to fall for, but sometimes what we think we want, and what we discover we want, are usually not exactly the same thing. If however, there are certain things you really need or want in another person, and they’re not in the person you’re going gaga over, it might be wise for you to accept it’s a bad match and move on.

For while everyone wants to be loved and it may be difficult to impossible to control whom you fall in love with, it’s wise and best to take care who you commit yourself to.

As Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” cautions his young daughter from making a hasty marriage to a local boy from a very different culture and religious background: “A bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?”

Neal Clark Warren wrote a fantastic book called “Finding The Love of Your Life”.
It’s a slim but profound book. Neil covers ten principles in his book, but I think when it comes down to whether a relationship will last, it really depends on two things:

1. Compatibility. Are you two enough alike? Do you have enough in common that you honestly enjoy being around each other? Are your communication styles similar enough that you will be able to express everything from love to frustration with each other and be able to understand each other? Are your temperaments and general moods agreeable with each other? Are your life goals and desires more or less the same? Will you be growing together in life, going in the same direction? Are your perspectives on life, love, religion, politics, morals, childrearing, careers and other major issues along the same lines? Do you want mostly the same things?

You don’t want to be a clone of the person you’re involved with, but if you don’t have at least MOST of the same dreams, desires and interests, you’re chances of staying together are pretty low.

Conversely, the more things you have in common, the greater chances that you’ll generally like the person and get along with them even when the sizzle of first hormonally charged encounters turns into something more friendly and less intense.

2. Commitment. Are you committed to each other? Are you both in it for the long term? Will you not back down or run away when the going gets tough? (And it WILL most assuredly get tough!) Are you determined to please this person, try to understand them, compromise with them, work along side them and provide them with all the love and attention you are capable of giving? Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to share your life with them? Are they also willing to make those sacrifices?

Seriously think about what kinds of sacrifices you’re willing to make to be with them. Change careers? Move hundreds or thousands of miles away to create a new home? Accept their past and baggage?

If you both can’t answer an overwhelming “yes” to all of those, you’re better off getting off this high speed train before it hits a momentum that a last resort of jumping from, could be fatal.

I’ve heard that the similarities you share with someone, are what bonds you. The differences between you are what challenge you and stimulate interest. And your commitment to love and care about each other are what keep everything together.

Ultimately what makes love so completely amazing, is when you love and care about someone else just as strongly and at the exact same time that they love and care about you.

Love is not about being swept away alone with your gooey heart and cement boots, it’s about being swept away together, with hope and adoration, respect and a desire to bring joy to this person for as long as you are able.

Either way, I wouldn’t say I’m down on love right now. I’m just actively avoiding it. I’m not ready to deal with the highs or the lows and am planning to keep my heart on the shelf for a while to come. They say you often find love when your not looking for it. But love had better watch out. I’m pretty tough and if love comes after me with a brick or a shovel- I’m not giving in without a fight.

If I fall in love any time soon- it will be going down swinging.