The idea of “falling in love” as an all-consuming passion over which we seem to have little control is standard romantic fare. We meet someone with whom there is a strong physical and even emotional attraction. We may even get to the stage where we become mildly obsessed. We can’t seem to get this love interest out of our minds. We not only think about this lucky one constantly but when we see him/her we often get all warm and fuzzy inside and our body might do things which we didn’t exactly plan for. But each of us knows that these feelings do not last. Why then do we claim to have “fallen out of love?” Do we honestly expect to maintain these heady feelings for a lifetime and what are our relationship options when this intensity begins to fade?
Scientists explain that the chemical dopamine plays a big role in those initial intense feelings of attraction. It provides an intense pleasure-rush not dissimilar from what is experienced in other addictions. The danger comes when we literally get hooked on the butterflies or on the rush and high of initial sexual attraction. If these feelings also inform our expectations of what a relationship should be, then we can experience intense disappointment when the feelings wane or absolute confusion if we experience them with someone else. How many times have we heard a friend claim to have “fallen out of love” with one individual and “in love” with a next? How then should we navigate our relationships when faced with the reality that these feelings have not lasted?
1. Change our relationship expectations: If we understand from the outset that the fall from the high of love is inevitable, then hopefully we won’t fall apart when it occurs. We often unrealistically expect that “true love” means sustaining our original emotion. Coming to terms with the reality, that change can be a vital sign of our maturing love, should enable us to redefine the fuel which drives our relationship.
2. Desire more than feelings: It’s regrettable that so much of the literature and even music which exists about love, is based on feeling. It is important to reframe love as more of a decision to commit which is of course buttressed by attraction. Essentially, this commitment is a choice to deprive ourselves of other choices. While those mushy feelings which drive attraction may be great, they’re obviously not enough to base a lifetime of commitment on. Attraction should, however, be viewed as an ongoing dynamic which must be worked at by both partners. At the same time, our love should come from a deeper place. Knowing what makes us attractive to our spouse and working on that constantly is, therefore, also critical.
3. Understand that love is an action: Verbalizing love is great. Many of us women particularly, love to be told “I love you”. Love should however be evidenced through active demonstrations of thoughtfulness. It should also be communicated in the love-style which our partner desires and not necessarily what we prefer. Our love-style simply means how our experiences, personality and gender converge to influence how we like to give or receive love. This will mean stepping outside our comfort zone to learn and do the things which our partner may appreciate but which may not necessarily be second nature to us. So if a woman needs to be romanced or a husband needs sex to feel wanted, then we should respectively oblige.
4. Add personal value to our relationship: Very often in relationship-land we tend to focus on ourselves; on our needs and on what is important to us. Seeing our relationship, however, as a place where we can give and add value means that we focus less on us and more on the greater good of the relationship. This will require us asking ourselves “How can I improve my relationship?” or “What can I change about myself to make this relationship better?” Moving out of self-preservation mode to focus on the value which we can add, also forces us to take responsibility for our own happiness.
5. Create memorable moments: Our daily experiences form the basis for our sense of life-fulfillment. When those experiences are positive and pleasurable, we feel a sense of peace and contentment. Creating positive memories means living each day of our relationship intentionally. This will encourage us to put more thought into our actions, to think before we speak and to evaluate our core motivations for doing things. This will also encourage us not to take those daily moments for granted. While living in the moment is good, planning for future moments means taking our relationship off automatic-pilot to work towards the lifetime of love we want.