Romantic love is the door to relationships, the glue that binds the species together. It involves passion as well as the feeling of safety. This mysterious process eventually happens to almost everyone and is the perennial topic of endless discussion and speculation.
It is a “fall” because we are at least momentarily out of control, disarmed and even sometimes blinded by hormones.
Then things begin to change. The change is usually for the better and almost always permanent.
According to The National Foundation for The Arts, the Song of the Century is "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," the quintessential expression of longing. What the movies and the romance novels really don't tell you is that on the other side of that sunset, the next day, life together begins. And life brings with it challenges. At the very least, you now have to find out how to share the same house, the same room, the same bed, and the same money. In addition, you now have new friends, relatives, and strangers to deal with.
JosephCampbell called marriage an "ordeal through which we come into our spiritual maturity." Serendipity is a word used to describe events that befall us on our journey of life and usually leave us forever changed. It is an invitation to personal change through adventure, growth, fruition and wholeness through healing. But it isn't always easy. In fact it usually hurts. The romantic phase, the denial of negative traits, inevitably brings some anger, then depression, despair in phase two as a natural response to the failure of expectations.
No other thing that we do starts with so much joy, optimism, and celebration and, all so often, ends in so much anger, fear, and disappointment, as does the modern marriage. It doesn't always have to be this way but we have a difficult time seeing the alternatives.
Romantic love is also the way all sorts of incompatible people get together, blinded to their differences. As the anesthesia wears off, and all sorts of little differences show up, warts appear. Criticisms replace courtship, heralding the end of Phase one, characterized by romance, and the beginning of Phase 2, characterized by the power struggle, the natural second stage of any relationship. The power struggle belongs to the process and conflict just indicates that chemistry is molding the relationship.
We tend treat partners like we were treated as kids. Usually we choose as individual who is like our parents in emotionally significant ways. Some experts believe that our love interests always resemble one of our parents more than we realize. We have a kind of unseen image or imprint of the character traits and behaviors of parents or other childhood primary caretakers. Our unconscious mind constructs a kind of fantasy partner from those we loved as a child, that guides our search for a life partner.
Our personal relationship myth is: if we can sort out whatever was unresolved about the emotional dynamic between our parents, then we will find love. The result can be some fairly unreasonable expectations like expecting the other person to know what you need without your having to tell them, or expecting the partners love to hold the answer to all of life's other problems and that this love can fix everything as if by magic. The inner child seems to believe that "If I can find love, then all life's problems will be solved."
As a child you cried and would maybe even kick & scream to get needs met, and your problems solved, and to find out where the boundaries are. The parents understood what you could not and delivered relief. Trying to get partner to become parent who gave without asking, a kind of regression to childhood and we become compulsive when unmet childhood needs control our behavior as adults.
Since certain of the child's needs are essential to survival, they can be very strong, so there is emotional intensity and a presumption of entitlement. "You owe it to me, you belong to me," or even "you exist only for me," are examples of emotions coming from the inner child. Adults sometimes use criticism instead of crying. The belief is, "If I hurt you, you will change." The rationalization is, "I am trying to let you know what I NEED."
Everyone inherits some unresolved conflicts from their parents, and from childhood. There is some level of frustration rooted in childhood pain. How we treat our partner and parent our own children reveals a great deal about how we were parented. When a particular parent-child interaction reveals how strongly we resemble our own mother or father, that insight can be extremely disheartening.
But it can also be a catalyst for exploring unresolved issues that originated in our own childhood. By constructively moving this natural sequence into an agenda of personal growth, it can be a shared adventure that is healing and certainly more interesting.
It is not unreasonable to have expectations of your partner in the relationship. How you voice them is important. It's okay to say for example, "If our love is going to stay strong, it's important to learn how to communicate better." It's not okay to say "If you loved me, you'd understand me and know what I need." The difference is that in the first, you are owning your share of the relationship. You are not pointing the finger but, rather, inviting an opportunity to learn and grow.
Unreasonable expectations may also be motivated by a lack of care about the partner especially when there is a personal lack of self-esteem. When bargaining fails, reverting to despair or to anger or attempts at domination or humiliation are signals or indicators of a hurt child. Intensity mirrors the extent of the wound the child experienced.
Getting needs met through coercion doesn't work. People change because they want to not because you want them to. People entering marriage and committed relationships do change some of the things they do. And all people change and grow as they age. But people rarely change for the better when they are under pressure from someone else…even a loved one.
What your partner is least capable of giving is what they most need to do in order to get over childhood wounds. Learn to recognize that difficulty signals a hurt child. Agreeing to discuss childhood anguish offers the brain a way to begin to heal childhood wounds and can lead to permission to be more open to the opportunities in partnership.
Roll playing makes the inner child feel safe. Try sitting in two chairs facing each other, knees touching knees. When someone reveals their inner child a good response might be, "I want to help you heal all that, I want you to have all childhood needs met." Though our culture discourages hugging and holding, it begins healing process and does wonders for unmitigated yearning of unmet contact needs, and feelings of deficit.
Longevity in a relationship, whether its friendship or love boils down to a single thing: what it FEELS like when you are together. If it feels good being together, the relationship endures, if it feels bad, then it dwindles.
Love is long suffering and kind. Suffering does not mean enduring pain but rather the willingness to permit and tolerate the kind of person someone else is. Love recognizes individuality and respects individual freedom. If I love who I am, then my love for you will include the tolerance to let you be yourself without censure or critique.
Ever longing for the ideal, for the sublime, we may not often soar "over the rainbow," but the metaphor may inspire us to be kinder, gentler, more caring in the here-and-now.
- Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. - President and Co-founder with Helen Hunt and President of The Institute for Imago Relationship Therapy, is the author of the popularly acclaimed books, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide, and Giving the Love That Heals : A Guide for Parents. Also his book Keeping the Love you Find is a great resource. These concepts can be a breakthrough in understanding why we chose the people we do for our relationships.
- Ann On-Line, Interview with Harville Hendrix - Links to Related Sites
- Disillusionment - Marriage Net Links - Information to help you get through disillusionment in your marriage.
- The Relationship, Marriage Personal Development Center - offers articles more on marriage, relationships, Imago, counseling, coaching, divorce, stress and more.
- The Science of Love
- Love, Intimacy, and Marriage
- Simply Love - Promoting Loving Relationships Worldwide -Welcome to Simply Love!
- Dean Ornish: Love As Though Your Very Survival Depended Upon It
- Psychology of love - historical background - An overview of love conceptions situated in history and philosophy.
- Love, Intimacy, and Boundaries - A Collection of Thoughts About The Challenge of Intimacy By Dr. Bryce Kaye, PhD
- Setting Personal Boundaries- "How to" from The Healing Lodge
- More on Boundaries Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries
- Soul's Self-Help Central - Boundaries
- Characteristics of Co-dependents: Modified from Schaef
- The RoMANtic's Guide - A huge collection of the world's most creative ideas on romance, dating tips, gift giving, date celebrations, marriage proposal stories, getaways, love letters, romantic poetry, electronic greeting cards, kissing tips and more.
- Love & Romance 101 - Quotations- - Love & Romance 101, from your About.com Guide.
- Dating Advice - Is a kiss still a kiss? Do the fundamental things still apply as time goes by?
- Love Advice and Tips - Love Advice, strategies and helpful tips.
- The Positive Way to create positive, lasting, loving relationships with Links For Lovers.
- Love - Understanding its Secrets - love and hurt, myths, baggage, love and sex.
- The Relationship Game - hosts, Sexpert and eMale answer your questions and we'll reward you with our love advice.
- Love Poems Collection - Poems and Stories expressing our romantic feelings for that special someone.
- Love Letters - Send a Love Letter to your Sweetie.
- Secret Love Letters - Spice Up Your Love Life! Free fill-in-the-blank love letters, love poems, romantic poetry, adult greeting cards, and dating e-mail for fun and games.
- Love poems - by Lovingyou.com users on topics ranging from finding, keeping and getting over love. For whatever mood you want to express or feel... you'll find the perfect poem here.
- Enduring Popularity of Courtly Love - Analysis by Kay Stoner examines the history, development, rules, and customs of Medieval courtly love.
- Medieval Courtly Literature- Study by Janay Miller examines the various elements of the courtly sentiment found in much of the poetry of the Middle Ages.
- Medieval Flirting and Courtly Love - Examines the rules of courtly love as set down by Andreas Cappellanus in the 12th century. Also studies the "Cloved Lemon" laws.
- BrainBlitz.com - Love Tests and Quizzes - Clearinghouse for quizzes and tests about love and relationship issues offers links to a myriad of fun evaluations for couples and singles.
- Cyrano - Want to tell someone how you feel, but are shy or unimaginative? This site will help you write the perfect electronic greeting card. E-GREETINGS - send e-greeting cards links to free sites
- LOVE - from Astrology.com and lots of Astrology Links
- The Friendship Page
- ICQ - Friendship Pages - Send your friends hugs, kisses and candies, tell them you miss them, etc.
- Friends to the end. - In appreciation for those who have stood by you through thick and thin, send a free ecard from Pacific Attitude.
- The Hungar Site - every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hungar. You can help.