I write my posts in the first person rather than giving advice or suggesting that my byline makes me an expert entitled to editorialize. But when it comes to love I am up there with Casanova, Lord Byron and Leo DiCaprio. So buckle up and grapple with the unblemished truth about love as it became clear to me after several one punch kayos and regular attendance at weekly Co-dependence Anonymous meetings.
First, an intimate relationship predictably does not start in your head. Typically, what we call love starts as a biological process. It’s not your astute mind that is talking when you nuzzle up to the amazing woman at the bar and ask, “Do you come here often.”
Hormones play a big part in the mating game. When we feel attracted to someone our brain releases chemicals that prompt the physical sensations we associate with love. Serotonin, for example, is a mood elevator, nature’s Ecstasy pill; and Dopamine gives you feelings of immense pleasure when triggered by a sense of fulfillment, which equates to a 5k run after a sensual kiss.
It’s when your object of affection is first in the shower and you’re lying there like a limp linguini, that’s when you’re able to think rationally about a relationship that goes beyond a booty call. That’s when the internal conversation about the possibility of being in a lasting relationship starts, a meandering, zig zag path from your nether regions to a bivouac at your heart then on to the final stop, your rational mind. (I’m writing from the man’s perspective, but you don’t have to be strictly hetero to be head over heels.)
Here’s the circuitous conversation to have with yourself. Is my happiness too intensively tied to her happiness? How much of who I am has become a reflection of who she is? Do I find myself spending an inordinate amount of emotional capital trying to control how she lives her life because my life has become a derivative of hers? Have I become a love junkie addicted to her just as surely as if I was an alcoholic or druggie?
Give up the idea that you are in love when two becomes a synonym for you. In a relationship where “me” has merged into “we,” what you call “love” will soon evaporate into heart break. In a non-allergenic nut shell, love yourself.
You cannot pretend to be someone you are not! If it’s Sunday and you’re at the Art Institute staring at a Tintoretto when it’s the Bears’ game you’re thinking about, you are doomed. Feigning interests that do not reflect the real you will lead to misery.
Better to face the danger early on. All the crap from the past has got to be aired, even the stuff that would embarrass a convicted felon. If you’re in it for the long run you must be completely truthful with your mate-to-be and give her the choice – will she accept the shady aspects of your past and decide, okay, I can live with that because I trust who he is now. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. If the knife is coming, you are going to get it in the gut.
Arriving at a level of trust and acceptance goes both ways. You’ve spilt the beans and survived. Now comes the question, will you restrain from trying to change her to the girl just like the girl that married dear old dad?
When the Chanel is melting your nose hair it’s easy to accept her for who she is and what she does. Really? In the light of day you’re a hard charging master of the universe and she’s a phlebotomist at the local clinic, which is wonderful until you’re at the CEO’s party and all the women there are Leaning In and your girlfriend is expressing regret that Sears is closing.
Will you appreciate and adore your Cockney bird after you’ve spent all that time practicing talking like a Bostonian with a stiff bottom jaw? Up front you have to be aware of the differences in background and accept them. It means stepping outside of the ego and recognizing the value and joy she brings to your life.
You won’t always have an unwavering fondness and unparalleled devotion for your partner. There will be times when what you are muttering under your breath would land you on the Jerry Springer show and when life without your significant other would not be practically unthinkable, but downright desirable. And that is when you know if you’re with your true love.
You don’t ditch your partner just because you are having problems, you ditch the very idea of that option. You understand there always will be issues in a relationship. You put the focus on working through the anger and hurt so you can get back to happy. You see the conflicting point of view and care less about winning than resolving the damn conflict.
Tape these words from Melody Beattie (Beyond Codependency) on your refrigerator: “If we are unhappy without a relationship, we’ll probably be unhappy within one as well. A relationship doesn’t begin our life; a relationship doesn’t become our life. A relationship is a continuation of life.”
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.