To fall in love is natural. For love to last is not. We’re more likely to succeed in building a lasting relationship if we’ve chosen our partner wisely in the first place. To do this, we have to overcome these seven cultural myths about love.
1. You’ll know immediately whether they’re “The One.”
Yes, you’ll know immediately when you’re attracted to someone. But you need more than sexual attraction (or even a strong instinct) to find someone that will be a good life partner. You need a lot of logical data, which have nothing to do with how you feel. (Data aren’t romantic.)
When people fall in love, they see only the best in each other. And while all of those fine qualities might be real, that does not necessarily mean that they possess the certain, specific strengths of character to go the distance in this relationship.
How well does your lover get along with their family? Do they talk a lot about their disappointments in past relationships, jobs, or other life experiences and blame other people?
Do they own their part in the problems they’ve had? If they tend to see themselves as victims, the day will come when it’s your turn to be the one to blame. If they hold onto grudges, eventually they will hold onto grudges against you.
2. You’ll know the right person because they’ll seem so familiar: like you’ve known them your whole life.
This illusion is tricky. People often think a sense of deep familiarity is a sign that they’re soul mates — fated to be together. What might be truer, actually, is that you recognize and gravitate toward certain personality traits in them that also belonged to your parents. Some of those attitudes and behaviors might have been very hard to live with.
Harville Hendrix, who developed Imago therapy, says we carry in our mind an image, perhaps unconscious, that directs us to seek out lovers that share not only the best but also the worst traits of our primary caretakers.
This tendency is nature’s way of creating a situation similar to the one in which we were wounded as children: Now we’ll go through the situation again, and this time we’ll heal ourselves.
For example, if we felt abandoned as a child, we might seek a partner who's remote and hard to stay connected with. We fall for their green eyes and beautiful hair and feel like we’ve known them forever. After a while, however, we begin to feel the same disconnected feeling we experienced as a child.
Only this time we decide we can learn how to be there for ourselves. Rather than get angry or become needy, we can practice the essential skill of self-soothing, of feeling sufficient inside ourselves. It’s possible to succeed at this effort. Some people do, and some people don’t. To try to heal old wounds this way, however, doesn’t mean we’ve met someone who’d make a truly compatible partner.
3. The more obsessed you are with a person, the more you should be together.
When you fall in love, it’s normal and healthy to think about your lover a lot. An obsession, however, means you think about nothing else, and this fixation isn’t a sign of great love. It’s a sign of great addiction.
4. If it’s “meant to be,” you’ll be able to resolve all problems.
The research shows that 68 percent of conflicts between couples never get resolved. Never. Apparently, the difference between a relationship that works and one that doesn’t depends on how well you learn to cope with your differences, how skilled you become in repair and collaboration, and how able you are to lose the expectation that you will ever always agree on everything.
5. Your mind and your heart will never wander.
It’s human and normal to think of your high school sweetheart, your college love, or the fellow fourth grader who gave you a Valentine’s Day card. It’s even normal to imagine what life might’ve been like with one of them. What’s important is what you do with these thoughts.
Allow them to pass, rather than act on them, and you’ll find your feelings for your partner usually return to the same place they were.
6. You’ll never feel bored, irritated, or wonder why you made this choice in a partner.
Boredom is part of life, and sometimes it’s natural to be bored and irritated by your partner’s same old stories, same old complaints, and same old way of responding to things.
If this reaction is a momentary thing, it’s normal. If you’re bored and turned off almost all the time, however, it’s a signal that you need to start to spice things up.
7. Sex will always be as spontaneous and easy as it is in the beginning.
Sexual cycles are like the cycles of love; they change, often, in a long-term relationship. For the first one to three years, our bodies retain all the chemicals in the so-called love potion, which keep us hot.
Once those chemicals wear off, however, we return to our regular state, along with our regular libido and any former sexual inhibitions. The magic isn’t the same, and the relationship has new stresses now. Instead of the chemicals that acted as an aphrodisiac, stress hormones, which often shut down desire, fill our bodies.
This is normal, and you can do something about it. Do the research, read some good books on how to get your sex life going again, and remember the things you did in the beginning to turn one another on and copy them. You might have to work at it a little harder later in the relationship, but your sex life can be as good as ever if you don’t just rely on spontaneity.
Long-lasting love results from the necessary work that two people do to create a strong, durable partnership over time. When we can combine the feelings in our heart with the wisdom and intelligence in our mind, chances are we will be able to choose someone who has the characteristics and ability to go the distance.
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