I was getting my hair done at a salon when I overheard a bride discussing her ceremony with her bridal party. The bride jokingly turned to one of her bridesmaids and said, ‘I should say ‘I take you to be my FIRST husband’. They all laughed.
Yes, this is funny, but it is also a sad statement about the state of partnership in our culture. We assume that the spark and the feeling of being ‘in love’ will simply fade and that the passion will disappear. Most people feel powerless and believe that they have no ability to stop this from happening.
I personally believe that it is a tragedy when passionate, loving, alive relationships end in one or both people feeling helpless, hopeless, and confused. Partnerships that start out full of love and excitement fall apart. What is it that is actually missing in our relationships today? What happens to the spark, to the passion, and to the simple joy in being with the other? What is it that dies? These are not simple questions. Nor do I think that the answers are black and white. However, they are questions that are certainly worth exploring.
The beginning of a relationship is usually not the problem. We easily act and react in ways that create connection, intimacy, bonding, generosity, and that ‘high’ feeling that we associate with infatuation and love. We show up as our highest selves, step up with our best behavior, and we are our most loving & compassionate. We rarely stop to identify those ways of being that are creating the excitement and turn on. We just think it is like magic, or chemistry, and that it is an uncontrollable event that we have no effect on. While I don’t discount the power of magic, there are specific behaviors that we engage in that naturally increase our feelings of euphoria. But something happens to that experience. What?
Part of what happens is that we stop acting in loving ways. We stop being generous, we stop making romantic gestures, we stop listening, we stop giving the other the benefit of the doubt, and THEN the feelings begin to fade. We stop being the way we need to be to create the relationship the way we want it to be because we think that infatuation has gone away. Infatuation actually goes away because we stop being how we need to be.
We don’t have to put effort into being generous in the beginning. Perhaps because we don’t notice or name the behaviors that create excitement and intimacy, we eventually fall into our ‘default’ mode and stop using them. Since we don’t have awareness or practice at working to increase these behaviors, we don’t even know what to focus on or have any idea what sustains passion over time.
In place of generosity comes self protection. Instead of prioritizing your partner as number one, other things that are easier become more important. True listening and interest in the other gets replaced with distraction and self absorption. We think that it shouldn’t take any effort, so when the feelings fade, we don’t notice that it is due to any change in behavior on our part. Therefore we believe that there is nothing we can do about it and we feel powerless. The relationship suffers, becomes painful and difficult, and eventually dies.
It is especially frustrating and painful because so many of us have had the experience of that initial burst of deep, heart felt and loving connection. We know what a relationship can be, so when we lose it, it is heart wrenching and devastating.
When single, many people work hard on themselves and on their personal issues in order to be ready for a great relationship. However, there is an idea in our culture that once you do the work to find your ‘perfect’ partner, you are done. Cinderella and Prince Charming ride off into the sunset and live happily every after. Story over. We stop working on ourselves. We start relying on the other person to fulfill places that we used to fill in ourselves. We create this entity that we call ‘relationship’ that is amorphous, intangible, and has no real shape or form.
Our ideal is merely a fantasy and we keep trying to relate to that ‘dream’ of what we think it should be rather than to our actual partners. We stop actually RELATING to each other. We stop listening to our spirit. We stop being true to own self and values. We don’t even see our partner as they really are; we just see our projections of who we think they are or should be. At some point, there is no longer anybody home to ‘relate’ to; we are no longer truly present.
The underlying belief that ‘we shouldn’t have to work on ourselves forever’ can kill a relationship. We want it to be easy. The bad news: long term, loving, alive relationships can be hard work. Really hard work. It takes commitment and focus on healing at a core level to be able to keep growing with a partner over time. It is easy to project our darkest fears onto our partners; every issue you have ever had can be re stimulated. The good news: passionate relationships are so much more than worth it.
We propose that its possible to keep passion, infatuation, and excitement alive; that it can last forever. The starting point includes surrendering to the idea that it will take a lifetime of work, personal growth, and commitment. It also takes a willingness to act in ways that create the feelings of ‘being in love’ rather than just allowing the relationship to die.
Ask yourself, what’s it going to take to act in loving ways, even when you are angry, hurt, busy, distracted, and not feeling it? I will be exploring some of the ways to do this in future posts.