We meet, we connect, we fall in love. But is it real?
Looking for that special someone has become a priority for many. Google shows over 300 million results for the search “online dating sites.” There are more than 40 million American singles heading online to find love.
It may not be easy, but most people are now able to find someone to love. But not everyone knows how to keep love alive and growing through the years. I’ve been a marriage and family counselor for more than 40 years. I’ve also been happily married for 35 years.
Here are some things my wife, Carlin, and I have felt on our journey together:
1. Romantic love.
We all know the feeling. We meet, we connect, we fall in love. When we’re in it, our world is turned upside down. We’d rather be with our beloved than eat, sleep or work. We feel on top of the world when our love is returned and crash to the depths if it looks like our love is threatened.
2. The desire to merge.
Lust is connected with romance. We want to merge our bodies, minds and spirits. Orgasmic intensity isn’t just about pleasure. It’s about wanting to share our hearts, souls, atoms and electrons. We want to lose ourselves and find the divine.
3. It’s us against the world.
We no longer feel alone. We are now part of a pair. We feel the power of two and joy of being us. We’re still in the world, but the world seems like the background. We two are the center, and the world is there to support and embrace us.
4. Longing to create.
The primal creation, the reason we are each here, is that a man and a woman came together, an intrepid sperm was welcomed by a wondrous egg, and we were launched into life. But in a world with too many people, we also create art, music, home, healing and other gifts for humankind.
The honeymoon time comes to an end. Disillusionment sets in. Our partner seems to change. They are not who we thought they were, and they aren’t giving us what we longed to have. We wonder if we’ve made a mistake and begin turning away and looking for what is missing.
Incompatibility is grounds for true love. When we become disillusioned with our partner, we often feel we’ve become incompatible. But when we recognize that disillusionment can mean letting go of illusions, we can also let go of believing that incompatibility is a bad thing. It actually allows us to learn where our wounds have been hiding.
7. Discovering our wounded selves.
In looking away from our partner, we are forced to look within. We feel the pain of the trauma we all experience growing up in families that didn’t adequately meet our needs. We recognize that we were hoping that our partner would make us whole. We were looking for love in all the wrong places.
8. Embracing Illness.
Everyone gets sick, but that’s not a bad thing. Sickness can be our greatest teacher, our greatest guide. I got depressed. My wife got breast cancer. We both developed heart arrhythmias. We learned the lessons of illness and healed.
9. Learning the mathematics of true love and addictive love.
When we look for a partner to make us whole, we experience addictive love: “I’ve got to have him/her or I’ll die.” The math is ½ x ½ = ¼. The longer we’re together, the smaller we become.
When we look to our partner to help us heal and grow, we are on the path of true love. The math is 1 + 1 = Infinity.
10. Turning back towards our lover and committing to being real.
Being real is not sweetness and light. It is passionate, painful and creative—much like making a baby and giving birth. Being real requires being part of a pair. Self-actualization is not something we do by ourselves.
11. Love is letting go of fear.
All our unhappiness and illnesses are fear-based. We’re afraid of losing what we have or not getting what we need. We always have two choices. Do we feed the fear or do we feed the love? Whichever one we feed gets stronger.
12. Accepting that real, lasting love is a journey, not a destination.
Real, lasting love is something we create every minute of every day. It’s the most difficult thing we do in our lives. It is also the simplest. But simple isn’t always easy. Learning to love is the graduate school of life. Admission is free, but will cost you everything you have.
Are you ready for the journey?