In Love

Additional Information for Chapter 3, page 29

What is it? A case of mutual infatuation, that is, two people are infatuated with each other. Psychologists often call this a “passionate relationship” or a “passionate romance”. We use the terms interchangeably below.

Duration: Psychologists have determined that the “in love” condition lasts on average about two years. After that the intensity of emotions fade. The “on average” term means that for some it lasts longer, for some shorter. It does not last the course of a marriage-unless the marriage is cut short by premature death.

How important is it? From a commercial point of view, it is extremely important. It drives the multi-billion dollar movie, romance novel and music industries. From a personal point of view, not nearly as important. We frankly acknowledge that it is one of the most enjoyable relational experiences that people ever share. But our topic here is NOT how do you have a hot romance, but rather, how do you have a successful relationship (viz. Marriage) that grows in love for a life time? There are millions of successful marriages that did not start out romantically. True, most of these happened in prior generations in which parents played a much larger role in the choice of marriage partner. There are also millions of successful marriages that DID start out with the “in love” condition.

Researchers have not explored how important an initial in love condition is to successful marriage. This is because there are so few marriages today that did not start out as “in love,” that there is 1) a dearth of qualified subjects, and 2) no one thus far has been interested enough to put forth the time and effort to explore the question in a scientific manner.

In sum then, it appears that a successful marriage does not require a passionate beginning but there is no research to back up the statement. It is also true that there are many successful marriages that do start with the passion, but the odds are against you. Remember the initial statistics: 50% of marriages end in divorce and 80% (including the 50%) are unhappy. Since most of those marriages had a passionate beginning we can say with confidence the initial passion does not predict marital success.

Pitfalls of the “in love” condition: The major challenge of being in love is that it blinds and distorts. When people make decisions about marriage when in love, they are almost certain to be overlooking critically important issues and twisting others. In The Compatibility Code we use a chart to compare the “in love” condition with “real love”. We make another chart below but this time showing characteristics of the in love condition and explaining the potential lethal consequences.

Potential Pitfalls of Being In Love


In-Love Experience Pitfall
Researchers find that on average the in-love experience lasts about two years. If you think it will last forever (or even for a very long time) you set yourself up for serious disappointment in a couple of years. You may follow the pattern of Elizabeth Taylor (married and divorced 8 times) who would marry for two years, the feelings would go, so she would divorce and marry again so the feelings were once again aroused.

Perspective of the In-Love Person and Potential Pitfalls of Those Perspectives

Illusions of the In-Love Experience Pitfall
1. My beloved is perfect (or the faults are cute or unimportant). Since neither you nor your beloved are perfect it is necessary to be aware of your imperfections and see if any of them are deal breakers. Even for imperfections that are not deal breakers, it is important to consider how these imperfections will play out over the course of a marriage.
2. Suggestions of others carry no weight. (How could feelings this strong be wrong?) Notice the lethal foundation to ignoring others. “How could feelings this strong be wrong?” Do you think Hitler had strong feelings about the Jews? Does a suicide bomber have strong feelings about his or her cause? Feelings, positive or negative, are fickle. Feelings change. They are a disastrous foundation for any important decisions.Concerning ignoring suggestions: Why is it that the greatest coaches consistently turn out the best athletes; the best music teachers produce the greatest musicians? The parallel applies in many other settings. So when listening to suggestions, you should consider the source. I have found that your basic 18-year-old in a romantic relationship when having relational problems usually talks with some other 18-year-old having troubles in their relationship. It is like a person who wants to run a 4 minute mile taking the suggestions of some couch potato who has never run.So, be willing to listen to people’s suggestions. Take seriously suggestions that come from someone who has the training or life experience to suggest a valid knowledge base.
3. This feeling will last for ever. If you are 20 years old and believe that the feeling will last forever, you will have proved yourself wrong by about the age of 60. If you’re 30 you will have proved yourself wrong by about the age of 50. The end of the “in love” phase should mark a transition into real love (covered in detail in The Compatibility Code)
4. This love will overcome all differences. Being in love has the power to blind you to serious differences (even disqualifiers) or to distort your perception of such issues. If you’re extroverted and he is introverted your love will blind you to the reality that you may live a life time of her (the extrovert) nagging him to go to social events and him digging in his heels and refusing. When she does persuade him, he sits glumly and doesn’t interact. Look at the list of issues on pages 169, 170 (in The Compatibility Code) and notice the array of serious red flags that the in-love couple can pass off as inconsequential. They guarantee for themselves a life of misery.
5. Nothing can ever come between us. Even the best marriages are fraught with an array of challenges that require a strong relationship and willingness to be flexible in order to find a resolution. Many of these issues have the power to drive wedges between the two of you and unless you are prepared to deal with them (by acknowledging that things CAN come between us) you will be the victim. For instances, financial conflict is one of the great marriage destroyers. In general, financial pressure shouldn’t seem to create conflict between couples, but it does. Be prepared!
6. Our sexual interaction is so great; we were made for each other. Sexual arousal is unrelated to compatibility. Research has shown time again that many types of general physiological arousal can be interpreted as sexual arousal, and, given the cuing set of circum-stances, can result in sexual involvement. The fact that the sex feels so good masks reality: In the course of a relationship, even for the most sexually enthusiastic, sex occupies only about 1% or 2% of your time. The other 98-99% is also critical for determining marital success.
7. Our love conquers all problems. Being “in love” does not overcome problems but masks, hides, or distorts them. You’re so in love that you don’t notice that he has served prison time for rape. Her bitterness and hostility is something that you are sure you can just “love away in time.” His pernicious criticisms are labeled by you as “being forthright”, “willing to tell it like it is” or other foolish euphemisms. In each of these three instances there is a have a disqualifier that should have you running the opposite direction, despite your feelings.
8. I could not possibly inflict discomfort or pain on my beloved. In the fullness of time there will be plenty of times you are irritated with your partner, don’t like your partner very well, and, yes, even times when you will feel like inflicting discomfort or pain. At times like these, your choices will determine whether your resulting actions will enhance the quality of the relationship or destroy it.

Other Comparisons

In-Love Experience Pitfall
The in-love experience tends to just happen. We cannot choose to have it, and often it occurs at awkward times and is directed toward unlikely (often unaccep-table) persons. It is rarely subject to conscious choice. It is fine if a long-term relationship starts out with the in-love experience. However the initial experience must mature into real love. In the context of real love, to love a partner is based on conscious choices and decisions to love. We express that love even when we don’t feel like it and work progressively to nurture the growth of love.
The in-love experience renders all tasks effortless, requiring little discipline or conscious effort, and pushes us to do outlandish and unnatural things for each other. The difficulty with all tasks, all expressions of love, being so effortless is it may deceive us into thinking that the same dynamic will continue through out a relationship. However, nurturance and continuation of the relationship requires disciplined, conscious effort to encourage each other to grow in important areas within the context of the relationship. It provides frequent reminders to the beloved that he or she is cherished and valued.
Has little interest in self-growth or nurturance of growth in the other. The focus is on having found rather than having become. If we are deceived into thinking that when we “find” the right person that the relationship is secure, then we ignore the importance of change and growth for a successful relationship. The only constant in life is change. If we are unprepared to grow with those changes and encourage our partner to also grow with those changes, then the relationship will be placed at jeopardy.

In sum, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being in love. It is a wonderful experience and should be enjoyed to the fullest. But you joy will be greater if, while you are in love, you are aware of potential pitfalls and biases. Consider this analogy: If you are an avid down hill skier, the thrill of skiing is enhanced if you avoid rocks, trees, icy spots, ski lift towers, and the occasional brick wall. The same applies to being in love.

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