Looking for True Love
I just dropped him off with the good Doctor H. to have a small lump removed from his right haunch and if weather is any kind of an omen, today is the best day to have surgery.
It is one of those blustery, early Fall mornings where the temps are struggling to reach 50, yet the sun is so warm a jean jacket is more than enough. Not a cloud in the sky. What could go wrong on a day such as this? Yet, as I tie the cover down tight on the grill and say a prayer for my furry friend, I can’t help but acknowledge the pit in my stomach and inhale deeply, realizing I have been holding my breath out of fear. What am I afraid of?
I suppose much to my surprise, I have learned beyond the shadow of a doubt that the love I have been honored to exchange with Midnight and his long-gone cousin, Elvis has been the sweetest, most sincere, and unselfish love I am likely ever to know. The love we receive from animals is simply a higher love that transcends the love I have been able to muster for my fellow man as well as the love that I have received. While not 100% unconditional (your cat will let you know if he is displeased that you are late with his breakfast for sure), the conditions are so small that the laziest among us can easily fulfill the needs of their dog or cat (or iguana).
Don’t get me wrong, I am not crying into a bowl of popcorn on Friday night because of the bad decisions I’ve made in my dating life. Far from it. Rather I am currently engaged, and grateful for those in my past that I dated briefly from whom I learned many lessons on what not to do. I’m also grateful for the the ones I had longer relationships with, a few of whom remain close friends. Yet let’s be honest, committed relationships are hard. What starts out as fun and passionate kisses soon turns to boredom from too many obligations. From there things may even take a turn for the worse unless we have actively decided to be committed not only to stay, but to learn about how to love.
While the instinct to love may be natural for humans, the way each of us learns to love is different. Being aware of this is very helpful if you want to create long term happiness in your relationship and avoid needless heartache and wasted time.
Luckily there has been much scientific exploration of this topic. Turns out that we all have different love stories, according to Dr. Robert Sternberg, Psychologist and Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, and author of many books on the subject, including Love Is a Story: A New Theory of Relationships. It starts when we are children, observing our parents, movies, and other influences. This vision of love becomes deeply carved into our subconscious and becomes the roadmap for our journey as adults in finding the person we believe to be “the one”.
Children who have lived with parents and observed their parents dealing with conflicts while maintaining respect and love for each other ,for instance, are more likely to pick a partner that will respect their input and influence. While there will always be disagreements and other challenges such as financial woes, they will have a strong enough foundation of friendship and respect to make it through and become even stronger together as a couple. That is, if they choose someone with a similar love story.
On the other hand, those who choose partners whose love story is similar when they have had a tough childhood may unknowingly create a union that reflects the dysfunction in their early orientation toward love. These couples can also successfully overcome challenges together, but it will be a lot harder and both sides will have to commit to doing a lot of work to do so.
But how do we know how to choose the right person for us? Is it possible to see through the fog of passion and pheromones that seem to take over when you first meet someone you really click with? Yes, it is but it takes a little bit of learning to understand how.
While it seems easy to fall in love, you may be mistaking passion or romance for love. It is not hard to do. And though passion is important and one of the three sides of the triangular theory of love also developed by Dr. Sternberg, all three sides together represent consummate love or what we may refer to as “true and everlasting love” These three are:
- Intimacy – In the deep friendship senses, think emotional closeness, being with someone who you can share your innermost thoughts and fears with and trust that they are in your corner
- Passion- which we are all familiar with in the physical sense, but also includes things like being excited about your partner’s accomplishments and fun shared experiences together
- Commitment – the decision to stay together and forsake others no matter what challenges may come your way
While you can have different variations of these three elements, such as romantic love, a combo of passion and intimacy that can feel great, if you lack the third element of commitment your relationship may be more of an affair to remember than the love of a lifetime despite how it seems.
On the other hand, where there is commitment with a broken friendship (intimacy), that often leads to a lack of passion (nothing going on in the bedroom), you may have what Sternberg defines as “empty love”. Still another combo where there is a deep abiding friendship (intimacy) and commitment (decision), yields what he calls “companionate love”. This kind of love feels more like lifelong friends and companions.
Whatever the case may be for your relationship, there is no right and wrong but instead a way to look at love and really learn about what your situation is today and explore what you want it to be. If you decide that you do want consummate love which is the balance of all three sides of the triangle, there are steps you can take whether you are currently single or in a relationship to move in that direction. There are great resources to help you take a good relationship that may have become more of a companionship for example and re-ignite the passion or to learn better ways of managing conflict if your love stories differ and you find that you can never seem to resolve issues as they arise.
If your relationship is basically strong. a life coach can help you learn how to make your bond even stronger. Or if you are unattached and looking for love you can work with a life coach to get in touch with your love story and must haves and develop a plan to identify who may be looking for someone like you and how to find them!
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