Our perceptions and definitions of love are so varied that one person’s dream of love is another person’s nightmare. “Like two peas in a pod” could sound terribly romantic to one person and totally smothering to another. One person’s ideal of love, being relaxed and comfortable in a long-term relationship, maybe someone else’s signal to leave a relationship that feels boring. Our notions of love reflect our maturity level, personality type, and cultural influences on our romantic beliefs.
Danny was distraught because he “loved Judie to death,” and she did not want to see him anymore. He admitted that he had been a little mean to her when he called her names and pushed her around because he was jealous when she talked on the phone to her girlfriends. Love is a verb, so the feelings of love must be matched by behaviors in order to count as true love. Danny was dependent on Jodie because of his own neediness, but he didn’t understand that his abusive behaviors toward Judie demonstrated a lack of love in spite of his feelings.
Tammy fell in love at first sight with a man whom her parents disapproved of; he had a prison record for drug dealing, had been married twice, and didn’t support his children because he didn’t have a steady job. Their opposition only increased her determination and conviction that she had found the man she wanted to marry. She knew that the strength of her love would help him change. Tammy’s infatuation with Jerome was based on an idealized image of who she thought he was and who she thought he could become rather than on a realistic picture. When she eventually took off her rose-colored glasses, she realized that she did not like him as a person, so her love faded quickly. True love is realistic, accepts minor flaws and imperfections, and is appreciative of the other person’s positive qualities.
Maxine was so much in love with Max that she agreed to stop going to her exercise class after work because he missed her so much when they were not together. Her friends complained that she was always too busy for them. Her whole life centered around the things that Max was interested in, and she believed that her complete devotion was evidence of the depth of their love. Maxine didn’t realize that a loving partner fosters growth and strength in the other person without fear of loss.
It is preferable to grow in love than to fall in love. Many people mistake infatuation or romance for a mature love that endures the passage of time. Individuals engaged in extramarital affairs often say, “I love my spouse, but I’m not in love with him/her any more.” Unfortunately, they are confusing the excitement of a forbidden love with the routine and security of a long term relationship. Movies, novels, and song lyrics popularize misconceptions about love by glorifying passionate love which develops despite tremendous obstacles or inappropriate pairing.
A trick of nature induces women to bond with an inappropriate partner after sex because of a sexual arousal hormone called oxytocin which enhances orgasms and increases emotional attachment to one’s sexual partner. This hormone is stronger in women and is also secreted during breastfeeding to increase bonding with a newborn child. That is one of the reasons that women tend to become more emotionally attached than men once they have engaged in sexual intercourse.
A relationship that is right for you will meet the criteria of goodness of fit with all four areas: your head, your heart, your gut, and your groin. Two out of four, such as your heart and your genitals, could be what’s keeping you in the wrong relationship even though your gut and your brain know better.
If your “love” is: ANXIOUS, ECSTATIC, JEALOUS, SMOTHERING, OBSESSIVE, FORBIDDEN, SELFISH, PERFECT — you might be confusing infatuation with love.
If your love is: SECURE, WARM, TRUSTING, OPEN, COMPANIONATE, RESPECTFUL, APPROPRIATE, SUPPORTIVE, IMPERFECT — you might have found the real thing.