The common (and incorrect) assumption about relationships is that if we just find the right person, then we’ll always be close. We start in Romantic Love where we can’t get enough of each other. During this early stage of love, we are each other’s most passionate supporter and in sync sexually. Most people believe that as time goes on, if we’ve chosen the right person, we’ll learn more and more about each other, we’ll come to agree on most things, and we’ll get closer and more intimate with each passing year. The myth is that we shouldn’t argue or disagree, there should always be harmony, and that if our partner cares enough he/she will know all about us – our wishes and needs. It follows, then, that we shouldn’t need to verbalize our wishes and needs because, ‘if she/he really cared, she/he would just know’. These myths have gotten many couples in a lot of conflict.
Part of what characterizes real love is quite different from that misconception. Real love vacillates between closeness and distance, between moments of love and moments of hurt/loneliness/hopelessness. It moves from one to the other and back again the way a fan moves from side to side countless times. It’s normal for people in long-term relationships to sometimes love and sometimes hate, yes, even hate, the other. (Actually hate is closer to love than you’d expect. Hate, although it’s painful and difficult, indicates that we DO care enough to have a strong opinion. It indicates that we are invested in this person and what he/she does and thinks and feels. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is, in fact, disinterest, not caring, and not being impacted by the other.)
Real love is a relationship in which we experience intense feelings, not lack of feelings. We are sometimes close, intimate, understanding and empathetic and other times we are angry, hurt, lonely, and distant. And of course, the other in-between feelings also exist in real love: peacefulness, contentedness, frustration, happiness, sadness – and the list goes on. Remember that feelings come and go. Relationships, on the other hand, require commitment and personal responsibility to weather the storms and last for the long-term.
What makes a good, strong relationship is the ability to move FROM distance BACK TO closeness. How do couples do that? They do it with:
- a new perspective on how relationships are meant to help us grow those unfinished parts of ourselves
- tools such as listening, understanding, and empathy
- the support of others.
These are all the tools you’ve seen me writing about for years. You can find many of these articles on my website.
So whether this Valentine’s Day was one of the best celebrations of your love, one of the worst times between you, OR somewhere in between, know that you can expect your relationship to move from one state to another as time progresses. If things are great right now, its likely that you will have a rupture coming up and the opportunity to re-establish closeness following that. If things are crappy right now, your challenge is to learn to move closer to each other again. Recognizing that it’s a myth that couples should always be close (AND learning what IS true for long-term relationships) can help you to do what you need to do to bring back the closeness, love, and fondness you long for.
To find out more, come work with us here at Couples Therapy Center. Call 908-246-3074, email GetSupport@CouplesTherapyCenterOfNJ.com or go to www.couplestherapycenterofnj.com.