We all know that being in love is one of the very best feelings in the world. When we fall in love, we often believe that our in-love feelings are going to last forever.
In my counseling practice, I've worked with countless people who believed that, this time, the love would last.
Take Benjamin, for example. Benjamin had been married for 22 years when he decided to divorce his wife. He was tired of not feeling connected and intimate with her. He experienced her as closed and resistant, and he wanted a relationship with an open woman.
Soon after the divorce, Benjamin met Rachel at the home of a friend. They connected immediately. Benjamin called me, ecstatic. "I know it's really early in this relationship -- we've only known each other a couple of weeks, but I think I'm in love. It feels so good to be with an open and caring woman."
"Benjamin, please take your time. You are just out of a long marriage and you have barely settled into your new life. It really does take time to know someone. I'm glad you and Rachel are enjoying your time with each other, but please don't rush into anything."
I knew this was likely to fall on deaf ears. I've seen it so many times.
Two months after meeting, the bloom was off the rose.
"Rachel runs away when she is upset. It's frustrating to me to not be able to work things out with her. And she doesn't take good care of herself in a lot of ways. She takes care of everyone but herself."
Benjamin very much wanted to be in love, but he had not made the choices that would lead to lasting love.
Five Choices to Help You Stay in Love
1. Learn to love yourself
Do the inner work you need to do to be happy on your own. If you are abandoning yourself by not taking responsibility for your feelings, judging yourself, turning to various addictions, or making someone else responsible for making you feel full, loved, safe and adequate, you will meet someone who is also abandoning themselves in various ways. We meet each other at our common level of self-abandonment or health, so do the work you need to do to feel happy, peaceful and full of love inside. You don't need to be fully healed, as much healing can take place within a relationship, but you do need to know how to love yourself so you can share your love with others.
2. Take it slow
One of the major mistakes that many people make is moving too fast -- including having sex too early. For a sexual relationship to be deeply satisfying on the physical as well as on the emotional level, there needs to be deep caring and connection. Early "in-love" feelings are often nothing more than infatuation, as truly being in love happens over time -- if it is going to happen. If someone is rushing you into a relationship, be very cautious. Behind the beautiful words and dazzling pursuit may lurk neediness and narcissism.
3. Ask in-depth questions
Ask the important questions -- about values, money, children, religion/spirituality, past relationships. If you are afraid to be forthright in your questions, then the fear itself is letting you know that your fear of rejection may be in charge -- which means you have more inner work to do.
4. Don't shy away from conflict
All relationships have some conflict, and much can be learned from how you each deal with conflict. If you are avoiding the important questions, giving yourself up to keep the peace, or not speaking up for yourself, you will not learn what you need to regarding how the two of you handle conflict. If your new love closes down, gets angry or furious, goes into resistance or defensiveness, or turns to an addiction, this does not bode well for staying in love. An inability to resolve conflict is a major reason why in-love feelings fade away.
If your new love briefly does these protective behaviors, but then opens to learning with you, great. But if he or she does not open within the same day as the conflict, then it will be very hard for issues to get resolved between you.
5. Appreciation rather than judgment
You are not likely to fine someone who has everything you want, but hopefully he or she has many of the qualities you value. Instead of focusing on what you don't like and trying to change your partner with judgment, appreciate what is wonderful about your new love. This doesn't mean avoiding problems, as it is vital to explore the difficulties -- with an intent to learn -- but being judgmental is one of the quickest ways to put the lid on love.
While you will not always feel "in love" with your partner, following these five choices will give you a very good chance of feeling loving and connected with your partner much of the time.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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