Have you ever been so in love that you thought you were going to die of ecstasy? In the throes of this bliss, did you have trouble eating and sleeping because you were waiting for him to call, wondering when he would say "I love you", in a heightened state of sensitivity because of her painfully exquisite kisses, the positive proof that she really does love you? Did you feel more alive than ever, on cloud nine of happiness with your face plastered into a permanent grin?
Do you know that this isn't really love?
It's infatuation. It's the honeymoon stage. It's the free ride that often, but not always, occurs at the beginning of a relationship. It generally lasts anywhere between six weeks and two years, but typically fades at about six months. It's what our culture calls love, but it isn't love at all. And because our culture equates love with this feeling, when the feeling fades (as it always will), we mistakenly assume that we've fallen out of love. In fact, we've fallen out of lust, and that's when the work of learning about real love begins.
The state of lust is often amplified by the uncertainty that characterizes the early stages of relationships. We're culturally wired to associate love with drama, so the feelings of lust are ignited by not knowing if the other person really, truly loves you. This is why relationship anxiety so often begins the moment of the proposal. It's at that moment, when you receive confirmation that your partner isn't going anywhere, when the chase and drama over and the uncertainty settled, that the fear of real love sets in.
If you're in the throes of engagement anxiety and plagued by questions like, "Do I love him/her enough? Am I really in love?", you're not alone. We live in a culture that promotes the belief that drama equals love, and without the drama -- which essentially means you're not quite sure if the other person is really in the relationship -- you're conditioned not to feel passion. Here's the romantic theology of our culture (kind of like a geometry proof):
- Love equals passion
- Passion equals uncertainty
- Uncertainty equals drama
- Drama equals possibility of loss
- Possibility of loss equals love
Without the threat of loss looming forefront in awareness, you have to make a conscious effort to see and appreciate your partner. My clients often describe it like this: "I'm taking him for granted. I've always known that the relationship was solid but it was only after he proposed and I knew with certainty that he wasn't going anywhere that I started questioning if this is what I really want. It's like as long as there was an element of uncertainty, no matter how small, it satisfied that place in me that needs the mystery or the possibility of loss to feel in love."
It's not easy but it's entirely possible and essential to re-condition yourself to accept and appreciate what real love is about. Real love is stable, consistent, and reliable. Real love is not about drama and mystery; it's about the here and now. Sometimes it's boring. Sometimes it's exciting. And it takes real effort to keep your appreciation and gratitude alive, to nurture yourself in ways that fuel your own sense of passion, and to see your partner through fresh eyes so that you can embrace the real - and wonderful - love that is right before you.
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Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her Home Study Programs and her websites. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, "Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes", visit her website at http://conscious-transitions.com. And if you're suffering from relationship anxiety - whether dating, engaged, or married - give yourself the gift of the Conscious Weddings E-Course: From Anxiety to Serenity.