A Beatles song captures the imagination of youthful love in the verse, “When she crossed that room, my heart went boom and I fell in love with her.” When we are hit with that thunderbolt, we become teenagers again as a tsunami of chemicals amass the feelings of love at first sight. At this point, our bodies are chock full of pheromones, oxytocin, and vasopressin, the love combo, as it whipsaws us around in a whirl of chemical goo. How sweet it is. Scientists now believe we needed those compounds to survive as a species when animals roamed free some ten thousand years ago. At the time women needed a man to be interested enough to protect her and her infant until the child was old enough to keep up with the swift-moving tribe.
The tempo of a new relationship feels like it has wheels as it moves at emotional lightning speed toward a full-blown commitment. Before we know it, we are walking down the aisle and saying our “I do’s.” Real life is another matter. We soon realize that this vision of perfection has some chinks. Often the person we thought we knew has morphed into another species. Relationships start out romantic then lead to disappointment and ultimately to alienation according to Daniel Wile the noted relationship author and speaker. Wile contends that while relationships are filled with a certain struggle all is not lost. We can’t do much about disappointment but we can work on alienation. These alienated situations need to be talked out, worked through, so we become more connected and less ambivalent.
Get the picture, of course you do. Relationships can be quite nurturing, loving and kind or cut like a knife right into the sinew and nerve of our most sensitive feelings. Eventually, we find some serious annoyances and defenses which can suddenly spring forth in avalanches of boiling anger, ready to rip our loved one from ear to ear. Relationships present quite the challenge over the long haul. What it really takes to continue the love we had at first is something to strive for, but the secret is that we have to pay attention. For love to endure we need to learn how to throw the proverbial log on the relationship fire. To maintain a loving relationship requires that we are the sort of person whom someone could love. We think we can do whatever we want, say anything that comes to mind and let it all hang out. But a marriage license can’t become a license to kill if love is to remain viable. To preserve a loving relationship requires that we make love in every sense of the word. It doesn’t always just happen, it takes some planning, some perseverance, tolerance and a sense of humor to make it run smoothly.
When we are first in love we can’t really know what may lie ahead. For the next umpteen years we are faced with the foibles and flaws of another human being. Trying to change them is useless, so the only solution is to accept this person warts and all or go down the path toward relationship hell. If we don’t know something about our own craggy inner terrain we are doomed to the jungle of conflict cycles with no foreseeable end or the dead end of fighting for position in competitive power failures.
Love after the initial blast off is essentially a creation. We fashion love through first-rate conflict resolution skills, communication, laughter, sex and affection. Love is an activity; it is about creating love by being loving, kind, caring, responsible, reliable and supportive. In this way we actively promote loving feelings. Obviously, if we apply compassion, understanding, respect, empathy, acceptance, patience and perseverance we will support loving feelings. Through all the vagaries of relationships they inevitably lead to negotiating our wants, needs, dreams and wishes with another who is hopefully interested enough to consider it. When it is all said and done we need to tend our relationship garden with gentle hands. If we actively create moments of enjoyment while letting the small stuff roll like water off a rock we will win the relationship wars. We must not forget that our relationship is perfect but there is always room for improvement. The work of love is gaining the ability to look at ourselves from within and between while listening to our loved one so they can show us what we cannot see.