"Falling in Love" The Five Love Languages part 3

PDX NEWS - "Falling in Love" The Five Love Languages part 3

The Five Love Languages menu content:
  1. What Happens to Love After the Wedding?
  2. Keeping the Love Tank Full
  3. Falling in Love
  4. Love Language 1: Words of Affirmation
  5. Love Language 2: Quality Time
  6. Love Language 3: Receiving Gifts
  7. Love Language 4: Acts of Service
  8. Love Language 5: Physical Touch
  9. Discovering Your Primary Love Language
  10. Love Is a Choice
  11. Love Makes the Difference
  12. Loving the Unlovely
  13. Children and Love Languages
  14. A Personal Word

Falling in Love

She showed up at my office without an appointment and asked my secretary if she could see me for five minutes. I had known Janice for eighteen years. She was thirty-six and had never married. She had dated several men through the years, one for six years, another for three years, and several others for shorter periods of time. From time to time, she had made appointments with me to discuss a particular difficulty in one of her relationships. She was by nature a disciplined, conscientious, organized, thoughtful, and caring person. It was completely out of character for her to show up at my office unannounced. I thought, There must be some terrible crisis for Janice to show up without an appointment. I told my secretary to show her in, and I fully expected to see her burst into tears and tell me some tragic story as soon as the door was closed. Instead, she virtually skipped into my office, beaming with excitement.

“How are you today, Janice?” I asked.

“Great!” she said. “I’ve never been better in my life. I’m getting married!”

“You are?” I said, revealing my shock. “To whom and when?”

“To David Gallespie,” she exclaimed, “in September.”

“That’s exciting. How long have you been dating?”

“Three weeks. I know it’s crazy, Dr. Chapman, after all the people I have dated and the number of times I came so close to getting married. I can’t believe it myself, but I know

David is the one for me. From the first date, we both knew it. Of course, we didn’t talk about it on the first night, but one week later, he asked me to marry him. I knew he was going to ask me, and I knew I was going to say yes. I have never felt this way before, Dr. Chapman. You know about the relationships that I have had through the years and the struggles I have had. In every relationship, something was not right. I never felt at peace about marrying any of them, but I know that David is the right one.”

By this time, Janice was rocking back and forth in her chair, giggling and saying, “I know it’s crazy, but I am so happy. I have never been this happy in my life.”

What has happened to Janice? She has fallen in love.

In her mind, David is the most wonderful man she has ever met. He is perfect in every way. He will make the ideal husband. She thinks about him day and night. The facts that

David has been married twice before, has three children, and has had three jobs in the past year are trivial to Janice.

She’s happy, and she is convinced that she is going to be happy forever with David. She is in love.

Most of us enter marriage by way of the “in love” experience. We meet someone whose physical characteristics and personality traits create enough electrical shock to trigger our “love alert” system. The bells go off, and we set in motion the process of getting to know the person. The first step may be sharing a hamburger or steak, depending on our budget, but our real interest is not in the food. We are on a quest to discover love. “Could this warm, tingly feeling I have inside be the ‘real’ thing?”

Sometimes we lose the tingles on the first date. We find out that she dips snuff, and the tingles run right out our toes; we want no more hamburgers with her. Other times, however, the tingles are stronger after the hamburger than before. We arrange for a few more “together” experiences, and before long the level of intensity has increased to the point where we find ourselves saying, “I think I’m falling in love.

” Eventually we are convinced that it is the “real thing,” and we tell the other person, hoping the feeling is reciprocal. If it isn’t, things cool off a bit or we redouble our efforts to impress, and eventually win the love of, our beloved. When it is reciprocal, we start talking about marriage because everyone agrees that being “in love” is the necessary foundation for a good marriage. Our dreams before marriage are of marital bliss…. It’s hard to believe anything else when you are in love.

At its peak, the “in love” experience is euphoric. We are emotionally obsessed with each other. We go to sleep thinking of one another. When we rise that person is the first thought on our minds. We long to be together.

Spending time together is like playing in the anteroom of heaven. When we hold hands, it seems as if our blood flows together. We could kiss forever if we didn’t have to go to school or work. Embracing stimulates dreams of and ecstasy.

The person who is “in love” has the illusion that his beloved is perfect. His mother can see the flaws but he can’t. His mother says, “Darling, have you considered she has been under psychiatric care for five years?” But he replies, “Oh, Mother, give me a break. She’s been out for three months now.” His friends also can see the flaws but are not likely to tell him unless he asks, and chances are he won’t because in his mind she is perfect and what others think doesn’t matter.

Our dreams before marriage are of marital bliss: “We are going to make each other supremely happy. Other couples may argue and fight, but not us. We love each other.” Of course, we are not totally naive. We know intellectually that we will eventually have differences. But we are certain that we will discuss those differences openly; one of us will always be willing to make concessions, and we will reach agreement. It’s hard to believe anything else when you are in love.

We have been led to believe that if we are really in love, it will last forever. We will always have the wonderful feelings that we have at this moment. Nothing could ever come between us. Nothing will ever overcome our love for each other. We are enamored and caught up in the beauty and charm of the other’s personality. Our love is the most wonderful thing we have ever experienced. We observe that some married couples seem to have lost that feeling, but it will never happen to us. “Maybe they did not have the real thing,” we reason.

Unfortunately, the eternality of the “in love” experience is fiction, not fact. Dr. Dorothy Tennov, a psychologist, has done long-range studies on the in-love phenomenon. After studying scores of couples, she concluded that the average life span of a romantic obsession is two years. If it is a secretive love affair, it may last a little longer. Eventually, however, we all descend from the clouds and plant our feet on earth again. Our eyes are opened, and we see the warts of the other person. We recognize that some of his/her personality traits are actually irritating. Her behavior patterns are annoying. He has the capacity for hurt and anger, perhaps even harsh words and critical judgments.

Those little traits that we overlooked when we were in love now become huge mountains. We remember Mother’s words and ask ourselves, How could I have been so foolish?

Welcome to the real world of marriage, where hairs are always on the sink and little white spots cover the mirror, where arguments center on which way the toilet paper comes off and whether the lid should be up or down.

It is a world where shoes do not walk to the closet and drawers do not close themselves, where coats do not like hangers and socks go AWOL during laundry. In this world, a look can hurt and a word can crush. Intimate lovers can become enemies, and marriage a battlefield.

What happened to the “in love” experience? Alas, it was but an illusion by which we were tricked into signing our names on the dotted line, for better or for worse. No wonder so many have come to curse marriage and the partner whom they once loved. After all, if we were deceived, we have a right to be angry. Did we really have the “real” thing? I think so. The problem was faulty information.

The bad information was the idea that the “in love” obsession would last forever. We should have known better. A casual observation should have taught us that if people remained obsessed, we would all be in serious trouble. The shock waves would rumble through business, industry, church, education, and the rest of society.

Why? Because people who are “in love” lose interest in other pursuits. That is why we call it “obsession.” The college student who falls head over heels in love sees his grades tumbling. It is difficult to study when you are in love. Tomorrow you have a test on the War of 1812, but who cares about the War of 1812? When you’re in love, everything else seems irrelevant. A man said to me, “Dr. Chapman, my job is disintegrating.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I met this girl, fell in love, and I can’t get a thing done. I can’t keep my mind on my job. I spend my day dreaming about her.”

The euphoria of the “in love” state gives us the illusion that we have an intimate relationship. We feel that we belong to each other. We believe we can conquer all problems. We feel altruistic toward each other. As one young man said about his fiancée, “I can’t conceive of doing anything to hurt her. My only desire is to make her happy. I would do anything to make her happy.” Such obsession gives us the false sense that our egocentric attitudes have been eradicated and we have become sort of a Mother Teresa, willing to give anything for the benefit of our lover. The reason we can do that so freely is that we sincerely believe that our lover feels the same way toward us. We believe that she is committed to meeting our needs, that he loves us as much as we love him and would never do anything to hurt us.

That thinking is always fanciful. Not that we are insincere in what we think and feel, but we are unrealistic. We fail to reckon with the reality of human nature. By nature, we are egocentric. Our world revolves around us. None of us is totally altruistic. The euphoria of the “in love” experience only gives us that illusion.

Once the experience of falling in love has run its natural course (remember, the average in-love experience lasts two years), we will return to the world of reality and begin to assert ourselves. He will express his desires, but his desires will be different from hers. He desires sex, but she is too tired. He wants to buy a new car, but she says, “That’s absurd!” She wants to visit her parents, but he says,

“I don’t like spending so much time with your family.” He wants to play in the softball tournament, and she says, “You love softball more than you love me.” Little by little, the illusion of intimacy evaporates, and the individual desires, emotions, thoughts, and behavior patterns exert themselves. They are two individuals. Their minds have not melded together, and their emotions mingled only briefly in the ocean of love. Now the waves of reality begin to separate them. They fall out of love, and at that point either they withdraw, separate, divorce, and set off in search of a new in-love experience, or they begin the hard work of learning to love each other without the euphoria of the inlove obsession.

The in-love experience does not focus on our own growth nor on the growth and development of the other person. Rather, it gives us the sense that we have arrived. Some researchers, among them psychiatrist M. Scott Peck and psychologist Dorothy Tennov, have concluded that the in-love experience should not be called “love” at all.

Dr. Tennov coined the word limerance for the in-love experience in order to distinguish that experience from what she considers real love. Dr. Peck concludes that the falling-in-love experience is not real love for three reasons. First, falling in love is not an act of the will or a conscious choice. No matter how much we may want to fall in love, we cannot make it happen. On the other hand, we may not be seeking the experience when it overtakes us. Often, we fall in love at inopportune times and with unlikely people. Second, falling in love is not real love because it is effortless.

Whatever we do in the in-love state requires little discipline or conscious effort on our part. The long, expensive phone calls we make to each other, the money we spend traveling to see each other, the gifts we give, the work projects we do are as nothing to us. As the instinctual nature of the bird dictates the building of a nest, so the instinctual nature of the in-love experience pushes us to do outlandish and unnatural things for each other.

Third, one who is “in love” is not genuinely interested in fostering the personal growth of the other person. “If we have any purpose in mind when we fall in love it is to terminate our own loneliness and perhaps ensure this result through marriage.”1 The in-love experience does not focus on our own growth nor on the growth and development of the other person. Rather, it gives us the sense that we have arrived and that we do not need further growth. We are at the apex of life’s happiness, and our only desire is to stay there. Certainly our beloved does not need to grow because she is perfect. We simply hope she will remain perfect.

If falling in love is not real love, what is it? Dr. Peck concludes that it “is a genetically determined instinctual component of mating behavior. In other words, the temporary collapse of ego boundaries that constitutes falling in love is a stereotypic response of human beings to a configuration of internal sexual drives and external sexual stimuli, which serves to increase the probability of sexual pairing and bonding so as to enhance the survival of the species.”2

Whether or not we agree with that conclusion, those of us who have fallen in love and out of love will likely agree that the experience does catapult us into emotional orbit unlike anything else we have experienced. It tends to disengage our reasoning abilities, and we often find ourselves doing and saying things that we would never have done in more sober moments. In fact, when we come down from the emotional obsession we often wonder why we did those things.

When the wave of emotions subsides and we come back to the real world where our differences are illuminated, how many of us have asked, “Why did we get married? We don’t agree on anything.” Yet, at the height of the in-loveness, we thought we agreed on everything—at least everything that was important. Rational, volitional love is the kind of love to which the sages have always called us.

Does that mean that having been tricked into marriage by the illusion of being in love, we are now faced with two options: (1) we are destined to a life of misery with our spouse, or (2) we must jump ship and try again? Our generation has opted for the latter, whereas an earlier generation often chose the former.

Before we automatically conclude that we have made the better choice, perhaps we should examine the data. Presently 40 percent of first marriages in this country end in divorce. Sixty percent of second marriages and 75 percent of third marriages end the same way. Apparently the prospect of a happier marriage the second and third time around is not substantial.

Research seems to indicate that there is a third and better alternative: We can recognize the in-love experience for what it was—a temporary emotional high—and now pursue “real love” with our spouse. That kind of love is emotional in nature but not obsessional. It is a love that unites reason and emotion. It involves an act of the will and requires discipline, and it recognizes the need for personal growth.

Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who sees in me something worth loving.

That kind of love requires effort and discipline. It is the choice to expend energy in an effort to benefit the other person, knowing that if his or her life is enriched by your effort, you too will find a sense of satisfaction—the satisfaction of having genuinely loved another. It does not require the euphoria of the “in love” experience. In fact, true love cannot begin until the “in love” experience has run its course.

We cannot take credit for the kind and generous things we do while under the influence of “the obsession.” We are pushed and carried along by an instinctual force that goes beyond our normal behavior patterns. But if, once we return to the real world of human choice, we choose to be kind and generous, that is real love.

The emotional need for love must be met if we are to have emotional health. Married adults long to feel affection and love from their spouses. We feel secure when we are assured that our mate accepts us, wants us, and is committed to our well-being. During the in-love stage, we felt all of those emotions. It was heavenly while it lasted. Our mistake was in thinking it would last forever.

But that obsession was not meant to last forever. In the textbook of marriage, it is but the introduction. The heart of the book is rational, volitional love. That is the kind of love to which the sages have always called us. It is intentional.

That is good news to the married couple who have lost all of their “in love” feelings. If love is a choice, then they have the capacity to love after the “in love” obsession has died and they have returned to the real world. That kind of love begins with an attitude—a way of thinking. Love is the attitude that says, “I am married to you, and I choose to look out for your interests.” Then the one who chooses to love will find appropriate ways to express that decision.

“But it seems so sterile,” some may contend. “Love as an attitude with appropriate behavior? Where are the shooting stars, the balloons, the deep emotions? What about the spirit of anticipation, the twinkle of the eye, the electricity of a kiss, the excitement of sex? What about the emotional security of knowing that I am number one in his/her mind?” That is what this book is all about.

How do we meet each other’s deep, emotional need to feel loved? If we can learn that and choose to do it, then the love we share will be exciting beyond anything we ever felt when we were infatuated.

For many years now, I have discussed the five emotional love languages in my marriage seminars and in private counseling sessions. Thousands of couples will attest to the validity of what you are about to read. My files are filled with letters from people whom I have never met, saying, “A friend loaned me one of your tapes on love languages, and it has revolutionized our marriage.

We had struggled for years trying to love each other, but our efforts had missed each other emotionally. Now that we are speaking the appropriate love languages, the emotional climate of our marriage has radically improved.”

When your spouse’s emotional love tank is full and he feels secure in your love, the whole world looks bright and your spouse will move out to reach his highest potential in life. But when the love tank is empty and he feels used but not loved, the whole world looks dark and he will likely never reach his potential for good in the world.

In the next part 5, I will explain the five emotional love languages and then, in chapter 9, illustrate how discovering your spouse’s primary love language can make your efforts at love most productive.

1. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled(New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1978), pp. 89–90.
2. Ibid., p. 90.

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