Love and Attraction

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Love

What is it? Is it that chemical wash of neurotransmitters you feel when you’re attracted to someone? Is it that fluffy feeling one gets when they think of their significant other, or butterflies in the stomach? How about that feeling like something is missing when they are not around? The feeling that you are perfect for each other and will live happily ever after?

No. Love is not a fairy tale. Plain and simple. Love is commitment. Love is a decision. When you love someone, you want to be a better you. It is deciding to treat your partner with love despite not liking him/her that day. It is how you handle conflict in relationship. There will definitely be conflict. Love is the relationship that remains after the rose colored glasses come off and your best friend is standing there, flaws and all.    
Attraction

You see him/her, eyes meet and fireworks go off. This is attraction. It is caused by mirror neurons, a brain/sight function. It is not an indication that you are “perfect for each other.”

So many people I meet in therapy have this notion that a whirlwind romance is the ultimate success, the Stanley Cup of relationships. For the most part, it is not. It is fraught with red flags, right from the beginning that are pushed aside and excuses are made for negative behaviors, while intuition is telling you to pay attention. Sometimes, those red flags are warning you of serious problems or abuse to come.

Society is so consumed with instant gratification. that we are not willing to wait for the real thing. People jump ahead into very intimate emotional and physical relationships with people they barely know. This can be a serious problem on many levels. For instance, respect and trust are often affected, causing problems down the line. Also, when emotional intimacy happens too soon, this person knows an awful lot about you that can be used painfully if the relationship ends. Am I saying real love and good relationships don’t exist today? Definitely not.
So, how can I build a lasting love relationship?
Listen to yourself, your self talk, your “gut feelings.”
Give time for a real relationship to grow. Studies show that whirlwind romances are more likely to be abusive ones, so look for the red flags. Does your partner “love you” feel you are their “soul mate” and/or want to get married/move in together, in the first 6 months? Does your partner seem to feel the need to keep tabs on you or isolate you from friends and family? Probably should reexamine this relationship.

People manipulate when they first meet, to some degree it is natural. We put our best foot forward because we want the other person to like us before they see our perceived negatives. However, the type of manipulation that precedes unhealthy relationships goes beyond that. We don’t even usually see the other person in all of their uniqueness until around 2 years, in relationship together. If you’re still thinking this person is worthy of a lifetime relationship with you after a year and half or 2, a marriage is more likely to work out.

Good questions to ask yourself:
Do we have common values and interests?
Do you have similar religious views? Believe it or not, this causes more problems than people realize. Will you attend services together? How will you raise children together within your belief system?

Do your family/parents like him/her? Parents have life experience that you do not yet have. Parents and other family members are also seeing from a different vantage point. They may have some valuable insights.

Many children have not yet learned to squelch their inner voice. They are sometimes blunt, but honest. If your kids or family’s kids don’t like your partner, there may be a reason. Give it some thought. Don’t be too quick to pass it off as jealousy or the child’s problem. 

Do you have similar parenting styles? Can you accept and live with the differences while supporting your partner? Parenting squabbles cause wreak havoc on a relationship.
 Is the relationship built on sex and/or desire or friendship? What will we have when we are old and the hormones are waning? How about, can I see us together as an old couple?
Do you treat and talk to each other with respect? Does he/she value your input and future goals/plans? Do you value your partner’s? Do you have respect for each other? What are your biases? Are they compatible?

Do you know what your own deal breakers are? Do you know what your partner’s deal breakers are?

You must know and love yourself before you can love someone else. Know who you are on your own before committing to another. Know your boundaries and let them be known and maintained, right from the start. Ask about your partner’s boundaries and do your best to respect them.

We’ll talk about love after marriage another day. For now, build your friendship together so you have a good foundation to build on. Trust is necessary for love and is earned with a long track record.

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