Most of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the experience of falling in love. Often, we can look back on the first or deepest time of being passionately drawn to someone whom we were sure would meet most or all of our emotional needs. Sometimes we long for the return of the intensity, drive and passion that came with having fallen in love. A few of us are still looking for our first falling in love experience. We might envy those who have already had their shot and resent those who pass it off as an essentially unimportant event.
There are two distinct understandings of falling in love. First, there's the belief that it represents a kind of madness--a temporary loss of sanity. People who take this stance tend to assume that the decision to marry--to commit to spending the rest of one's life with someone--necessarily demands that we be out of our mind. So, falling in love is nature's way of generating the requisite amount of hysteria necessary to take the audacious leap into life long commitment. In other words, no one in their right mind would decide to marry. So, nature contrives to make us lose our minds thus making the decision to marry seem reasonable.
On the other hand, there is the belief that the experience of falling in love is one of those rare moments of complete sanity--complete clarity. It is when we fall in love that we feel completely seen for who we are and see our partner for who he/she is. Instead of clouding our vision, falling in love clarifies and validates. It is out of this absolute clarity--absolute sanity--that the reasonable decision to marry comes.
How we choose to understand this powerful experience will say a lot about how we "hold" the experience over time. If we choose to think of it as temporary insanity we'll likely devalue it and it's product--the commitment to a life union. If, on the other hand, we think of it as a time of genuine seeing and being seen, we'll likely cherish it and the relationship it fostered.
I've been giving my flaws a lot of thought lately. Truth be told, I've been giving everyone's flaws a lot of thought lately. I hear people say, "No one's perfect" on a regular basis. If that isn't said, then the other fall back position is, "Everyone makes mistakes." It seems people will go out of their way to confess to imperfections as long as the confession is generic and doesn't demand too much. It's frustrating to see how much energy goes into avoiding the acknowledgement of deep and abiding imperfection. This is particularly true when a heartfelt acknowledgement of the truth more often than not results in forgiveness and reconciliation. For all of our flaws, most of us are genuinely interested in connection...even if we have no real understanding of how it's to be achieved.
I like Leonard Cohen a lot. He's certainly a flawed man. Maybe it's his understanding of that fact that makes his songs so compelling. He has a song called "Anthem" that contains the line, "Everything has a crack in it. That's how the light gets in." The older I get, the more obvious it is to me that our flaws create a path to the deepest connection. Perfection offers no entry point. Whatever effort we make to appear seamless, is just so much avoidance. Genuine relationships are built on the acceptance of our flaws not on their absence.
Jake Thiessen, PhD
I've been working with couples for a very long time. And, I love it! This blog is my attempt to communicate some of the things I've learned over the past 40 years.