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.
If we take a moment, most of us can come up with our personal theory of how (or, if) people change. Think about how you parent... Or, how you train your dog... Or, how you manage your spouse... Or, run a committee. Often, we'll say to ourselves, "If I'm nice, they'll do what I want them to do." On the other hand, we might say, "If they know they will be punished for doing the wrong thing, then I can get them to do the "right" thing." The stance we take is a manifestation of our theory of change. "If I let him off the hook, he'll never change." "If I don't nag him after school, he'll never do his homework." "If I stop beating myself up about my poor eating habits, I will never eat well."
Consider this as a possibility--nothing of any consequence changes until it is fully accepted. Of course, we can make people do things. But, that won't change their hearts...certainly not in the way most of us want hearts to change. Most of us want to change important things about us. Most of us begin to believe that's actually possible when we find someone who's willing to accept us fully.
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.