“Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense.”
– Helen Rowland, writer
“…if you would tell us if we’re in love or not!”
“They were walk in clients. They appeared at my door during my lunch hour one day asking if they could see me right away. Emily was 17 years old, dark hair, pretty face. Her boyfriend, Edwin, was older, almost 19 years old…blond hair, green eyes and athletic looking. They said they just needed a few minutes of my time to ask me a question, and thought if they dropped in during the noon hour they might catch me free.
I told them I still had a half hour before my next clients and asked them to sit down. Once they were settled they told me they just had one question to ask me and it would only take a few minutes of my time.
They started with a preamble about having been dating for over two months. And, they said they found it harder and harder to be apart. And, both sets of parents were getting concerned because it was starting to affect their school work…Emily in her last year of high school, and Edwin in his second year of a university degree in biology.
“You mentioned you had a question to ask…what would it be?” I asked.
They looked quickly at each other, in an embarrassed manner, stumbled a bit over who was going to speak and then Edwin, taking the initiative, said,
“We realize we are young. We also know we don’t have much experience in life. And, we are continually reminded by our parents we each have a long road ahead of us.”
He paused in his thinking not sure what to say next, then Emily jumped in with, “We want to get married and start a family. But everyone tells us we are not in love, we are too young and too naive to know what love is…we want to know if you would tell us if we’re in love or not!”
“We aren’t able to fall in love…”
“What do you think love is?” I asked, looking at each of them in turn.
Emily was the first to respond with, “I think I fell in love with Edwin the first time I saw him…It was his curly hair and his gentle smile.”
“We aren’t able to fall in love, Emily… that’s just our biological sex drive seeking to reproduce our species.” I said, matter of factly, to see how they would respond.
“Falling in love at first sight is a myth?” Edwin asked in surprise.
“Sky divers may fall in love with sky diving, scuba divers may fall in love with scuba diving, but falling in love with a person at first sight is lust, not love, Edwin. We can certainly meet someone who has some of our personal fantasy criteria for a sex partner, but, that’s not love, that’s infatuation. It is temporary, and useful for about six weeks of great sex, then boredom starts setting in.”
Edwin stared at me in disbelief, then Emily said, “Then, how do people get to love each other, Ken?”
“Love, in contrast, is noticing both…”
“Well, it can start with lust but ends up as light which is really enlightenment. Being in love with someone means you get enlightened, smarter and stronger, being around them. Being in love with someone means you gain self esteem and self confidence being around them. It’s really about you, not them!” I said.
“Are you saying we may be confusing infatuation with love?” Edwin asked.
“Infatuation is noticing the positive stuff about your partner and ignoring, the negative stuff. Resentment is noticing the negative stuff and ignoring, the positive stuff. Love, in contrast, is noticing both the positive and the negative stuff, and appreciating how each serve you in your learning and life.” I replied.
Emily jumped in, “Ken, are you suggesting every behaviour Edwin uses, whether I like it or not, is supposed to help me in some way. So, for example, he watches a lot of sports on TV which I find so very boring. That would mean, even though I don’t like all the time he spends doing it…it benefits me in some way?” she said inquisitively.
“Let’s check it out to see if it’s true. What did you do the last time you thought he was watching a lot of sports?”
“Falling in love is a chemical reaction. But it wears off in a year. That’s why you need a strong line of communication… which includes laughter.” – Yakov Smirnoff, comedian
“…you were putting her on a pedestal and yourself in a pit below her.”
Emily sat back in her chair and looked down for a bit recalling recent memories of this. Then she looked at me and replied, “It was last Saturday night when he was watching the hockey game. I went on my laptop and worked on a school project which was due the next week.”
“So, if I assume you value doing well in school, then his TV time gave you an opportunity to do something you valued. Can you see that Emily?” I asked.
“Yea! Sort of…!” she relied,
Then Edwin jumped back into the discussion with, “So, how is it a disservice to me if I think Emily is beautiful?”
“Go to one of those times, Edwin. Tell me one of the memories you have of a moment when you saw her as beautiful.”
“A while back we were in a restaurant eating a pizza and I noticed this waiter repeatedly staring at her, and I was proud to be with her.”
“Can you see, at that moment, you were distracted and so not present with Emily, and not appreciating your own forms of beauty and so displaying lower self esteem and self confidence…you were putting her on a pedestal and yourself in a pit below her.”
“And, if I was saying something really important I wanted you to hear, you could have missed it!” Emily added.
“So, you’re saying infatuating her beauty is really denying my own and distracting me from other important things going on? Is that what you mean?” Edwin asked.
“… equal support and challenge, it takes you to appreciation for yourself and your partner.”
“That’s it exactly. If we infatuate anyone, we demean ourselves at the same second. True, lasting love is when one person can see how both the positive and negative traits of their partner, help them grow themselves, and prepare them for their future. When you can see how Emily’s support is a disadvantage and her challenge is an advantage, then you will be in love with her.” I said.
“Ken, as I think about what you’re saying, and think about growing up watching my parents’ relationship, I can see why they have been together so long…and, why they have disagreements regularly and yet, they are still together…they’re in love!” Emily said smiling.
Edwin chimed in, “My parents are recently divorced, but I can see why they are not together now. Mom was talking about how she was never happy with Dad. But, I think she was expecting more support and less challenge. Does that mean no one can be happy, Ken?”
“If by happy you mean, more support than challenge, then yes…no one will ever be happy. But, when you understand what love really is, equal support and challenge, it takes you to appreciation for yourself and your partner. This is the real aim of life, not happiness, but appreciation or gratitude for who you are, what you do and what you have! That is what you see most frequently in those with the most love experiences in life…which is, of course, our seniors”
“Falling in love and having a relationship are two different things.” – Keanu Reeves, actor
“…you will have built true love!”
Edwin responded, “That’s so true, Ken! My grandmother is in her eighties and, it’s like all she does is smile in appreciation and say thank you, to whoever spends time with her. She seems to be grateful for everyone and everything! But, she can be brutally honest as well. She is so cool to be around! In fact, she was the one who suggested we talk to someone about us being in love.”
“I have a client arriving soon, but feel free to book a time to come back if you need to. And, let me leave you with one more idea to help you determine if you are in love or perhaps just infatuating each other. OK?” I asked.
They both nodded, so I continued.
“I want you both to close your eyes for a moment and imagine your distant future together. Imagine, like your grandmother, you are both in your eighties. Imagine, how your partner might look at that point in time. Have you got an image in your mind?”
They both nodded.
Then I said, “Now, ask yourself, if needed, would you be ready to change your partner’s diapers?”
Both sets of eyes popped open from whatever image they created and they looked at me in surprise.
I added, “If you can envision yourself meeting that challenge, and if you work really hard at growing your relationship until that day, you will have built true love.”
They looked at each other and smiled, then both smiled at me, and then they thanked me for my time.
“By immersing ourselves in what we love or who we love, we find ourselves. We do not lose ourselves. One does not lose one’s identity by being in love, one finds it.” – King Ayles, writer
Until Next time…
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