Love at First Sight Do we miss out on love looking for a soul mate?
We are romantics. We cry watching sentimental love stories on the silver screen. We cheer when the boy finally gets the girl. We love romance—not science. Scientific studies, evolutionary biology, and brain science fail to convey the power captured by poets and musicians. But does the Cinderella dreams produce healthy relationships or disappoint us with the reality of romance—the intimacy we do experience.
The grocery store tabloid exposes the weakness of music and movie star’s relationships. Life in the strobe lights doesn’t bode well for secure relationships. In the daily drabness of connection, we long for a love story—love at first sight and happily ever after. Perhaps in the solitude of our hearts, far away from the sparkle of Hollywood, true love emerges.
Pain, betrayal, and loss sharply contrast with youthful dreams of romance and beautiful prose of poets. But sometimes love includes these disquieting emotions. As children—even from broken families, we envision future loving connections; adulthood will bring a Disney ending to our troubled soul—happily ever after. But the brokenness of connection in childhood fails to impart the wisdom for constructing strong relationships in the future. We are left to build a house with the chips and pieces of battered bricks. We know happiness exists but don’t know how to obtain it. In our misguided development, we wrongly suppose relationship strength solely depends on finding the right partner—. When a relationship encounters difficulties, we suspect a poor choice in partners rather than examining weakness in the development of the bond.
We just don’t know the first time we lock eyes with the attractive person across the table how that relationship will develop. What we feel in the moment and what eventually develops is dependent on many complex factors. Throughout the decades, I discovered that many feelings that were certain, time eventually proved were not—drama ensued. Some relationships seem perfect but deteriorate; others surprisingly jump from attraction to chaos; and others never develop. Sometimes what we just know—just isn’t.
Because of our idealistic hopes of harmony, when discord occurs we may fear the conflict as failure. We attribute the failure to psychological disorders, personal inadequacies, childhood attachment issues, or societal influences when possibility the discord is simply the growing pains of two different people establishing a life together. The disaster—isn’t. But when we see it as a disaster, drifting from the fairy tale, we panic not knowing how to respond to differences; we never witnessed healthy resolutions during our formative years.
The universe doesn’t bestow stable relationships. Perhaps nature is more concerned with propagation than intimacy. Happiness is not a gift; but the result of a mixture of attitude, choice, and luck. A struggling man once complained about the unfairness of love. He confided a life of addiction; couch hopping between friends houses; he had no assets, no job and no immediate plans to change this trajectory of his broken life. He claimed victimhood. “Women,” he continued, “are judgmental; they should accept me as I am.”
When seeking partners, we will be scrutinized—and rightfully judged. Partners become a part of our lives, influencing major decisions, and impacting joys and sorrows. These choices must not be blind.
Most women prefer more than a couch pillow shaped (and stinky) like a man.
We want unconditional love. But love completely disconnected from characteristics, habits and resources conflicts with evolutionary drives. Humans have more equity in mating choices then most mammals. In nature few males contribute to the gene pool. We want love; we must work on being lovable. We want intimacy; we must contribute with behaviors that create intimacy. A happy and stable relationship naturally flowing from the first glances may happen but is not the norm. (Untended) relationships reach a high point of joy and then slowly deteriorate. The early attractions fade. We adapt. We get used to a partner; the initial spikes of joy level. The relationship’s health then depends upon the skill of two concerned partners to keep love alive.
We confuse strong initial attraction with relationship durability; discovering another person requires years of attentive interactions. We struggle to know our selves; learning the intimate details of someone else doesn’t magically happen over a cup of coffee—no matter how engaging the conversation. We must invest significant energy to building the bond. During the early phases, we’re motivated, each day bathing us in excitement. But as commitment forms, emotions change, we fear and manipulate or complacently believe we earned unconditional love. But we are wrong.
Painfully one partner discovers they want more; they want connection; they want intimacy. The partner fails to satisfy needs. The seasoned relationship exposes undesirable character traits that earlier we conveniently ignoring with willing blindness. We must choose between chasing idealistic dream partners or work to establish connection with the imperfect person we are with. Do you move forward working on the differences, do you leave or do you grumpily complain and live unhappily ever after?
Sometimes leaving is essential for well-being; other times working through differences is. Every situation varies. Our insecurities, attachment patterns, the amount of time invested, the commitment (children involved?), the severity of imperfections (cheating?), our partner’s willingness, and even the level of difficulty we experience establishing new relationships. On-line self-ordained therapist often ignorantly flippantly advise divorce as the answer to every discontent partner—foolishness. We leave a relationship, fall in love, and two years later find ourselves living out the same disappointing pattern; except five years older.
Strong attraction, a biological inheritance, motivates sexual and emotional connections. We seek connection—human nature. The particulars demanding attention are developmentally learned—our propensities and experiences. Being attracted doesn’t signal relationship success, simply reminds of our biological drives. Strong attraction pushes action that may eventually build a successful connection. But no matter the strength of attraction, if partners fail to honor commitments, trust fails and the relationship bond deteriorates. We build healthy relationships with behaviors not attraction.
Healthy relationship behaviors—acts of love; include respect, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, encouragement, and support. These behaviors strengthen bonds, encouraging both growth of the partners and the relationship. A healthy dependence based on trust forms. Each partner contributes to the physical, psychological, and spiritual health of the other.
Strong attraction coupled with insecurity creates fear; strong attraction coupled with narcissism creates manipulation; strong attraction coupled with shyness creates awkwardness. We possess strengths and weaknesses that lead to healthy relationships or endless dramas. Attraction coupled with two skilled and compassionate partners often creates strong bonds to bless both their lives.
The initial attraction excites; a beautiful part of relationship experience. Attraction sets connection in motion. The connections that lead to intimacy require loving behaviors. New partner’s true natures, our relationships skills, and compatibility take time to discover. If the relationship limits growth, quit chasing the lost investment, seek help and make life changing decisions. If our partner is sincere, we can work to create intimacy, freely giving and expressing loving behaviors.