Thursday, September 1, 2011

Falling In and Out of Love

Falling in love is easy. Falling out of love is hard.

Falling in love can happen in an instant. Falling out of love takes time.

Falling in love can feel like spontaneous combustion. Falling out of love feels like a slow death.

Falling in love feels effortless. Falling out of love takes work.

Then again, staying in love takes work too.

Sometimes love happens quickly and effortlessly. It feels like something that is happening to you, that overpowers your will. It does not feel like something you can make happen or even something that you can earn.

Love finds you, at times, when you are least ready for it. If you don’t want it to sneak off into the night, you will have to care for it. Almost as much as you will have to care for the one you love. 

Many people know what they should do to cultivate love. Fewer actually do it.

Perhaps they are suffering from the mistaken belief that love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Once you fall in love, how do you stay in love?

Conventional wisdom tells us that spontaneous romantic gestures nourish love. 

The best ones are small, kind, and thoughtful.

A small gift offered for no special reason can be more meaningful than an expensive display of affection.

This does not imply that you can get away with forgetting birthdays and anniversaries, or even Valentine’s Day. It does imply that if you only turn them on for special occasions, your expressions of affection will lack sincerity.

Men would do well to understand the difference between a gift that expresses love and one that attempts to purchase love.

Men should understand that a good gift is something she wants. Not something he wants her to have or something she needs. If it’s her favorite perfume or flowers or style of earrings, his gift will be showing that he has thought about what would make her happy.

If he has to ask her what she wants, the gift becomes more of a duty performed grudgingly than an expression of love given freely.

If he has to ask what she wants, that also means that he does not know who she is.

Disappointing gifts are gifts that could have been given to anyone. This applies to men and to women, equally.

If she loves pink roses and he buys her gardenias, he has a problem.

If she offers him an article of clothing that he does not like and would never wear she is saying that she would rather he be someone else.

Knowing how to give gifts—something that women seem instinctively to know and that men seem instinctively not to understand— makes love last.

In our therapy-addled age we imagine that we need but have the right feelings and to express them fulsomely.

Therapy notwithstanding, talk is cheap. Giving a gift sustains love much better than grand gestures of affection.

Gift-giving requires a sustained effort. It speaks louder than words.

This does not mean that gift-giving is a mechanical process. It takes a lot of hard work to make something feel spontaneous.

When it comes to gifts, it is always better to do it yourself. If you enlist your secretary, your wife will know that you didn’t choose it yourself. I guarantee it.

Often, the best gifts are not objects, but memorable experiences. Women especially like to be taken places.  Perhaps it’s a vestige of a time when they spent most of their time at home, but women like to be taken out and treated as special. They like it even more when a man plans the event. It’s better if he himself chooses an event that she would like. It’s best if he tries to like it himself.

If he makes her feel like he is doing her a large favor, he loses all credit for his affectionate gesture. If he dismisses an event that she loves, she will feel that he is dismissing her.

Memorable experiences sustain love.

Clearly, gift-giving creates debts. No one should ever be reminded of it. Failing to express gratitude and to reciprocate a gift damages the bonds that connect couples.  

If he tells her that she owes him he is assuming that she does not understand the most elementary form of decorum. She will rightfully feel insulted.

When you give a gift, never ask for anything in return.

If nothing is given in return, however, your love will diminish.

Gift-giving done right is work. It does not feel spontaneous. It requires thought, planning, and preparation. If he does not love her enough to put some time into making an event memorable for her, or to finding just the right gift, then she will find other ways to make him pay.

Offering the right gift to the right person at the right time and place helps sustain love.

Love is not sustained by intense feelings. It is sustained by gestures that make clear that you do not take the other person to be just anyone. It’s more about who than about what or how or why.

As we learned from the wonderful book, Stop Calling Him Honey, by Julienne Davis and Maggie Arana, you can sustain love and nourish desire by calling your beloved by his or her proper name.

Terms of endearment diminish love.

Better Jack or Jill than honey or snookums…..

It’s similar to buying the right gift. The right gift shows that you have not just bought any old gift that you could give to any old person. Anyone can be “darling,” but only Clarissa is Clarissa.

Identifying the person by name and by fitting the gift to the person sustain love.

When people say that they want to be loved for who they are, I think that they are more interested in knowing that their lovers know who they are.

That does not imply that you need love someone for his or her personality or wit or flair. It does imply that you had best not, in a moment of passion, call Stephanie … Pearl.

Of course, it takes more than gifts and nights out on the town to keep love alive.

If you forget your anniversary you will damage your love, but if you remember it with flowers and chocolates and a lovely dinner, that does not buy you an indulgence for your other faults, flaws, and foibles.

Love thrives in the right kind of culture. It withers away and dies in the wrong culture.

Singular events and spontaneous gestures help keep love alive. But they are not the foundation for long lasting love.

Shared routines, routines that happen in the same way every day, forge bonds of love and affection. Knowing that another person will make a consistent effort to join you for breakfast or dinner provides feelings of security.

To sustain love you must become integral to each other’s routines.

Since love happens spontaneously, people often believe that routines, to say nothing of decorum and propriety are the enemies of love.

They are wrong.

Love does not excuse your derelictions of duty and your irresponsible behavior.

Every time she wonders whether or not he will do what he said he’d do—whether it involves picking up the dry cleaning or picking up the children after school—a little of her love dies.

Love needs trust. It’s a vital need. You might fall in love with someone who is not trustworthy, but you are not likely to remain in love for very long.

If you try to sustain a passion for someone who is untrustworthy you will increasingly feel that you are in it alone. You might convince yourself that his behavior is a test of your love, that it is trying to see whether you will love him unconditionally. You would be wrong to do so.

Unconditional love is doomed love.

Love is a sacred trust. It is given, not taken. It is cherished, not advertised.

Intimacy should remain private and secret. Public displays of affection produce embarrassment.  Over time this will kill love.

Love needs confidence. You are not going to confide for long in someone in whom you lack confidence.

Yet, you should not confiding too much or of reveal too much of what is worst about you.

Complete openness and honesty, the kind that claims that “we have no secrets from each other” is impossible. If you proclaim that you cannot keep any secrets from your lover, what makes her think that you will not betray her secrets, too.

Love allows you to share problems and difficulties, but it works best when lovers see each other in their best light.

It is impossible to sustain love without allowing the other person to see your faults. If that’s all or most of what they see, your love is not going to make it through the winter.

And you will not be able to sustain love for someone who loves you but doesn’t really like you.

It’s not how much or how deeply or how madly you love. It’s really about how good your character is.

You cannot love a person of poor or weak character for very long.

Love is forgiving. It lets you get away with errors and mistakes. It might even lull you into complacency.

Love is forgiving until it isn’t. At that point, at the moment of truth, the accounts will come due, and her love will die.

When that happens, your love can turn into a fever, but it will not really be love any longer. Like the tango, it takes two to love.


MMR said...

Bravo. Thank you for putting that into words for me!

Dennis said...

I would suggest that falling in and out of love is a feature of being married. There are just far too many pressures to expect near perfection from any marriage.
What generally happens is that after a bit we begin to get reacquainted with why we loved a person in the first place. It starts with a turn of the head, an action that is specific to her attraction and then blossoms from there.
Almost every disagreement is of little value and once one asks how important something really is they find it isn't.
Falling in and out of love in many cases improves a relationship.