Do you believe you know the truth about love? Maybe you do, but perhaps love is not entirely what you think it is. Here are some facts and fiction about love.
Fiction: Being in love is sufficient for a good marriage.
Fact: Love is not enough. Consider a couple who we’ll call Lisa and Roger. Let’s say they have most of the ingredients of an “in love” relationship. There are strong romantic and sexual feelings between them. Each admires the other in many ways, and they share many fun activities. But marriage between these lovers would be unwise because they clash in one of their major values and life goals – Roger wants children but Lisa does not.
Fiction: There is no way to resist falling in love or to avoid falling out of it. People who believe this myth allow themselves to fall in and out of love, thinking there’s nothing they can do about it.
Fact: To start loving a certain person or to stop loving someone is a decision. I don’t mean one just sits down and decides, “Tomorrow I’ll look for someone to fall in love with,” or “This month I’ll fall out of love with my marriage partner.” One’s decision is more subtle than that. Loving someone means that we treat him or her in certain ways. This requires conscious effort. We have the power within ourselves to keep loving our present mate or to start loving someone new. Love is a decision. It is a daily decision that needs to be renewed each morning.
Fiction: Lovers should follow their feelings of love. Our feelings of love should guide our actions.
Fact: Acting as we feel without thinking often brings hurt and loss. A couple in their late twenties sat on a couch in front of me. They were the parents of four children, and the husband was successful in a professional career. The wife was considering divorce. “There’s nothing really wrong with my husband,” she said. “It’s just that I don’t feel love for him anymore.” She now felt love for another man, so she followed her feelings and divorced her husband. Things did not work out between her and the other man. Her lack of education and career training made it difficult for her to get a job. Now there was less money, so she and her children had to move from their house into an apartment. Her life was lonely and without love. This woman then realized that her act of divorce had been more emotional than rational. She sought reconciliation, but her former husband had made another commitment. For more roses than thorns in our bouquets of love, we must add clear thinking to our feelings and not always follow our feelings.
Fiction: Feelings of love should always remain the same between partners who are well matched.
Fact: Feelings of love do change between people even though their love is genuine. As time passes, our feelings change about most things – about our honeymoon, our occupation, the significance of money, and so on. For example, when I was a high school student, it was very important to me that our ball team wins. Now, many years, later, hometown games are of no concern to me. So it is with a love partnership. As time passes, some of its qualities may decrease, while others increase. Time may dull a couple’s ability to enjoy hiking and skiing together but may sharpen their ability to understand each other’s attitudes and sense of humor. We cannot feel exactly the same way about love – or anything else – as we did years ago.
Fiction: Intense jealousy is a sign of strong love.
Fact: A jealous partner often lacks self-confidence, so he fears his mate will lose interest in him and turn to someone else. If a loved one is actually being untrue, feelings of jealous are understandable, but jealousy itself is not a sign of love, and it does not improve love. Irrational jealousy has damaged and ruined many love partnerships.
Fiction: Love is blind.
Fact: Love is not blind, but some lovers are. They see qualities in the partner that aren’t really there. This is why it has been said that “Love is an intense desire to squeeze orange juice out of a lemon.” Always look for your partner’s good traits, but don’t exaggerate them.
Fiction: Money has nothing to do with love.
Fact: A couple’s level of income is positively related to their level of marital happiness. There is a saying that when poverty walks in the door, love flies out the window. Income even seems to be more vital than education in contributing to the happiness of a marriage.
Knowing the truth about love can help us get a good bargain in the marriage market. Combining reality with romance helps us see what is really there in a prospective marriage partner, not more or less. Having learned some of the facts about love, we are also ready to give more to our love relationships. If a marriage is to last, partners must be able to distinguish fiction from facts. Let’s remember, loving someone or not loving that person begins with a decision. If we are to love well, we must live well, and we must know the truth about love.
Dr. Clark Swain is an LDS marriage and family counselor and a psychotherapist. The above is an excerpt from his book, “Enriching Your Marriage: Choosing Your Partner and Creating a Forever Marriage.” With his straightforward, practical wisdom, Dr. Swain will help you rekindle your love, whether young or old and help strengthen your marriage, no matter how rocky or blissful it may be.