The Secret Love of Happy Couples

Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428

It will happen: you will meet the perfect man: attentive, caring, loving, attractive, sexually exciting – the soul mate. You take out your list of ‘must haves’ – we’ve all seen them, or made one, or perhaps given up on one – but the list is THE LIST! Your perfect partner must have certain qualities, and, as a young romantic, compromise just doesn’t seem logical. That perfect person is out there, and you have faith that he or she will arrive, ready to make your dreams reality.  

And there he is – the perfect man. Playful courting ensues, and your brain transforms. The love chemicals take hold, and full-blown infatuation overtakes every cell of your being. You both fall hard, and soon find that everything has changed. You are ecstatic, and the high of infatuated love is convincing. This is YOUR PERSON. It’s happening, and you find the relationship so intoxicating, so intense, and so intimate, that reasoning and certain brain function vanishes. The belief that love conquers all blinds you almost completely. And the sex – most if not all of us have experienced the rapture - the sexual pleasure that accompanies the early months of new found love.

It is easy for new love to turn our feelings, our hopes, and our dreams into a reality we see as clear as the brightest day. New found love brings out the best in us. It’s easy to bury and hide the person we are when not in the throes of infatuation. And it’s equally as easy for our new love to show his best side. Infatuation plays tricks on us all. Red flags we would normally spot go unnoticed. Soon, as the intensity of our new love lessens, we begin showing more and more of our ‘actual’ self, and we notice that our new partner isn’t so perfect either. 6 months into new relationships, neurotransmitter levels in our brains begin to level off. After 2 years most of the chemical bomb that exploded early on is gone. The difficult truth, as research on human love relationships shows, is that the more intense the beginnings of a relationship, the less likely it will last. Joy kill! you yell at me. My apologies, but my greatest concern will always remain your long-term happiness and life satisfaction.

We must pay attention to the wonderful things that occur during infatuation. The underpinnings of true and lasting love can be found by examining a couple’s beginnings. For example, during infatuation, couples make their relationship, and each other’s needs, a priority. They flirt and play, laugh, show affection often, and support each other emotionally. They accept one another unconditionally, forgive imperfections, and tend to work out problems in a giving, forgiving, and selfless way. It seems that love is more often a verb than a noun. Love is action, and love grows through loving action. It’s not enough to say, ‘I love you’. You must act in ways that demonstrate your love – be considerate, caring, and respectful of your partner. Infatuation fades, but continued loving actions lead to the growth of true love.

To create lasting love, couples must be vigilant. Signs that a relationship may need attention or may be taking unhealthy turns include less willingness to make time to be together, feelings that you and/or your partner begin to prefer more alone time, there is a lessening of loving gestures, or you no longer give your partner the benefit of the doubt - and instead begin jumping to negative conclusions and blaming. Perhaps you begin feeling that you are ‘falling out of love’.

It is now, while you consider your feelings and your future, that I recommend a reframing process. It is now that you must accept that the intensity of feelings experienced during infatuation could never sustain, and that infatuation is not true love. Happiness is the ratio between what you expect and what you get. If your expectations are that the intensity of infatuated love should last forever, then you are certain to be disappointed with a mature relationship. The key to happiness is aligning your expectations closer to reality, and committing to the hard work that love requires. Commit to loving - and acting in loving ways - each day. As our own needs as humans change with time, love also changes. This is the key to creating love that grows. Mature love isn’t a feeling - it’s action, attitude, responsibility, loyalty, and support.

Love often begins as an explosion of human chemistry. But when attended to properly, love matures and grows, and becomes far greater than a feeling. True love is action – it’s the way you respect and attend to your partner. Love is a life lived together, and ultimately, a life lived as one.