What is Love?

Love's Pitfalls

Love has its pitfalls, mainly because it is so hard to tell fantasy from reality. We all tend to project our feelings, both good and bad, on to others. For example, a man who feels intense love for a woman may believe that her feelings for him are equally intense. Fantasized love can last a long time if reality does not challenge it. If reality does challenge it, and people are receptive, a couple can expect their relationship to be increasingly based on reality as time goes on.

A dangerous pitfall is the desire for a perfect mate that matches the stereotype engraved in our minds when we are young. We are victims of the idea that there is a perfect prince or princess out there for each of us. Thus, many throw away love relationships -- one in which our pleasurable experiences surpass the non-pleasurable -- because it does not conform to our fantasy, especially during a rough patch.

It is all too easy to project today's bad feelings into the future and then to end the relationship. It requires imagination and discipline to resist this tendency. For example, suppose that a couple has had a good relationship for fifteen years. For ten months, one of them suffers from depression, which makes him withdrawn and short-tempered. Some people might find it easier to leave in this situation than to search for ways of helping him. It could be difficult to view the current situation as temporary.

When fantasy is completely absent from a relationship that is missing one or more ingredients, one may feel bored and look elsewhere, seeking to find the missing ingredients in another. For example, if you are so familiar with your loved one that admiration no longer offers intense experiences, you may seek to admire someone else to experience intense admiration once again.

Another pitfall is allowing things that have nothing to do with love to influence it. For example, money is the leading cause of divorce; yet money is not an ingredient of love; however, it can reveal problems with one or more ingredients. In some cases, loss of wealth can strengthen a couple's commitment to each other, and in others it can reveal fundamental incompatibilities such as lack of respect, trust or loyalty.

An additional important pitfall of love is our own inherent laziness that begins to affect relationships from the very first day. This is why in the beginning we are ready, able & willing to make changes when asked, but as time goes on we are less willing. When we don't see the need for ongoing effort, our own laziness erodes the relationship. It is easy to blame the problems on "not loving me for who I am" instead of recognizing that no one remains static and unchanged. We need to accept as inevitable that people change, which need not be negative.