Everyone wants love but not everyone finds it. Interestingly enough, when you love or are in love, you know exactly what it is. Love paints our view of the world and bestows purpose and meaning to life. Somehow, when love is absent or lost, amnesia sets in. It's hard to define love; you ask if it's even real. You are either on a journey toward love or on a journey to defy it.
What IS the definition of love? Love is fluid, offering different flavors and depths. In the attraction phase, being in love is an emotion producing, strong affection and obsession for another. It's driven by chemistry racing around your brain and body, an experience many poets and artists have written about. It's euphoric and cannot be understood unless you have experienced it yourself.
This experience is a hallmark of new love, marked with preoccupation with your beloved and making the world around you disappear. It transcends time and commands your attention. A three-hour conversation with your beloved can seem like a blink of an eye when smitten with love. Existence quickly moves from okay to "I can climb Mount Everest," simply because of your experience with love.
But not every relationship experiences such a high, nor does experiencing this bliss determine the longevity of your relationship. Dopamine, the pleasure chemical in your brain, norepinephrine, which produces the racing heart and excitement, and endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers—act like magnets bringing lovers together in ecstasy. This chemical reaction produces a dependency on your love object. For some, the need for this natural high has tripped them up to becoming addicted to love, cycling through relationships looking for the next rush. On average, this phase lasts 18 to 36 months and is nature's way of attracting us into venturing into 'real' love.
Consider the attraction phase the prelude. Many relationships naturally phase out here when there isn't enough interest, commonalities or shared values and goals. For those that continue, the next phase is attachment. The attachment phase centers on commitment. You've moved through the fantasy and are ready to embrace real love. It's as if in the attraction phase, all the possibilities of what this love can bring flashes before your eyes—and in the attachment phase you get to build it … together.
Playing a key role in this stage are oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphins, which are released when having sex and when engaging in things that makes you feel close to your partner. They produce a general sense of well-being, including feeling soothed, peaceful and secure, leading to happy feelings and a deeper attachment. The commitment or attachment needs to be strong, as problems and distractions will arise testing your patience, your love and at times, push you over the edge.
Attachment and commitment are central in long-term relationships. Marriage cannot happen without these key ingredients. The pathways to attachment and commitment are developed initially in infancy with your primary caregiver. This is part of your emotional and social development and is necessary for your survival. As an infant, you attached to adults who were sensitive, responsive and consistent in their care for you. These caregivers or attachment figures became a source of security and based on their responses, you developed patterns of attachment. These primary relationships became your relationship blueprint guiding your perceptions, emotions, beliefs and expectations for future romantic relationships. This is why when you fall in love it feels like you have always known him or her...your other half.
There's a lot of work that goes on in this phase. You are building a home and a life together; you're establishing careers and perhaps raising a family. At times, your different styles and personalities harmonize and at other times, clash. What's important here is to be sensitive, responsive and consistent—be present and available to your partner and your relationship. Checking out mentally or emotionally can run the peril of riding a run-away train with no one at the helm.
It takes conscious effort to maintain attitudes that ensure the success of your relationship. A perspective of a glass half full, works better than the glass half empty to keep you together. It's important you see the best in your mate; acknowledge and appreciate each other. The actions and the choices you make—even when you don't feel in love and at times may even question it—determine whether or not you sustain a satisfying relationship and keep love alive.
In real love, your attitudes matter. Your actions matter. The choices you make matter. Being responsible matters. Having fun matters. Pleasure matters. Real love brings two strangers together for the dance of a lifetime. It gives you the opportunity to co-create the lives you desire and leads to deep personal growth and fulfillment like no other relationship offers.
In real love, each partner takes great care to satisfy the other's needs and regards the other as his or her most valued prize; held in high esteem and with gratitude. There is a great sense of security and freedom in this form of love which comes with time. Statistically, lasting love has a greater chance in marriage than in cohabitation. Perhaps, it's for the single notion of commitment.
Real love guides us to live in peace and with vitality. It teaches us to have courage to face and rise above the challenges life brings. It inspires us to a spirit of generosity and kindness. It leads us to live with dignity and honor. And it reminds us to be quick to forgive as this is the journey of love.
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