Almost all couples start with a sharing romantic love.
Romantic love that sees the partner as a perfect match, as being “just the right one”, as being magically connected. This is a heady and exhilarating time.
The hope of romantic love is that it will last a lifetime. It never does, although elements of it can be revived throughout a lifetime of mature intimacy with your partner.
The first time most couples run into difficulty is at the end of the Romantic phase, when they each feel disillusioned. The illusion of the romantic attraction falls away, and each partner is left with the reality of living with another human being with their own desires, wants, flaws, and demands. Dealing with this reality demands a truly mature approach. Childhood beliefs about love must be put aside or the relationship flounders.
The transition out of the Romantic love into mature intimacy is often a painful time of withdrawal, distancing, blaming, and even affairs.
Beliefs that might have been adaptive and nourishing for the couple during the Romantic phase, quickly become destructive of intimacy as the couple necessarily attempts the move into the mature loving.
Janice Spring, in her book After The Affair, gives a good list of beliefs that are often helpful and nourishing during the Romantic phase, but which quickly become destructive as couples move on:
Unrealistic Expectations About Love and Marriage
- My partner and I should feel a deep, unspoken bond at all times.
- My partner should be able to anticipate my needs.
- I shouldn’t have to work for love.
- I shouldn’t have to work to be trusted.
- I deserve to be loved.
- The chemistry is either right or wrong, it is there or it isn’t.
- My partner should love me unconditionally.
- My partner should be emotionally available to me whenever I need him or her.
- Love is a feeling that can’t be forced or manufactured. It either exists or it doesn’t.
- A good marriage is free of conflict.
- If I’m not happy in my relationship, it’s my partner’s fault.
- We shouldn’t have to work at feeling sexual desire for each other; it should come naturally or not at all
- When passion dies, so does the relationship.
Check to see if you are holding any of these beliefs. For most of us, some of these beliefs linger on. Ask yourself how changing these beliefs might help you become more intimate.