By Helene Cooper, LCSW-C
Falling in love is easy, and certainly one of the most beautiful and exciting experiences of our lives. We’ve seen the Disney movies, read the fairy tales, and pretty much absorbed the cultural construct of some version of “boy meets girl,” leading to falling in love, getting married, with the expectation that they will live “happily ever after.” So, how do we cope when reality doesn’t match what we’ve been taught to expect?
Expectations can be the undoing of even the best love matches, the ones where everything is “in sync” – attraction, mutual respect, shared values, supportive families, compatibility, and the wonderful spark of “chemistry.” The falling in love part of a loving relationship is only the beginning. Keeping love alive requires the intention to hold on to what we’ve found, with
some degree of vigilance, including self-awareness, compassion, and tolerance, for the person we love, and honest communication of our own vulnerabilities and needs.
So, what goes wrong? Let me share what I hear in my practice when people are struggling with disappointment and sadness about the state of their most important relationships. The use of the word “should” plays prominently in partners’ descriptions of their expectations. It seems that in couples for whom the “falling in love stage” is just a memory, there is a tendency to think that their partner “should know” what they want and need, just on the basis of their shared history. The truth is that we are complex and complicated beings who are often changing at a different pace from our partners. The impact of our personal histories and the dynamics of our families as we were growing up can trigger reactions that our partners aren’t aware of, unless we tell them.
No matter how long you have been with the person you love or how much that person who loves you, love does not give your partner the ability to read your mind. If you do not hold up your end of the relationship by expressing how you feel and what you need, you can be fairly sure that your needs will not be met. Be mindful of your own expectations, and recognize that there is a definite link between expectations and disappointment. Your ability to be realistic and to communicate more directly what you need, will help you reduce feeling disappointed in your relationship.
Here are some other suggestions/reminders from PsychologyToday.com for keeping love alive:
- Be forgiving
- Be appreciative
- Be thoughtful
- Be a good listener
- Be spontaneous
No relationship is perfect, and communication is sometimes challenging, but the potential reward is well worth the effort. If you can talk about what you think and feel with the person who is closest to you, you can and will keep love alive!
Helene Cooper, LCSW-C is a therapist for Jewish Community Services.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.