Romantic love is one of the more sophisticated cons out there. Most of us have, at one time or another, felt the euphoria of “being in love”. It might last for two minutes, two days, two weeks, two months, or two years, and then like a thief sneaking out under cover of darkness, the feeling disappears along with the rose colored glasses we saw our partner through. We are now left viewing them under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights that accentuate every character flaw and give the impression of weaknesses that don’t even exist. It can happen over time, or it can be a rapid shift. All we know is, the person we fell in love with is no longer there. They have been replaced with someone more irritating, less exciting, and with significantly lower sex appeal.
I know I fell into this trap with my husband, Angus. We dated for two years and lived together for one of those years before we got married. Not once did Angus lose his temper with me that whole time. I was pretty maniacal in my twenties, so that says a lot for his character. It only made it harder, however, when Angus first got angry with me. It came as a complete shock. This was when the veil of romantic love lifted and there was no going back.
Alain de Botton wrote in his article for The New York Times, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person“:
We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.
He recommends looking at relationship through the lens of pessimism as a means to stay reality based and to avoid falling into the abyss of disappointment when we finally see our partner does not have a halo or walk on water. I agree with De Botton’s premise of taking the pressure of romantic idealism off of marriage and relationships in general. However, instead of this being a tragedy or something that requires us to become cynical and prepare for the worst, my experience is that the con of romance is positive. As humans, it requires an inordinate amount of persuasion for us to leave our comfort zone, take risks, and be vulnerable. It is not surprising that it takes a sneaky, low blow, car salesman tactic to propel us forward into intimacy, and there does seem to be method in the madness of this.
Our wisdom ignites the romantic sparks and propels us to the perfect bait. Once we are hooked, the switch happens. We then find that we have chosen the ideal partner to jab at the most sensitive parts of our psyche. I thought I chose the kindest, most generous, most easy going, light-hearted man on the planet, and then I find out he also has a temper and can make below the belt comments when he is upset. In this discovery, I found out I was married to the best person for stirring up all of my childhood angst. This did not just happen to me. It has happened to my friends and my clients as well.
How do we manage to pick the partner who has just the right size arrow to hit our achilles heel? My spin on this is that our wisdom is always guiding us toward growth in consciousness. We have an innate intelligence inside of us that points us in the direction of learning. We may think we are choosing our partner from our heart, but it is far more likely that we are choosing our partner from the wisdom of our soul.
I want to be clear. I am not advocating for people to stay in abusive and dangerous relationships. I strongly advocate for safety and common sense. However, if the relationship does not fall into this category, there is an opportunity to see relationship challenges as a catalyst for developing a greater connection with the love and understanding that resides within us.
If we are only able to feel our thoughts, then any anger, frustration, or upset we experience has to be coming from our own thinking, no matter what the other person has done. When we see our partner differently, it is not a reflection of them changing. It is a reflection of our thinking being different.
When my heart is open, and I feel deeply in love, it is unlikely that some character weakness or poor behavior on the part of my husband is going to destabilize me. I will give him the benefit of the doubt. I will see his bad behavior as a reflection of his suffering and not who he is. I will be magnanimous. However, if I am in a low mood, and caught up in my own insecure thoughts, it is far easier for me to take my husband’s behavior personally and become upset, hurt, and reactive as a result of our interaction.
The blessing is, who we are deeply attracted to will allow us to let down our guard and become intimate enough to stretch beyond the limits of our ego’s safety and comfort. We then have the opportunity to walk through the illusion that another person has the power and capacity to hurt us.
When this happens, we can resist the temptation of blame, and look within. From this perspective, we see that the outside circumstances are not the source of our suffering. We recognize that our hurt can only come from our own judgments. We are the source of our own suffering, when we identify with our own limiting beliefs and misinterpretations.As we see this, we realize, the feeling we felt falling in love is actually an enduring love that lives within each one of us, and the only thing that can separate us from that love is our own insecure, negative thoughts.
Once we see this, and know this to be true. We can never be victimized by our partner, even when we feel the victim. We can never be hurt by our partner, even when we are hurting. We can never be rejected by our partner, even when we feel rejected. For me, this represents the second falling in love. Not the romantic love where I thought all my wants and needs were going to be met by my husband, but an unconditional love, in which I know the more I share the love in my heart with him, the more deeply I will experience the love that is my true nature. And like magic, when I do this, he is not irritating. He is more interesting and has significantly more sex appeal.