Blind Addictive Romantic Love Verses the Real Deal
Written By: Mark Smith
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"Love is blind and marriage is the institution for the blind." James Graham.
This posting is not just for single people trying to figure out the whole love and dating thing. It is for anyone who has ever been in love, anyone who is in love and anyone who aspires to someday be in love. That includes almost all of us I would think. I am going to contrast and compare 12 characteristics of blind, addictive, enmeshed romantic love verses healthy, mature, interdependent, eyes wide open love. I am offering a paradigm shift here. The list will give you feedback and direction to help you recognize, locate, build, solidify and protect a healthier brand of romantic love.
1. Who Is My Beloved? - Addictive romantic love is the norm. It is how almost everyone falls into love. The new lover is idealized as a special, one of a kind, magical being who has the ability to bestow genuine, unlimited, unconditional, sexually hot love on their fortunate new partner. They are 'the one' that we have been waiting for all of our lives. Healthy love doesn't idealize much at all. They see who their new lover really is. They see flaws, dysfunction, challenges, brokenness and beauty. Healthy love knows that marital matches are based on attraction to people who are psychological clones of our parents. There isn't much to idealize in that! Addictive love feels bliss but they are actually in great danger. Healthy love recognizes the danger then deals with it directly.
2. Time - Addictive love believes in love at first sight. Addictive love will get you smitten, engaged, married and pregnant in less than a year, or 6 months or less! That is insane! Healthy love is in no hurry. Healthy love would never ever consider marrying without a minimum of at least 3 years of hard work in therapy together hashing out the painful, real life issues that are clearly seen and then embraced.
3. Brain Chemistry - Addictive love gets you so stoned that your brain chemistry actually changes. A chemical called 'phenylethylamine' is a naturally occurring trace ammine in the brain that floods the brain when you 'fall in love'. Phenylethylamine is a natural amphetamine that will energize and dope you up when you have contact with your new love object. Healthy love has some brain chemistry alternations, but not many. Your heart goes pitter-pat but your brain stays awake, sharp and uncompromised.
4. God's Will - God gets blamed for putting together a lot of romantic deals that He had nothing to do with. I heard of one fellow recently who pronounced that his 2 week old Match.com based relationship was "God's Will". God doesn't work that way. God isn't stupid. He builds things the right way. Couple's in healthy relationships slowly and humbly seek to ascertain God's direction. They only claim the direction of God after years of hard work, confirmation from all around them and with great fear and trembling.
5. Confidence Entering Into Marriage - Addictive relationships know no fear. They know for a fact that their chosen one is The Chosen One. Getting a divorce is unthinkable. The naive people in these relationships don't know who they are, they don't know who they are marrying and they don't know how much work marriage is. Couples who have put the time and work into building a healthy relationship enter into marriage with a well founded confidence that is based in reality. However, they know that if they don't continue to work hard on themselves and the marriage that things absolutely could still go south. They respect the complexity and the challenges of keeping the relationship on track.
6. Feedback - People high on addictive love don't look for feedback about their relationship. If you give them any feedback then they get defensive and angry. Their happy little world can't bother to be cluttered with the truth. Careful, wise builders of healthy relationships seek feedback from their friends, their family, their therapist and their therapy groups before proceeding into the hallowed grounds of marriage. It takes a village to raise a healthy marriage. Anyone who can slow you down and help you to realistically look at the issues is your best friend.
7. The Work Needed To Make It Work - Addictive love is easy. People in the clutches of addictive love think that love should be easy if it is right. If it gets hard they frequently hit the road. Most people do very little work on themselves or their relationship before they get married. They wait until 15 years after the wedding, when the marriage is hanging by the thinnest of threads before seeking the help they need. The best time to do marital work is the three years before you get married, not after your marriage is shattered and on the verge of destruction. It takes a long time and a great deal of effective work to build a true marriage.
8. Blending The Family - Addictive love couples believe in 'The Brady Bunch'. There is no real life Brady Bunch! They believe that since they have so much love for each other that all things can be worked out with the kids. They believe this to their ultimate total and utter demise! Building a healthy blended family is about as difficult as what the Egyptians went through in building the pyramids! Instead of 3 years of hard work in therapy before marriage, if there are kids involved, plan for 5 years! I have never once in my life met anyone who has blended a family well. It is a huge undertaking and yet it is tackled as if it is nothing at all.
9. Expectations Of Happiness The addictive majority expect to be really happy in their marriages. They are very disappointed when their marriages turn out to be miserable. The truth is that they are too dysfunctional and that they are too wounded from their childhoods to ever expect to have a healthy marriage. Is it arrogant to quote yourself? I hope not. In my Blog last week 'A Healthy Marriage Probably Just Isn't In The Cards For You' I wrote "A more realistic goal is a workable marriage that is fairly fulfilling but has some hellish and some boring moments intermixed. That, my friends, is about as good as it gets!" That is a great quote. Workable is very good. Shoot for workable and realistically somewhat dysfunctional.
10. The End Results - The majority of marriages ultimately become train wrecks or boring disconnected matches destined to become train wrecks some day. People you once loved dearly become just people you used to know. If you slowly build a healthy self in the context of a healthy relationship then you will be rewarded with a workable, relatively safe relationship that does not ever end up as a train wreck.
11. Responsibility For The Issues - When things do go to hell in a hand basket one party frequently seeks the high moral ground and blames the bad actor for having an affair or becoming a workaholic or never wanting to have sex or not making enough money or yelling too much. The true measure of responsibility in a relationship is always 50%-50%. Buyer beware. If you rush into an ill advised marriage with your eyes shut then you do deserve whatever you have arranged for yourself. There are never any victims and never any bad guys in marriage.
12. Maintenance Plan - Going into an addictive love marriage few resources are set aside for marital enrichment or maintenance. They think their love is so rich and special that it doesn't need an occasional shot in the arm. In a healthy relationship couples know that they need help from time to time. They go back into therapy whenever they need to, they go to couple's retreats, they get away for trips without the kids, they continue to work on themselves individually and they protect their fragile relationship at all costs. When they hear of a divorcing couple they think "but for the grace of God and the help of a good therapist go we too". They know that they have to continue to work hard because they are still unhealthy enough to get themselves into some real trouble.
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