In any new romantic relationship, there is an excitement in the new. Learning someone’s story, experiencing things fresh through their eyes, shared interests, exploration of the physical. But time and again I hear people asking “how do I know if it’s love?” And, most recently someone asked, “what does knowing actually feel like?”
Professor of Psychology, Barbara Fredrickson, has studied and written on the idea and feeling of “love.” Reading some of her work made me reflect on my own experiences with love as well as my clients’.
Many of us have experienced that young passionate form of love. You know, the one where you physically hurt when you’re apart. Where you hang on every word they say. When hours spent together feels like minutes. Where you can’t keep your hands off of each other. For many, this type of love is encountered when relatively young, before experience turns into baggage and walls. It’s when you love wholly, arms and heart wide open. For some, this love turns into their forever partner. In my experience (both personal and clinical), this is rare, but for a lucky few they are able to fan those flames for a lifetime.
For the rest of us, we are left chasing that feeling or forever comparing all other feelings to that experience. That all encompassing all-consuming feeling of “love.” But, is that really love? What does “love” really mean? How do we know when we love someone? What does knowing really feel like?
Most of us are in love with the idea of being in love. We chase this illusive feeling, feeling the spark of the new and intensity of the passion and then as soon as it dwindles we are disappointed, and we set off trying to find that feeling again. We have been led to believe that if it’s real love, that feeling will last forever. None of the Disney fairy tales ever show us what life looks like post “happily ever after.” Our imaginations are left to believe that that passionate kiss in the final scene (usually involving the princess dressed in a virginal white wedding dress) is it, that’s what it feels like forever.
After much long-term research of couples, American Psychologist Dr. Dorothy Tennov determined that the average lifespan of the “romantic obsession” is about two-years. Many of us have heard something like this. We…