Have you noticed that just as quickly as you fall in love with someone, you can just as suddenly fall out of love? Why is that?
Could it be that what we call ‘love’ is often something other than love? We often confuse many things with love, in particular, attraction and infatuation. So to be “in love” with someone usually means that we’re infatuated. Infatuation is essentially a very intense form of attraction, because we’re not merely attracted to the person, but also to an idea of that person, an illusion, a fantasy.
Attraction usually begins with what we see. We’re attracted to the outward appearance, the body, the face, the way a person dresses and so on. Then we become attracted by the personality, the qualities and characteristics we see within the person, as well as their interests and opinions. But we also have a tendency to imagine things about the person which aren’t really there, or aren’t really accurate, or we overemphasize their positive qualities while overlooking their negative ones. Or it may be that we carry with us a certain picture in our mind of what a perfect relationship would be like, and we project that fantasy onto every person we find ourselves attracted to.
Being so emotionally overwhelmed by our infatuation, we think that we’re in love, and if we’re lucky, the other person feels the same way. And so a relationship ensues. But overtime, as we get to know the person more and more, we begin to notice that they aren’t living up to our imagined ideals, our desires and expectations. Or, the attraction is based so much on the newness of the relationship, the mystery and excitement, that once we begin to feel comfortable, and we know the other so well that they become predictable, that excitement is no longer there. And the attraction begins to wither.
And without the attraction we might find ourselves becoming disinterested, or in some cases even repulsed by the other. And this isn’t because the love has begun to fade, but rather because it wasn’t about love in the first place.
If love is the foundation of a relationship, then the relationship survives the ebb and flow of attraction. There will be times when attraction is high and times when it’s low, depending on various circumstances. That’s the nature of attraction. But love is consistent, and if it’s genuine it doesn’t fade. The truth is that no one falls out of love. We fall out of infatuation. We fall out of attraction. Or rather, the haze of infatuation dissipates, which allows us to see the situation more clearly.
It’s at that point that we get to find out whether there is any love at all, or was it only infatuation? But we need to be discerning, because there’s another feeling that we often confuse for love, and that’s attachment.
Sometimes, when the infatuation fades, we realize that the relationship is all wrong for us. But we can’t seem to let go. Even if we’re both driving each other crazy, for some strange reason we can’t bare to imagine being apart. Or maybe, what we’re really afraid of is being alone. And sometimes we feel that it’s better to be with someone, with anyone, than to be alone. But that’s not love. That’s insecurity.
And attachment isn’t always about the other person specifically. Often it’s about the idea of being in a relationship. So really, it could be anyone. It just happens to be the person who was most readily available at the time. But if someone seemingly better shows up, we’re ready to make that switch. In fact, we’ll often fantasize about that imaginary someone else, and we yearn for the day that they show up. But in the meantime, we stay with the person we’re with, not because we genuinely love them, but because we can’t stand the idea of being alone.
Or it might be that we’re attached to the idea of the person, not who they actually are, but to who they could potentially become. They’re not who we want them to be, but we stay in the relationship with the hope that eventually they’ll change. We know that if they were just different in this way or that way, the relationship would work out. So we keep holding on, hoping and waiting. But the reality is that people seldom change. Certainly the potential is there. But it’s a fantasy to think that they’re going to live up to that potential. At some point we need to wake up.
What all of this really boils down to is this fear of being alone. And if we want to have relationships that are realistic and healthy, we need to be willing to face that fear, to go into it, to explore it, to understand it. And of course, no one wants to do that because it’s scary. So we just go on reliving the same unhealthy patterns over and over again with different people. Or maybe we find that special someone who we spend the rest of lives with, unhappily ever after.
But when you get tired of all that and you really want to see a positive change in your life, be willing to spend some time alone getting to know yourself, learning to cultivate your own self-love and respect, learning to be emotionally independent, unattached to expectations. And when you do that, you’ll naturally raise your standards. You’ll be more selective in who you engage with. You won’t be rushing into relationships out of a sense of desperation. You’ll be willing to take time to really evaluate the situation, to really get to know the other. And you wont put up with any nonsense. And when you do meet someone who you really connect with, deeply and authentically, you’ll notice that the overall quality of your relationships improve.