A love that truly lasts a lifetime is not a feeling.
This is what most of us say we want, but most of us don’t actually know how to make it happen.
Because: If you define “love” as a “feeling” rather than a “choice,” then you are also directly putting love at risk of not lasting “forever.”
Here’s what “forever” actually requires:
Step 2. Reset Your Expectations (Of Love & Feelings)
I am continually amazed at the number of people who end their marriages or long term relationships because they “fell out of love” or “developed feelings for someone else.”
Because, like they say People are messy, imperfect human beings. And, over the course of years: Feelings change.
Hard Reality #1: Our feelings for our partners will ebb and flow
And/but: they usually come back again.
You have to be patient. And compassionate. And mature. Real love is not the eyeball-bursting, heart-struck romance we see in rom-coms and experienced in the beginning.
Love changes. And good love grows.
If you’re relying primarily on “staying in love” to stay together, you’re banking your “forever” on something inherently fluid. Many people think their feelings now will go on lasting forever (or just get better, wee!), but they’re wrong.
If your game plan is to always feel the same, then you are in denial of how humans work.
When I was 18, I went to a 50th wedding anniversary party. After dinner, the couple stood up and said: “Sometimes people ask us how we stayed together for so long…” They chuckled to themselves, then said: “The real secret is: we never fell out of love at the same time.”
And that’s it. All of it — including the very real, unpleasant implications, which are: sometimes, one of you will fall out of love.
Sometimes it will be you. Sometimes it will be them. And sometimes it can last for months, or a year — not days.
There will be tough times and sour notes and shit years in your relationship. There just will be. If you want it all at the end, you have to stick through it.
“Feelings” come and go, and we have to decide whether we’re going to chase the highs and temptations and relinquish our relationship, or relinquish the chokehold that “feelings” have on us and hold our relationship together.
The Hard Reality is that we will feel attracted to others
Human beings are messy! And as Winton from Five Year Engagement put it:
“Underneath all that polite bullshit we’re all running on caveman software”
One woman was faithful for decades. She resisted temptation and stood by her vows, “Married 20+ years… happy normal ups and downs like any marriage. Children are in college… I love my husband and have never ever considered cheating. I have had many offers over the years but have always refused. I have never even been tempted… I am still happy in my marriage; I am not angry or upset with my husband… I have NEVER planned this, I didn’t look for this, I did not seek this out I never had any intention of ever cheating.”
But then she felt something. From the moment she met the guy: “I was flooded with a feeling I had not had before… This man completely took my breath away. I felt like a teenager again. My stomach was in knots and my mouth was dry I was blushing constantly and could barely form a coherent sentence. Oh I wanted him so bad but I refused. I… told him I was married and just could not do this… Eventually… he kissed me. I said I couldn’t but then just went with it. Needless to say we never left the house. We talked and played for hours, the best part was just being in his arms and talking, I wanted to stay there forever.
I have not been able to stop thinking about him. He pops into my head out of the blue and I catch my breath and get butterflies. I can’t explain it and I figure in time this will stop and these feelings will go away, but they never do, it has been a year.
I started seeing a therapist because I felt so guilty… I am happy and comfortable… why can’t I stop thinking about this man?
Why would I be so stupid as to ruin a perfectly good and until now happy marriage, risk everything, and in the end hurt my family and possibly wind up alone?… On the other hand we only have one life to lead so why shouldn’t I take this chance and possibly end up with someone who makes me so happy and who I want to make happy in return?”
And look… guys, at its core, that is beautiful. It really is.
In a vacuum, all by itself, that is some real beautiful emotion right there. So many people go through life never having that, and if you thought you did but then experienced a whole new level of “happiness,” I feel you. I get it. It sounds a lot like the “love” we’re all taught to revere.
And that is my damn point.
If your plan for staying together forever — your insurance against a divorce/breakup — is to never develop feelings or attraction for anyone else, you’re going to have a bad time.
So the real thing is: you have to choose. You have to reset expectations. You have to redefine what it is you want. “Be on guard with your hearts, and eyes, so as to not have an affair of the heart or physical affair.”
If you build a relationship based entirely off of “feelings” and expect to stay together, you are mistaken. The couples who stay together for decades know this. They last not because they were never tempted, or never fell out of love, but because they valued their commitment more than any other thing.
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