by Rev. Peter Stimpson

QUESTION: Can someone really “fall in love”? Each time the chemistry has been there with what seems like a great guy, I’ve gotten burned. I don’t get it. Why?

ANSWER:

Can you really “fall in love”? When someone “falls head over heels” in love, it seems to imply a magical and secret component to their relationship. Yet, the presence of love should not imply the absence of thought.

Many a priest in pre-marital counseling groans when the couple draws a blank at the question, “What do you love about one another?” Serious doubt is indicated if, after much reflection, the answers indicate little depth, such as “because she’s a real fox,” “he’s fun to be with,” or, once to my horror, “because we like the same kind of pizza.” While the couple may look upon the priest as if he or she has callously cast doubt on the love story of the century, nonetheless, a little work now could save a lot of heartache later.

So, after serious thought, many couples are able to trace their attraction to such fine qualities as empathy, selflessness, and a willingness to communicate in an open and honest manner with one another. They are also able to spot areas of needed growth, and to develop a plan that will get their marriage off on the right foot.

But, some people are often “burned” not only because they let their heart rule their head, but also because they look for marriage to heal old wounds from parents or former spouses. We are often attracted to people who are psychologically carbon copies of that parent by whom we never felt accepted. Unconsciously, we hope that if we can make our spouse love us, then maybe we could have gotten our parents to love us. As we have made our one spouse equal two persons, we are willing to endure a fair amount of abuse before we give up trying to win over that person.

If a divorce occurs, amazingly many people fall in love again with a similar type of person. I can remember once having a husband come into therapy with his sixth wife, telling both her and me how unlucky he was to have "gotten stuck with six losers in a row". That endearing comment earned him another divorce, but therapy thankfully helped him see his continual attraction to the same kind of person, his need to mourn instead of repeat the past, and to come finally to love and accept himself.

Therefore, the point is that no one really falls in love. Those who describe “love at first sight,” followed by a quick marriage, are lucky if it works. With the divorce rate being what it is, consider taking luck out of the process. Look before you leap. Discover what you love about a person, as well as how you can help each other grow. While this may sometimes be hard, it will always be healthy.

KEY POINTS:

• You do not fall in love.

• Love is the heart’s reaction to the mind’s perception.

• Your mind sees not only how you look on the outside, but also who you are on the inside: sensitive, caring, thoughtful, responsible, reliable, etc.

• Too little thought at the beginning leads to too much pain later.

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