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  • Writer's pictureSanja Rozman

Why does falling in love go wrong?

“Falling in love is like getting hit by a truck and yet not being mortally wounded. Just sick to your stomach, high one minute, low the next. Starving hungry but unable to eat. Hot, cold, forever horny, full of hope and enthusiasm, with momentary depressions that wipe you out. It is also not being able to remove the smile from your face, loving life with a mad passionate intensity, and feeling ten years younger. Love does not appear with any warning signs. You fall into it as if pushed from a high diving board. No time to think about what's happening. It's inevitable. An event you can't control. A crazy, heart-stopping, roller-coaster ride that just has to take its course.”

― Jackie Collins, Lucky. Published by Chances, Inc. in 2013.

“I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t do anything but think about him. At night I dream of him, all day I wait to see him, and when I do see him my heart turns over and I think I will faint with desire.”

― Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl. Published by Washington Square press in 2003.

The quote from Jackie Collins’ romantic novel excellently summarizes what we’ve been taught about falling in love from the songs, books and movies. We’ve learned to believe that falling in love is like being struck by lightning or hit by some angel’s arrow. In a moment, everything we’ve cherished so far fades in the face of the passion so intense it instantly takes over our lives. The promises we had made, the moral values we cherished, the course of life we had imagined, is all gone and replaced with a glorious vision of someone who we may see for the first time, and yet it feels that we can never again live without.

We were also led to believe that falling in love is the only right way to find true love. We even feel sorry for those who get bound in arranged marriages, for they have denied themselves the possibility to wait for that magic spark and find their soul mates. To follow that dream, some people leave their children and families, unable to image life without the one and only magic person they finally met.

But is falling in love actually a guarantee for a life-long committed relationship we all long for? Then why do so many people who had started their relationship with mutual passion, divorce or even hate each other years later? Did they choose the wrong person or gave up too quickly, when something could still be saved. And why do some other folks who chose their partners without falling in love, live harmoniously decades later? Is falling in love really necessary for a life-long successful marriage?

Does falling in love guarantee a life-long successful marriage?

To understand falling in love, you have to learn about projection. It is a phenomenon that we can never see other people or situations objectively, such as they really are, but rather tend to see in them a memory from our past or a piece of our soul. In truth, you cannot know who the people you’ve just met truly are, but you can still think you do, because you are flushed with intensive feelings. This person does not generate your feelings, but acts rather as a trigger to a memory you have inside. This can be either positive or negative, and we can feel repulsed or attracted to some people and situations at the first glance. (see How do I stop emotional overreacting?

Psychoanalyst Dr. Carl G Jung explains in his book Man and His Symbols, 1968, that people construct in their psyches an archetypal psychological structure. Every woman has an animus as the unconscious masculine side her, and the anima is the unconscious feminine side of a man. These act as vision of a perfect mate, but they have more to do with one’s relationship with the parents, especially of the opposite sex. This kind of projection is called transference. It first appears in the psyche when we are very young, in pre-school. Most people first fall in love in kindergarten and their feelings are discounted as puppy love, but it’s the first projection of a deep psychological structure.

So, it seems that falling in love is a transference, a projection of all the desired features to somebody we might just met for the first time. We feel as if we have known him or her for all our lives. We know their every thought. We believe that there is only one such person in the entire world and that we would forever regret should we miss the opportunity to be with them. The emotions are strong, which is a sign that some very ancient, childhood memories are awoke.

How do you transform a romance into true love?

Falling in love

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

“When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are to become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day. It is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. No … don’t blush. I am telling you some truths. For that is just being in love; which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But it is!”

―  Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.  Published by Vintage in 1995.

If you ask marriage consultants, they’ll probably say love is hard work. Only nobody reveals exactly what kind of work is involved. In my clinical experience as a psychotherapist for all kinds of behavioral addictions, especially relationship addictions ( see also Inside the love addict's brain and What’s love got to do with addiction), a lot of people get it totally wrong. They feel they must sacrifice their wants, desires, passions, even personal truths, to accommodate their partners. Mostly women sometimes feel that they must sacrifice their personal professional success to not interfere with their family obligations. You can choose to do that, but this is not the work needed to make the relationship work. The true work involves the courage to risk intimacy.

Intimacy comes from knowing somebody and letting oneself be known in a manner that creates a connection and safety. But being known also means that you risk vulnerability because you may be rejected and abandoned. Instead of showing their authentic self, expressing expectations and emotions, and risking rejection, some people resort to the roles of a perfect mother, wife, daughter, employee, etc. With infallible sensors, they detect the partner’s fantasies of an ideal mate and play that role impeccably. But every time they hold back the truth in a relationship, they lose a part of themselves, and sooner or later, they are nothing more than two strangers, standing opposite each other, perfectly adjusted in complementary roles, but incapable of feeling close.

Overnight, one or the other could be replaced by a new partner, but the balance of the relationship would not change. The illusion that it is possible to have close relationships without risk and vulnerability is like a dangerous offshore reef, onto which the initial mutual attraction of partners can get shipwrecked, then break apart into pieces. Yet, they might still choose not to end it, stay together, and quietly suffer in their empty and formal relationship “because of the kids.”

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love. Published by Riverhead Books in 2007.

What is true love?

It is not just a phrase that one should first learn to love themselves, and only then try to love another person. But what does this cliché mean?

It means that we should be looking for answers to the problems of adulthood and intimacy in ourselves instead of in each other. We need to develop social confidence, spirituality, independence, learn to find sources of support and appreciation! And, most of all, become brave and confident enough to let ourselves be truly seen.

Intimacy, the essence of true love, involves the courage to let yourself be truly seen by your lover! 

Sanja Rozman - Nice to meet you!

Sanja Rozman is a medical doctor, psychotherapist and author of 8 books on behavioral addictions.

that is about to be published by Brandylane Publishers Inc., Belle Isle Books.

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