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Did Infatuation Make You Get Engaged?

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Engagement

Did Infatuation Make You Get Engaged?

Are you suffering from anxiety because you now realize you were seduced into getting engaged by infatuation NOT love?

Transitions are always opportunities for growth and healing. Sometimes we need to heal ways of being in the world that are no longer serving us – like my clients who realize, through the wedding planning, that they’re suffering from the disease to please and that they need to learn how to put themselves first. Sometimes transitions provide opportunities to expand our internal resources – like the new mother who thinks she doesn’t have enough patience to handle the needs of her newborn and yet, through time and the immensity of her love, her patience grows. And sometimes transitions require that we redefine an entire belief system that has governed our way of viewing the world and relationships – like the majority of my clients who realize during their engagement that a large portion of their anxiety is caused by their unhealthy and false beliefs about the nature of love.

If you’ve grown up in Western culture, you’ve been inundated from the time you were born with images and beliefs about love. Most, if not all, of these images are predicated on the archaic paradigm of Romantic Love. Romantic love is not real love. Romantic love is, most simply put, infatuation. It’s based on the model of longing for someone that you can never completely have, and it’s this longing that then becomes mistaken for real love. Being in a state of longing is a dramatic and fully alive experience. It creates butterflies in your belly and light-headedness in your mind. If not understood properly, the one in the longing position can easily believe that she or he is “in love.”

If the object of the longing, often called “the beloved”, does reciprocate, “the lover” often runs the other way. And so begins an all-too familiar game of chase with each participant alternating between the pursuer or distancer roles.  The game is emotionally intense but ultimately unsatisfying. The bottom line is that real intimacy never occurs. It’s dramatic but safe. It’s temporarily painful but there’s no long-term risk involved. And it certainly isn’t a healthy model on which to base a marriage!

Real love, on the other hand, requires that both people show up for each other in the same place at the same time. There is no game-playing, which creates more consistent stability in terms of the intensity of emotion; gone are the ecstatic highs and despairing lows that defined the unhealthy relationships of the past. As such, real love requires that both people risk their hearts to form a bond of true intimacy.

One of my clients recently asked me to define real love. I rattled off a list and later thought it might benefit others to write about it here. So here is my list of the beliefs, attributes, and precepts that define real love (with the caveat that I’m not sure that anyone understands love in its totality!):

  1. Real love is a conscious choice that often employs the rational part of our brains. Some couples have a “free ride” in the early stages of their relationship where they experience the intense feelings characterized by romantic love, but not everyone. And these feelings certainly aren’t necessary for real love to emerge as the relationship grows, as evidenced by the success rate of arranged marriages in other parts of the world. It’s when the infatuation feelings diminish that the couple has to learn that love is a choice, not a feeling, as M. Scott Peck says in “The Road Less Traveled.”
  2. Real love accepts that your partner is a fallible, imperfect human, just as you are. Unlike romantic love, which ascends the object of desire to the realm of a god, part of the jolt down to earth that many of clients experience during their engagement is the realization that their partner is not perfect – that he isn’t as smart or witty or fun or good-looking as she thought the person she would marry would be. The romantic bubble of marrying Prince Charming is burst. Most of my clients focus on one missing area – sometimes to the point of obsession – and it’s often an attribute that never bothered her before they were engaged. As time passes, the real fears are addressed, and love is redefined, the obsession mellows and she learns to accept and fully love her partner exactly as he is.
  3. Real love ebbs and flows in terms of interest, ease, and feelings. In other words, in any healthy relationship there will be times when things effortlessly work, where the spark is alive and the couple is interested in one another and life. And there will be times of, for lack of a better word, boredom. Part of accepting real love is understanding that the boredom is normal and not a symptom that something is wrong with the relationship or that you don’t love your partner enough.
  4. Real love is based on shared values and a solid friendship. You genuinely like each other (even though you might not like everything about your partner).
  5. Real love is action. Real love asks that you give even when you don’t feel like giving (in a healthy way, not a codependent way). Real love is more concerned with how you can give to your partner than what you can get from him or her.
  6. Real love is a spiritual practice in that your focus is not how you can change your partner to alleviate your anger, pain, or annoyance but how you can assume full responsibility for those feelings and find healthy and constructive ways to attend to them. When you change in positive ways, the relationship will positively change as well.
  7. Real love is a lifelong practice. You’re not expected to know how to give and receive real love at the onset of marriage, but are expected to work at it so that over the course of your life together your capacity to love grows.

So the next time you watch a romantic comedy and find yourself doubting if you love your wonderful, supportive, honest, loving partner enough, read over this list and see if your anxiety finds containment as you redefine what love really is.

[Sheryl Paul]

As the daughter of two psychotherapists,Sheryl grew up with the language and theories of psychology running through her blood. As a young girl, she vacillated between dreaming about one day being either a writer, a therapist, or a midwife. Having found the confluence of these three arts through writing about and spiritually midwifing people through life’s transitions, including the transition of transforming anxiety, self-doubt, and depression to serenity, self-trust, and joy, Sheryl feels deeply blessed to be living in the heart of her calling.

While her writing and counseling work have primarily focused on the specific transitions of getting married and becoming a mother, in recent years she has felt called to broaden her practice to include the lifelong transition of life in all its beauty and complexity. For whether on the verge of leaping into marriage, getting a divorce, suffering through anxiety or depression, struggling with an addiction, or birthing a new identity as a mother, Sheryl believes we find the same issues of self-trust and control appearing again and again. The story line may change, but the spiritual seeker quickly finds that the areas that need attention reappear at deeper layers of the spiral on life’s journey.

Sheryl utilizes an effective, 6-step process called Inner Bonding® cradled within the spiritual context of transitions to create a powerful framework through which she can assist clients in finding their own voice, exploring the stories and beliefs that interfere with hearing this voice, confronting their need to control and the perpetual practice of learning to surrender, and guiding them as they make their way through life’s challenges and joys. Her decade of working with clients in transition combined with years of a loving marriage (not without continual consciousness and hard work!) and the privilege/challenge of being a mother have solidified her firm belief that, while guides are often necessary to help us find our way through the labyrinths, no one outside of ourselves and a spiritual source has the answers. In fact, SheryI believes that, whether we’re talking about parenting, marriage, or anxiety, there are no definite answers; there’s only the process of discovering what’s right for you.

In 1997, Sheryl graduated from Pacifica Graduate Institute, a depth psychology program founded upon the teachings of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, James Hillman, and the study of dreams, archetypes, myths, and the myriad ways that the unconscious manifests in daily and nightly life. As a writer, poet, and epic dreamer, she encourages her clients to explore their own creative outlets as pathways for connecting to Spirit and finding their own truths.

In 1999, she launched her unique business, Conscious Weddings, and a year later published her first book, The Conscious Bride, which broke the taboo of discussing the underbelly of the wedding transition. In 2003, her second book, The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner, was published, and in 2004, she began working with impending and new mothers through Conscious Motherhood.

Since 1999, Sheryl has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her Home Study Programs and her website. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top media shows and publications around the globe.

To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, “Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes“, visit her Home page. Sheryl looks forward to hearing from you.

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