Almost daily I encounter those entangled in a kind of extramarital affair I describe as “I Fell Out of Love…and just love being in love.”
The cheating or “offending” spouse has encountered someone where there are “sparks!”
Here are common phrases: (to the spouse) “I love you but am not ‘in love’ with you. The romance in our marriage is gone. I found someone who really loves me.” (self thoughts) “I don’t want to settle. I have a lot of love to give. He/she treats me like no one else. I feel special with the other person.”
The “offended spouse” often responds with increased or new romantic gestures. They fall flat.
At the core of this kind of affair is a deeply engrained belief that “romance” is the savior and benchmark of a great marriage or intimate relationship.
Here are some reflections on romance:
1. “Romance” is subtly touted in our culture (USA) as the ultimate experience in an intimate relationship. Romance is idealized in movies and books as the ecstasy of being “in love.” We can’t get enough (hugely profitable grocery counter tabloids) of which “stars” are currently “in love” with whom. And, it often does not matter (really) if the are married. Oh gosh, to be like that, to experience that. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
2. Romantic movies are often called “romantic comedies.” Ever wonder why they are so funny or why they should be? Or, at the other end, romantic movies are tragedies (Romeo and Juliet). How about the smaltzie “Bridges of Madison County” where the woman and man (Clint Eastwood) never get at the huge “emptiness” in their lives? Ever see a “real” romantic movie?
3. The search for romance whether through an affair or within our marriage often belies powerful personal needs. It has little to do with love and more to do with getting our personal needs met. Most of us have strong needs such as to be acknowledged, adored, cared for or perhaps cherished. Another powerful need is to feel “special.” This is often the pattern for a man overindulged by his mother (forgive me for bringing in Freud) or a woman who was the “apple of her father’s eye,” yet was emotionally deprived in that relationship.
Romance becomes the vehicle through which these needs are supposedly met without needing to name those needs or talk about them. (Gosh, he/she knows what I want before I do – he/she can read my mind. He/she/we are special!)
Don’t get me wrong. Personal needs are ok. We all have them. Personal needs drive, often powerfully, what we go after. But, and this is a huge but, if we do not consciously name them and get them met once and for all (and that can be done!) they continue to drive us and we live perpetually in frustration, always wanting more.
Once we move beyond the merry-go-round of personal need meeting we discover our personal passion, our purpose and reach down and touch the essence of real joy and peace.
4. Romance is for mating. Sex (sexual union) is often the bottom line. The “chemistry” described in “romantic love” we are finding, is truly that – raw chemistry. Studies now show (just read this last week) that those “in love” have a high concentration of specific dorphins (chemicals) in their bodies. These are the chemicals found when animals are in “heat.”
I also believe that we run into 2-3 people in our life-time where we experience this “chemistry.” I have no idea why this happens. There appears to be some attraction, based on a huge number of factors that stir our juices – literally. Interesting. But, doesn’t mean that I must jump into bed with this person. Maybe some animals do, however.
5. A person seeking romance is often someone looking for a high. They want to feel good. They expect they should feel good. They believe they should jump on something that feels good. They want the pill, the drug, the retreat, the experience that will take away their pain, their emptiness, their loneliness and make them feel good. Of course, it is only temporary. The nagging pain continually emerges and their eternal search for quelling the storm within seeks a new substance.
So, should I forget the cards, the notes, the special events I plan secretly for him/her, the I love yous and be cold, frigid and distant?
Of course not. Please understand the temporary place of “romance” and the fact that your relationship longs for moments, days, weeks and years in which you declare your self more and more fully and welcome (sometimes with trepidation) the declarations of the other and together explore the depths of acceptance and heightened awareness (love) that moves beyond romance and knows no end.
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