Most of us are familiar with the feelings associated with infatuation. Butterflies in the stomach, euphoric feeling, person on a pedestal. You know the love at first sight feeling when your new love can do no wrong and you are an absolute expert when it comes to overlooking the things that in time will really annoy you.
The infatuation stage of a relationship is really fun, but in almost all relationships it is short-lived. The person who once appeared perfect is not so perfect after all. Mother nature may have given you these feelings so that you would quickly connect to another person in an intense way, but the challenges and struggles in life arise and conflicts occur. Our insecurities invade the relationship. The defenses that once kept us safe, reappear and now get in our way. Our projections (the way we feel about ourselves and others) get thrown at our partner and we are unable to separate the present from the past.
Compromise changes from where should we go to dinner tonight to how should we raise our children, celebrate our holidays, spend our money, and deal with our extended family. Even couples who thought they grew up in the same culture find two cultures clashing! The euphoric feeling that comes with infatuation often fades and sometimes gets down right crushed!
Too often when this happens feelings of contempt replace feelings of infatuation and the couple decides to call it quits. They then find someone new and repeat the pattern, never getting to experience true intimacy and mature love.
True intimacy involves being deeply known by another person. The good, the bad, and the ugly. True intimacy involves dropping long-held defenses, getting insecurities out of the driver’s seat, and working really hard for the good of the relationship rather than for the good of the self. To achieve true intimacy partners share private parts of themselves and protect each other’s intimate disclosures- never using them as a weapon during an argument.
True intimacy involves safety. It takes both people doing all that they can to ensure the safety (physical and emotional) of their partner. It involves empathy, kindness, and compassion. True intimacy thrives on teamwork and is destroyed by competition within the relationship. It thrives on trust and stays away from acts of betrayal. True intimacy is about accepting the flaws and idiosyncracies of the other knowing that you, like your partner, are not perfect and are a work in progress.
True intimacy is about friendship and forgiveness. It does not keep a list of past offenses and is eager to start new with each day.
When a couple moves from infatuation to conflict and struggle and works really hard to achieve true intimacy, mature love occurs. And many believe this is the best stage of all.
With mature love some feelings of infatuation may return, and your imperfect partner may become just perfect for imperfect you.
This post was written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, MEd, MSW, LCSW who is a licensed psychotherapist and author of the new book The Snowball Effect: How to Build Positive Momentum in Your Life. Available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.