“Are you in love?” is one of the questions that triggers the maelstrom of relationship anxiety that leads people to my virtual doorstep. Alongside, “Are you with “the One”?, “Are you settling?” and “Do you have enough chemistry?”, these questions speak to a dysfunctional and damaging cultural message about relationships that says you should “just know” and “if you’re really in love, you wouldn’t be having doubt.”
I’ve outlined what being in love is not in many of my blog posts, including the mainstream message which defines being in love as, “A feeling of euphoria where you “know” that you’re with “the One.” I have spent less time discussing what it is to be in healthfully in love. Let’s break it down.
When you’re healthfully in love:
Sometimes you feel attracted to your partner and sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you feel like having sex and sometimes you don’t. You learn that having sex isn’t dependent on intrinsic arousal but that when you decide to meet each other in bed to connect intimately, it fills your marriage pool with warm, clear water.
You don’t always like your partner’s behavior, but you like the core essence of who they are (especially when anxiety isn’t in the driver’s seat causing you to see through fear-eyes).
You can feel irritated one minute and at ease the next. You can like your partner one minute and hate them the next. You can feel “certain” one minute and full of doubt the next. This is all part of being in love.
When you’re in love, you learn over time that the more inner work you do to soften your fear-walls, the longer stretches of time you have when you gaze lovingly at your partner, full of gratitude for your relationship and the life you’ve created together.
The more you learn to let go and trust, the more you fall in love. Falling requires trusting, and trusting requires letting go of control. Falling in love happens over decades as trust deepens.
Falling in love means falling into trust.
Being in love is not the same as feeling in love. As feelings fluctuate as often as the weather in Colorado, to use feelings as a baseline for whether or not you’re “in love” is a dangerous and unreliable metric. Instead we must recognize that to be in love is to be in the active stream of learning how to love. Sometimes it’s a feeling, but mostly it’s an intention, an action, and a choice. We don’t “fall in love” like falling into a pool. We choose love.
To be in love is to choose love.
To be in love is to be all in, which allows room for doubt.
To be in love is to be in the same room as love, which acknowledges that fear and all of fear’s expressions – doubt, ambivalence, confusion, irritation, cringing, intrusive thoughts, projections – live in this room.
To be in love is to hold hands with your safe, available partner and say, “I’m in. I’m in this thing called love with you. I might not always feel like I’m in, but when fear isn’t in the driver’s seat, I’m all in.”
It’s important to state and re-state that falling in love doesn’t always start with a feeling. Some relationships do begin with the euphoric infatuation stage that the culture uses as a yardstick to measure the “rightness” of your relationship, but many other healthy and viable relationships do not start with an infatuation stage. Either way is fine, for even if the “in love” feelings are present initially, eventually they will fade away and it’s at that point that you’re given the opportunity and spiritual task to learn about what it really means to be in love.
What’s interesting about this true definition is that, unlike the cultural definition which brainwashes us to believe that being in love either happens or not in one mysterious moment of grace and luck, with real love we see that we learn how to fall in love over time.
In fact, there are Love Laws and Loving Actions that, when practiced, allow us to soften the fear walls that keep a loving, available partner at arm’s length. When you follows these laws and take these actions, you step more fully into the stream of love and, amazingly, you feel the feelings of love.
There is no place in my life where I have learned more about what it is to be human, about the ways that my fear-and-control tactics show up, and what it means to truly love than in my marriage. I learn so much in my friendships and through my work; I learn through my own traumas and through parenting my children.
But it’s been through my marriage to my devoted, beautiful husband that the mirror that reflects the depth of my fear-and-control has been most clearly reflected, and it’s been through following the Love Laws and Loving Actions that I’ve softened and surrendered over decades and have fallen more deeply in love with my husband with each passing year.
These Love Laws and Loving Actions are what I teach in Open Your Heart: A 30-Day Course to Feel More Love and Attraction for Your Partner. Through sixteen rounds of this course, I’ve led thousands of people through this roadmap that teaches you to shrink fear and grow love, and I’m excited to share this with you. I lead this course course live twice a year, and the next round will begin on Saturday, August 8th, 2020. I look forward to meeting you there.