Brand New Romance? 
How To Tell If It's Really Love

Where did we ever get the idea that there was such a thing as perfect love?

Everywhere! In every romantic novel, every romantic movie, thousands of TV commercials, and many fairy tales. If we could just kiss the right frog, we'd find a prince in our arms. If a mere touch of our lips would awaken Sleeping Beauty, we'd have the most beautiful, loving and devoted princess. It's no wonder we've come to see love as an accident waiting to happen.

It’s easy to see how we acquired our romantic illusions. The question is: how can we unlearn them?

When we had our radio program, LOVE LIFE, once in a while we would do a show where we invite callers who are in a brand new romance, to call in and talk about their expectations and whether they knew how to build a happy lasting relationship.

We would ask them: "What is love?" We all use the same four letters, and we think we know what the word means. We think we know it when we see it, and yet everyone has a different definition of love. We all hope to build happy lasting relationships, yet we are often unclear as to what it means to be in love. You might find when you do put it into words that hidden in your other-than-conscious mind are some rather unreal expectations about "perfect" (i.e., unrealistic) love.

Remember that kooky saying from the movie Love Story?:"Love is never having to say you're sorry." I'd call that a formula for romantic disaster. If you are in a brand new romance make sure you don’t walk in carrying that old idea! In every healthy relationship I know of, both partners get very good at saying "I'm sorry," -- saying it often -- and saying it sooner rather than later. That is one of the secret strategies to building a happy lasting relationship. If you have let your partner down or inadvertently hurt their feelings be prepared to say you are sorry!

One caller, Rob, who was just two weeks into a brand new romance, gave his definition: "Love should be easy." At first glance that may seem like a reasonable request. After all, for most healthy people, love and torture don't go together. But as we explored that definition it was quickly revealed that he was looking for a relationship that didn't demand anything of him in terms of the kind of deeper emotional involvement and commitment which allows intimacy to grow. He admitted that he had no clue how to build a happy lasting relationship.

When we pointed this out to Rob, he realized that he had been looking for "easy relationships," and that's exactly what he got, superficial relationships that bored him and never lasted more than a few months. Putting his definition into words allowed him to "own" or make conscious his hidden agenda when it came to love. At the end of the call he said he was determined that this brand new romance would be different!

Celeste was another caller in a brand new romance, who said: "Love is being so in sync with someone that you don't even have to tell them your needs. They just kind of anticipate them." Celeste also has a formula for disappointment. She expects someone to just know what she needs without her articulating what those needs are. Unless she is in a relationship with a psychic, she has just bought herself a one-way ticket to resentment.

We all want someone to be "in tune" or empathetic to our deeper needs, but to assume that we don't have to ask for this, and ask multiple times, is to impose a fantasy onto reality. This is an infantile view of the world in which mother "just knows" what your needs are and will meet them instantly. Healthy adult relationships mean that we have the ability to ask for what we need. (I didn't say nag for what we need, I mean ask clearly, simply, without demands.)

Celeste admitted that it was a pattern in her relationships that she couldn't ask for what she needed, especially at the beginning of a brand new romance, because she was afraid to sound needy. Not surprisingly, she rarely got her unspoken needs met. Even the best lovers are not mind readers. She has to learn to speak up for herself and gently express her needs if she wants to build a happy lasting relationship.

Mark called and offered his definition: "Love is chemistry. It just happens." We all want someone who will not only light our fires, but also stoke the embers when the initial blaze of new love fades. But the "accident" theory of love -- that love "just happens" -- is a set-up for chronic let downs. Mark was able to see that he was trapped in "the grass is greener syndrome." No one was ever right enough. He was always thinking if he chose one person, he'd be missing out on someone better. For all his "scores," Mark's track record was only in short-distance “sprint relationships.”

There are as many definitions of love as there are people who have loved. If you are in a brand new romance, you each want to talk with your partner about your definitions of love and what you both need to build a happy lasting relationship. Do you even know what your definition of love is?

If your definition supports you in having a happy, healthy, impassioned -- and realistic relationship, it is a good definition. I have found that most people who are chronically single have a really lousy definition of love. Their concept often has failure built right into the words. Take a truthful look at your definition and evaluate whether it is supporting you to find love, or is sabotaging your efforts. This is really important to do in the early stages of a brand new romance. I will offer a definition of love that I find really works for me. At first it may not sound that exciting, or even romantic. But I promise you it is powerful, and even more importantly, it really works. Here it is:

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Love is a decision to care.

When I give this definition to my single clients, they look at me as if I just suggested they eliminate Christmas. “That sounds so dull,” said Larry, a single man in his forties. I explained that it might not sound like ”The 1812 Overture,” but in fact it is a powerfully active approach. This definition makes you realize that love is something that you have to do.

To make a decision is a powerful act. And when you commit to acting in a certain way, i.e., with care, you have just gotten behind the wheel of your relationship. You have begun to take control of your emotional and romantic reality. The more that caring behaviors go on between partners, the more cared for, and loved they feel.

Take it out for a test drive with your brand new romance. I think you'll be happily surprised by how effective it is when you choose to care. It is quite empowering to realize that love is an active verb, an ongoing decision, and that this decision to be caring is a formula for long-term happiness. And most importantly you will realize that love is no accident waiting to happen. Now you’re on the path to build a happy lasting relationship

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I Love You

"I love you!"

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