Falling in love doesn’t require maturity. Babies fall in love everyday. “Falling” in love is basically about pleasure and receiving perfect mirroring – caught up in images and fantasies about the joy, excitement and pleasure another will bring into your life. It is exactly like stepping into a wonderful, delicious dream with no thoughts about ever needing to wake up.

When the chemistry is strong and you’re looking into your special other’s eyes, you feel swept away. You have an insatiable craving for their kisses, a hunger for their touch and a longing to touch them in return. Their scent can be intoxicating. These sensual experiences feel great and fuel your new relationship with energy and passion.

But unless you are aware that the pleasures of falling in love, as euphoric as they feel, are not enough to build a strong, committed and durable relationship, life’s challenges and individual issues – yours and/or your partner’s — can tear your dream apart.

It requires great courage and self awareness to step back from the waves of immediate pleasure you experience when falling in love, to consider what’s required for long term relationship success. If what you desire goes beyond the magic carpet ride of infatuation, think about your familial roots – the relationship lessons you internalized in childhood and how they are connected to your style of relating.

We are pleasure seekers and pleasure is a good thing, however nothing defines us more than the choices we make when we are afraid and in pain. It is not during waves of pleasure and passion that our love relationships develop their fiber.

Rather we come to know we are safe and can trust one another’s love in times of conflict — as we see again and again that each of us operates from lasting commitment to our own integrity and each other’s well being. Neither commitment to ourselves or our lover can be fragile or disposable if we want to experience mature love!

In building a trusting love relationship will you make mistakes? Certainly. Both of you will. Will you disappoint each other? More than once, you can be sure.

In the final analysis, will what your relationship requires be worth what you get in return? That depends on how each of you step into the heart of each important, though possibly uncomfortable, moment you share. If you do it with humility and generosity, you’ll build – or re-build a foundation for trust!

Human beings begin to grow emotionally from the moment of birth and ideally continue to mature throughout life. In early childhood this needs to be encouraged and guided by self-aware, mature parents who are committed to what is in the best interests of their children’s emotional development. Obviously this doesn’t always happen.

People whose own childhood emotional needs were not met, typically don’t recognize their need for continued personal growth until long after they are married with children of their own. Then the enormous responsibility of parenting, plus financial stress and other life challenges can be overwhelming and push people beyond their limits.

If at such times, one partner expresses the desire to work on their individual growth, it may be perceived as selfish and threatening. But in fact, individual growth is necessary in order to take good care of your marriage and parental responsibilities. Individual growth is where genuine change comes from. Taking care of your own emotional health is selfish – but it is a healthy act of self-care essential to loving another.

Please know, that if your love has gone bad — from passion to aversion, emotional isolation and loneliness – it may still be saved. If your relationship is to return to something you both feel is worth investing in again, know that it begins with two people who are ready, willing and able to look at themselves, rather than remaining lost in blame and resentment. This is critical to learning and changing whatever you are responsible for individually, in order to help change what is not working in the relationship.

As hard as it may be, do that and you will move beyond self-absorbed baby and adolescent love, to the world of adult relationships where to “To Love Is To Give!

What will you do this year to move toward mature love?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Jeff Levine

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