Sunday, June 13, 2010

How can I know I am in love?

An important question that nearly everyone faces at one time or another before marriage is this: "How can I know I am in love?" Sometimes the question is asked when there are several of the opposite sex that a person cares for and there is difficulty in making up one's mind. At other times it is asked when the choice has been narrowed down to one person, but there are doubts and contradictory emotions concerning that one.

The first prerequisite in recognizing love is to know its true meaning and nature. We have tried to explain love as the natural involvement of personalities, one with another. Instead of being a mysterious and uncontrollable force, as some believe, it is a normal unity based upon interdependence, and it grows out of need fulfillment, habits of association, and achievements in adjustment. If this view is correct, then love does make sense; and can be understood and controlled. The title of this chapter is significant; successful loving is a matter of learning, which takes time and requires both study and effort.

The question, then, is not just, "Am I in love?", but "What kind of love?" and "How much?"
The kind of love one is able to give makes a great difference in the degree of happiness he is able to achieve in marriage. Narcissism, or self-love, won't get him very far. Homosexual love will only serve to block his adjustments to the opposite sex. Romantic love will leave him infantile and subject to serious disillusionment. And there are other kinds that can make for similar maladjustments. Duvall and Hill point out that "puppy love," when taken too seriously, may lead to a dog's life. The only kind that can make for lasting marital happiness is the type that has been called conjugal love. This is the mature heterosexual love that we have been talking about. It is founded upon cooperation, and it is dynamic enough to change or grow with adjustment throughout marriage.

The amount of love one has for another will differ according to both time and circumstance. Normally, each of us loves a number of different persons but in different ways and in differing degrees. Presumably there will be one of the opposite sex that each will come to love best--not because of any supposed predestination but because of better matching and/or association and adjustment. Love, even with the one who is valued most, must not be presumed to remain static; it may go either up or down depending upon the direction of the couple's total adjustment; people can grow in love, and they can grow out of love.

It is possible, in fact quite normal, both to like and dislike the same person--liking him with respect to some things and disliking him with respect to others. This contradiction (and sometimes fluctuation) between love and hate of the same person is referred to technically as ambivalence. The problem presented is that of weighing the loves against the hates to determine which is predominant, of deciding if there is a sufficient "net love" on which to marry.Although there is no formula by which one can be absolutely certain, there are ways in which love can be tested and most doubts removed. It must be remembered, however, that doubting is normal and does not mean the absence of love.

So long as people are imperfect there will be doubts in their dealings with each other, and so long as adjustments are necessary there will be misunderstandings and conflicts in the process; but neither of these, if mild, need interfere with love. It is only with a few that feelings of absolute certainty precede marriage, and with many of them the reason is romantic illusion and the result post-marriage disillusionment. Better it is to be realistic, considering all angles before taking the plunge.

If the following questions can be answered affirmatively, it is reasonably sure that one is on the right track: Do you enjoy being together, talking together, working together?

Do you stimulate, but not antagonize, each other in conversation?

Are you interested in essentially the same things; do you have the same ideals and purposes?

Do you know each other well enough to be sure that your love is for the person and not the glamour?

Are you able to be agreeable most of the time and to settle your differences constructively; does each quarrel end with a better adjustment?

Do you think and plan in terms of we?

Do you try to make your partner happy; are you proud of him (or her) in public?

Have you made your growing relationship a matter of both study and effort?

If one is mature and reasonably sure, the choice should then be made. Frequently one or the other loses out by continually putting it off. Delaying the decision until one's judgment can mature is highly desirable, but needless indecision, related to exploitation, can never be justified.

Demonstrations of affection are not as important in the process of love involvement as is the reality of love itself. Superficialities in the art of lovemaking, such as are used by "wolves" to capture their prey, are not for real lovers. Better honesty than gloss. Nevertheless, love to be kept alive does require some demonstration. Preferable is that which is spontaneous, sincere, and not too much dictated by convention.

How important is love, in comparison with other factors? Our answer is that well-developed love is extremely important, for it can exist only when most of the other personal factors are favorable. Childish and poorly matched individuals can indulge in romantic infatuations, but it takes mature people, well mated, to lay out the conditions best suited for the development of successful conjugal love. Real love, therefore, is the product of a multiplicity of forces and experiences converging upon the relationships of sweethearts and making for unity in the pair.

No comments:

Post a Comment