I am married to a sweet man that I was never “in love” with. I believed that “in love” was not realistic, so real love built on friendship, affection, sex and respect was probably a better way to go. My husband and I have trust issues and have sought counseling after his Internet infidelity. Now, when asking myself if I should stay, I wonder: If real love is not “in love,” then can we have it with anyone that we have common interests, intimacy, attraction and friendship with? Where does chemistry come into play, if chemistry is only one dysfunctional psyche recognizing another’s as familiar?
You are clearly a deep thinker, and in our superficial society, that might be your toughest obstacle to a compatible partnership. That said, let’s shift through your concerns. The phrase “in love” usually denotes the infatuation stage of a relationship. It’s the phase in which we know very little about the other person so we (unconsciously) fill in the blanks with our fantasies about who they are. Like all illusions, something must happen (a lie, an affair, an addiction) to shatter our denial and force us to face the truth. At that point, we know the person but now we don’t love (or like) them very much. Here’s an example: A woman who believes that she married a man who has integrity about money is furious at her husband when she learns that he lied about their finances. But in reality, he was never honest about money; she just invested him with that quality because it is an important trait to her. In order to maintain the fantasy that he fits her template of the perfect mate, she refused to admit his financial lies to herself. So in reality, she is angry at herself for lying to herself about who he is. It’s just easier for her ego to pretend that he is the only bad guy. If she is willing to dive deeply into her own psyche and clean it out, her anger will be replaced by compassion because he did to her (and himself) exactly what she did to herself. When we accept the other person in their totality—their unhealthy ego and their wonderful, brilliant spirit—our fantasy about the perfect partner dies, and we are ready to love the one we’re with.
Chemistry, that spontaneous and mutual sense of connection, is complicated. There is the attraction that exists when the universe pushes you toward a person whose emotional issues stimulate your own. That’s always an invitation for both to heal, but often people avoid self-examination and transformation and end the relationship instead. Attraction can also be biologically driven. This creates sex-centered relationships that rarely achieve the emotional depth needed for true intimacy. And finally, there is the rare chemistry of a couple who has done the necessary emotional work, prior to meeting or in the context of their relationship, to create a life in rhythm with each other and their life purpose.
Growth in a relationship depends on your willingness to understand that a partnership is a spiritual path. A partner is not an object to fulfill you but rather a mirror through which you can see yourself more intimately and clearly. When a partner’s behavior challenges you, it’s an opportunity to change the aspects of your personality that poison relationships, like blame, jealousy, envy, distancing, criticizing, complaining or holding on to anger and refusing to resolve a disagreement. If trust is an issue in your marriage, it’s because both of you have been dishonest and that has eroded intimacy. Rebuild that essential foundation of honesty and trust will revive to feed intimacy and love.