The Road To Love
by Joe Beam
There are several important reasons why we speak of the love experience as a path. One is that the idea of a path helps us understand that love is a process. It is not an isolated event. If we understand the beginning and end of the process, as well as the twists and turns that come along the path, then we will be better travelers. Would you take an important business trip or vacation to a place you’ve never been before without studying a map? If you didn’t use a map or GPS, you might get to your destination eventually, but only after many wrong turns and some unhappy circumstances.
The LovePath is my personal name for a well-charted journey. There are different views about the specifics of the path. For example, some researchers suggest that the motivations that bring two humans together are lust, attraction, and attachment.
My own view is that the LovePath consists of the following:
Very simply, our relationships generally begin with attraction. There are many interesting factors that help determine the person to whom we are attracted, and why.
When we look for a permanent, fulfilling relationship, we seek someone who attracts us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Attraction is about the process of deciding to draw closer.
This is the stage of determining whether we can indeed share who we really are with this potential mate. This portion of the path is all about honesty, openness, and vulnerability. In the previous stage, we were attracted to what might be described as the “picture” of someone—who they appear to be and who we hope they are. We all try to project the best personal image that we can to others, and we do this to an even greater extent when we are looking for love. However, is it an accurate warts-and-all image? At the point of acceptance, we learn how honest we can be with another person and whether we’ll still be accepted when we tell our secrets and reveal our flaws. Acceptance is about caring.
This stage is about commitment. When we feel truly accepted by a person to whom we are attracted, there’s a strong likelihood that the relationship will evolve to the point of attaching ourselves together in a committed relationship. The most obvious form of this is the legal attachment of marriage. However, there are other important levels of connection that we need to experience.
First, there is the sense of fulfillment, which everyone craves. Second, there should be mutual respect. Third, passion for each other must endure. Fourth, there should be a truly spiritual adventure shared between the two people. A much longer time is involved in the attachment stage, so there is more time for things to go wrong. However, even in the midst of our mistakes, there are many steps we can take to reconnect with each other and build a deeper love.
This final stage is where a relationship passes from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Each of us grew up with ideas of what we wanted to be, what our families or marriages would be like, and what we would accomplish. These aspirations may be conscious or subconscious. We may be able to articulate them to another, or we may not discover we have them until we reach a point where we expected them and they did not occur.
According to Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington’s Love Lab, these dreams usually come from childhood and are either something we want to re‑create or something we want to avoid.
Because these aspirations are sometimes subconscious, couples seldom share them with each other before they commit to marriage. Even when they are conscious, an amazing number of couples still do not talk about them, each simply expecting or assuming the other has or supports the same aspirations. More often, couples’ unspoken dreams compete, which means either one or both cannot achieve his or her dreams.
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