Early Love Stage – Not Being Our Real Self
In Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice visits the Looking-Glass World where she finds that everything is the opposite of what she’s used to or imagined it would be. Up is down, flowers talk, and everyday objects morph into something they are not.
Relationships of all types, but especially romantic relationships, are a lot like that Looking-Glass World. You expect them to be one way and they end up morphing into confusing, difficult, and oftentimes disappointing encounters.
What’s really going on here? When you’re in love with love, it’s difficult to face reality and yet, this is exactly what you need to do. You need to burst the bubble of idealism and face the fact that your partner is not perfect, has attitudes or behaviors you dislike, and that they may even disappoint you and let you down.
One of the first challenges we encounter in any love relationship is our own idealism regarding the opposite sex. Ask yourself these questions:
“Isn’t it okay to have high expectations of my partner?
Shouldn’t I get everything I want, need, or expect from my partner?
If you answered yes, your idealism is showing.
Our idealism is deeply engrained in us. Remember in high school daydreaming about Mr. or Mrs. Right and making a list of things of 20 to 40 attributes that you wanted your ideal man/woman to possess? That’s the epitome of idealism.
During the falling-in-love phase, when the feel-good hormone, Oxytocin, is coursing through your veins, you see each other through a rose-colored haze of perfection. “Wow, I finally found the perfect man/woman for me!” In this wonderful drug-induced phase, you see only the positives about that person; the negatives are hidden and are even threatening to entertain. What’s hard to recognize is that you are seeing your idealized version of your partner; you are not yet seeing each other for who they truly are. When we refer to love being blind, this is the stage we are referring to. I’d love for couples to remove these blinders before they get married, but sadly, this often doesn’t happen until after they marry.
One way for couples to identify their levels of idealism is to take the Prepare/Enrich Online Assessment that all my couples take as part of our premarital classes. Most couples are surprised by the results. When asked the question,
“Is there one thing you have found that you don’t like about your partner?” Many are quick to respond, “Nope, he or she is just perfect.”
I understand that couples are reluctant to find fault in their partner in the dating or engaged stage because they feel that the relationship is too vulnerable and they don’t want to do anything to rock the boat. Yet, the true test of growth and attachment in the relationship is when you have moved from the idealistic stage to seeing your partner as they truly are. This means accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, not trying to change or pressure each other to be what you want them to be, and truly committing to loving them just as they are.