I’ve always been fascinated with courtship, with how two people’s eyes meet across a crowded room and something magical happens. There is an instant recognition of our compelling attraction. When the desire is reciprocated, its magnetism draws us into close physical proximity where chemicals surge, pheromones bubble, and we adopt courtship behaviours born in primordial ooze.
If our chemistry and our personalities continue to spark, we enter the limerence phase, which lasts six to eighteen months and is layered with falling in love (or not) with our new lover. It is during this limerent period that we learn that our beloved has habits and quirks that either amuse or annoy us. Now we must decide what we can accept and what we cannot.
One way of ensuring that you make good choices for yourself – even in the heady courtship phase – is to have a prepared list of what you desire in a date and in a mate (and to understand that they are not necessarily the same). How your date handles housekeeping (or money or spare time) is of little import, but how your mate approaches those life issues will be paramount if you choose to live together. Similarly, it is useful to refer to your list after an affair has ended…whatever we learned we can incorporate into our guidelines for future choices.
As important as it is to be self-aware during dating, it is also essential to be able to allow your mate to be a flawed human being. Once we consciously decide to accept our mate, we must choose, whenever we can, to be amused rather than annoyed by their imperfect qualities.
Our culture’s insistence on fairy tale romance and happily-ever-after endings can leave us unprepared to address the everyday realities of ongoing relationships. We may lament that our lover doesn’t share our love of romantic comedies while they complain that we lack sensitivity about family obligations. If we’ve become complacent in the partnership, we can see these differences as irritations, and resentment builds. We may feel restless and unfulfilled. We may wonder how they could have been so perfect and now be so…human.
What we need to understand is that the perfect mate does not exist. When we are lucky and alert enough to find someone with whom we mesh well, we owe it to ourselves and our partners to allow them their quirks. We do not get to order a la carte on the romantic menu. There’s no picking out the shortcomings from the attributes like the mushrooms in the lasagna.
Part of the key to long-term success in a partnership is to remind yourself often of all the things you like about your mate and share those thoughts. Choose to laugh at the small irritations. Embrace all that you can. Enjoy yourself in this unique relationship you’ve built together. It’s a necessary component in a happy union.