Understanding Love

Hollywood syndrome

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Hi everyone,

I have slowly started the book on rOCD and am still corresponding with some rOCD sufferers. I had a very interesting discussion with one of them. I will call this person P.

I have asked P to write a list of (misplaced) expectations in regards to her relationship and send it to me. She also kindly agreed to share them on this blog as our discussion might benefit other people. By the way, P did a great job recognising where some of the issues might lie!

I call these the “Hollywood syndrome” – where we set unrealistic expectations based on fairy tale type of relationships only seen in movies. This was one of the things that I had to learn as well!

My replies are in blue (by no means perfect either!).

  • I should feel in love with my boyfriend 24/7. Impossible thing – you can’t feel these hormones all the time. Even if you could, you would start getting immune to it. And wanting a higher kick. 
  • When I have a boyfriend whom I consider to be in love with, hence I should not feel attracted to other guys or find them good looking.Impossible. You can’t switch this off. It is like saying “I do not want to feel hunger anymore.”
  • If we are having fights over small issues that means we’re not meant to be. A right couple do not fight.Don’t know of any relationship that does not fight from time to time. The issue is how we do it, not that it happens.
  • If he is not doing enough things for me, then that means he doesn’t love me as much as I do. I probably should be with someone who does things for me more than I do. This is a communication issue and male/female thing. The important thing is that BOTH are willing to put on the effort to address this.
  • I shouldn’t feel bored of him if I love him. If I feel like getting out on my own spending a little time away from him than that must mean I’m bored of him. You don’t stop being an individual when you get into a relationship. You can become more flexible like watching action movies with boyfriend but you still like your chick flicks…
  • I shouldn’t marry him ’cause I already know him so much so after marriage it’ll be all same and boring. (spike given by a friend) – you make the relationship exciting if it needs be. When things tail off – the infatuation feeling – you need to make things kind of happen again. I had a really great time with my wife, playing bowling last week. You have to find the solutions. And you cannot feel excitement all the time, it is not healthy.
  • If I move in with him, I’ll get bored cause of living with the same person all the time. Our love might fade away. Yes, or it might grow to a deeper level. It does not grow deeper when people are apart. But it will require work.
  • If I find some other guy hot then that must means I’m not in love with my boyfriend 100%. Or it just means that you find the other guy hot.
  • If my boyfriend is a bit immature or isn’t upto the level of understanding about life and love and other things then we can’t work out. Every relationship is a compromise. You are not perfect either. But this is the point of love – growing together by means of compromise.
  • if I’m looking for signs then that must mean he is not the right one for me. How do I know this is the one for me?

    Or Is this Mr. Right or Mr. Right-now?!” Maybe I should keep looking for signs. Ultimately, no one knows. No one. Our best bet is to become Mr and Mrs. Right through a lot of work, patience and service. Becoming is reality. Being is fiction.

LOVE IS HARD WORK. By putting two imperfect people together, we can’t expect perfection to happen!
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Falling out of love

It has been a very busy two weeks for me. Work and most importantly family life has caught up with me. My wife ended up in Hospital for a week but she is back home now. Both herself and the baby are OK. This time apart made me realise how much I miss her when she is away. This is a far cry from where I was a couple of years ago with my rOCD. I had anxiety and panic attacks when I was with her. As I was replying to a message from a fellow rOCDer and we talked about falling out of love. I always wanted to discuss this but never really remembered doing it. SO here it goes:

From time to time, I receive an email from someone that is suffering from rOCD asking me if they fallen out of love because they can’t feel anything anymore. I will split this question into two parts: love and lost feelings (or not feeling).

1) Love – one of the biggest mistakes in any relationship is assuming that love is a static entity. What do I mean by this? I mean that we assume that if we find the “right” partner love will develop and flourish by itself and the flames will burn for eternity. This could not be farther away from the truth. Love is not a static entity. Love is a moveable or flexible entity. LOVE IS HARD WORK. If we want to feel more love for someone else then we need to give more than we normally give. Why do we hear about falling out of love? Because in most cases (excluding abuse and things alike), people at a certain time stopped giving and doing the things that NURTURE the relationship. Routines settled in, bills to pay, other interests, etc. The bottom line is that if you want to have a solid and long-lasting relationship you have to put effort in everyday. What starts as seed can only grow stronger if you water and feed it everyday. The problem is that we confuse the seed with the fruit.

2) Lost feelings – Can you feel depressed and feel happy at the same time? Can you feel anxiety and love at the same time? With rOCD the centre of our anxiety is our relationship. But the anxiety is not in our partner. The anxiety is inside ourselves. In certain cases our partners go blissfully unaware of our internal struggles and are very happy in the relationship. The first mistake we make is to try “force” feelings back. We put ourselves into two different situations. For example, we kiss our partner and wait to see how we feel. Or we imagine or see our partner with someone else and see how we react.   We do these mental tests that normally do more harm than good because we do not understand a basic principle: We cannot fill a cup that is already full! If we want to regain our ability to feel, first we must get rid of the anxiety that fills our cup.

So the concept of falling out of love is mostly a Hollywood concept and out of touch with the real world. People do distance themselves through choices they make. This is where we need to start taking responsibility as a society and not blame it purely on feelings.If someone works 12 hours a day, hardly sees his wife and spends most of the time interacting with an attractive colleague is it really a mystery finding the other person interesting and exciting?

It is even more complicated when we deal with people that suffer from anxiety disorders as another level (or levels) of emotions are layered on top of what we would like or hope to experience. So don’t be surprised if it is difficult to feel at this stage.

Hope this helps someone.

Tip #28 Chronicles of Narnia

Not sure if you have seen the movies or read the books (I have only watched the movies!) – Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. He has written many other books, the one that I think applies to ROCD sufferers is called Mere Christianity. Here is what I think is one of the most important lessons from the book (I have split it into small chunks to make an easier read):

Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go.

And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably was never was or ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were.Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?

But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.

They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

There are at least 4 different themes in each of these 4 different paragraphs (maybe even more!): value-based living, setting realistic expectations, power to make our own choices despite circumstances and keeping our promises and commitments.

All these important in our recovery from ROCD. If you can spot any others, leave a comment below!

p.s. my wife shared this with me when I was going through a rough patch of ROCD (we were still boyfriend and girlfriend at the time).

Tip #2 True Love is a choice

One thing that Hollywood does not teach us is that true love is a choice. Feelings come and go. It is a biological thing. Not a bad thing but we should not expect feelings to be there 24/7. One of my favourite quotes is “Choose your love and love your choice”. Reflect on this statement for a while.

We can’t choose how to feel as this is a biological process.Infatuation and physical attraction is the result of biology.But we can choose when, whom and how to love. This is a choice. It took me a long time to even understand and realise this. We are taught and trained that physical attraction or infatuation = love. This is the result of our society and media.

Think about the following question for a minute or two: “How can I really love someone  if I don’t know them? ”

If we think that the “perfect” relationship is feeling good or infatuated about the other person all the time, no relationship is going to be good enough.

There is no magic bullet. Take it slow and take the brain out of overdrive…this is when you will start moving forward. Hope this makes sense.

OK, now for another interesting exercise. Listen to the following song lyrics and try to figure out if this is true love or infatuation. Leave your comments below.

Whitesnake ” Is this love”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOJk0HW_hJw

You can find the lyrics here:

http://www.lyrics007.com/Whitesnake%20Lyrics/Is%20This%20Love%20Lyrics.html