Is your soul mate feeling more like your "ol' mate"? Has your sizzle fizzled? Find out how to live happily "every other day" after.
Love at first sight is easy. It's love at 1,001st sight that can be very difficult.
Actually, even love at 101st sight can get a bit hairy—about the same time you let the stubble on your legs grow just a little bit, and you walk around without makeup. This is also when your man may fart in bed for the first time and walk around without his metaphysical makeup—when he shows his most authentic face.
Guess what else: This is also an exciting time love-wise because it's when true love blooms—when you both finally show your true human selves.
The Problem? People are sometimes overly human, as my favorite philosopher Aristotle recognized in many of his philosophical passages, including this one: "If a man is a man because he resembles an ideal man, there must still be a more ideal man to whom both ordinary men and the ideal men are similar."
Translation? There is no such thing as an ideal partner. Nobody's perfect. Everyone has a little streak of jerk . You're never going to find perfect, custom-fit love in a world of off-the-rack people. If you want to be part of a perfect couple, you must accept you will be part of an "imperfect couple." You will have ebbs in all your fun-filled flow. You will not always feel 100 percent in love with your partner, 100 percent of the time. And that's okay.
Translation to the translation? True love is what happens when disappointment sets in and disagreements unfold.
In my book Prince Harming Syndrome , I share an interesting finding from John Gottman, founder of The Love Lab. Gottman can predict if a relationship will survive—not based on how well a couple gets along, but by how well they don't get along. He believes a couple is only as strong as their weakest moments and how they handle disappointments and disagreements.
Another interesting love factoid: Gottman also discovered that long-term, happily married couples disagree just as much as couples who divorce. The big difference? Happily married couples accept there will be disagreements. Happily married couples value growing and working through problems—for the sake of being in a long-term, supportive, thriving relationship.
What Kind of Relationship Are You In?
In Prince Harming Syndrome , I detail how Gottman's love findings match up with the relationship beliefs of Aristotle. To drill down quickly, Aristotle lists three types of relationships, only one of which brings true happiness. Which one are you in?
Relationships of pleasure: Based on sex , drugs and rock 'n roll; primarily focused on the body and ego and therefore, not true love.
Relationships of utility: based on using each other for power, money, beauty, status—the prototypical rich guy/trophy girl scenario. Or as I've seen in New York, the rich girl/trophy guy scenario. Either way, it's not true love!
Relationships of shared virtue: based on connecting soul to soul, core self to core self, and inspiring, supporting and challenging each other to grow into their best possible selves, therefore leading to true happily-ever-after love.
In other words, if you want to be part of a healthy, loving relationship, you must accept that it will always serve two functions:
1. "Den of Pleasure." For hot sex, fun, companionship and laughter—all these sensory delights which Aristotle absolutely recognized your soul needs to stay thriving and perky! 2. "Laboratory for Growth." The ultimate place for your soul to be inspired, nurtured, supported, and challenged to evolve, which your soul truly needs for ultimate happiness.
Translation: Being in a healthy, loving relationship requires both of these functions. You must accept that you cannot always hang out in the den, and occasionally you have to wander into that laboratory.
Unfortunately, you may only view a relationship as serving up the first function, Den of Pleasure. You may feel once you've found your dream love, that's it. Now, you can sit back and enjoy, and not need to put in any work. However, that's like going on a job search, finding a dream job and thinking you can simply show up, sit at your desk, and do nada.
If you want to live happily ever after, you must accept right here—right now—that there will be stretches of time when you feel as if you're living happily "every other day" after, and that's okay. However, it is essential that during these stretches, you and your partner consciously choose to stretch yourselves and head into that Laboratory for Growth.
Love-Boosting Ideas from the Lab
If your soul mate is feeling more like your "ol' mate," and that sizzle has fizzled, here are some love-boosting tips from the lab:
Is there something you're hurt or worried about that you have yet to tell your partner? Yo! Your partner is not a mind reader. I hate to break it to you, but even mind readers are not really mind readers. They're clever showbiz folks. So, if something is on your mind, share it. One of my favorite quotes is from Emile Zola: "I came into this world to live out loud." Live out loud, dammit! Your love life is only as strong as your open communication. True love requires love of truth.
Whenever you're having one of those much-needed "growth opportunity" conversations, be sure to listen with 20/20 hearing. Remember: Good communication is always about listening just as much as it's about talking. The feisty writer Fran Lebowitz once quipped: "The opposite of talking isn't listening. It's waiting." Prove Fran wrong.
If you're a shoe lover as much as I am, here's an opportunity to get more shoes as you get more love. Ready? Put yourself in your partner's shoes so you better understand how they feel. Aristotle called this mimesis explaining how you can learn a lot by mirroring one another. Many modern therapists, including bigwigs, advocate Aristotle's belief in mimesis to instruct patients in therapy to "play act" each other's view. So before you think those boots are made for walking out of your relationship, try on your partner's shoes and step into their perspective.
Are you an annoyingly irksome person without knowing it? Find out by asking for an "equal share time" about your annoyingly irksome habits. Swap "same-value habit complaints" like same-value baseball cards." Start with a teeny complaint. Build up to a huge complaint. The reason why it's good to swap? It's helpful when you both empathize with how it feels to be told you're annoyingly irksome and share an equal sense of growth opportunity.
Be honest! Are you dragging the same pattern of problems into every relationship? Remember: You are the common denominator in all your relationship problems. Share a long talk with your partner about each of your childhoods—the good, bad, and dysfunctional. Recognize that you are often subconsciously attracted to someone who represents the best/worst of your parents, so you can re-create, and then mend, your childhood disappointments about love.
Are you sweating the small stuff? Even though I'm telling you to talk more openly, you must do this within what Aristotle called "the moderation zone." Set the following intention: "I will not complain about anything to my partner for the next three days."
Remember: If you're saying "I love you" out loud to someone, you must make sure your actions remain in sync with your words. You should never coast on saying "I love you" without showing love, or eventually you'll chew all of the flavor out of these words. During challenging times, when you're tempted to not be your most loving self, ask yourself: "How would love deal with this issue? What would love do?" Tell yourself: "It's more important to be loving than to be right!"
Karen Salmansohn is a best-selling author known for creating self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading self-help. Get more information on finding a loving, happier-ever-after relationship in her book Prince Harming Syndrome .