LIVING THE FAIRY-TALE ROMANCE
I once heard a woman say that she thought marriage would be like having a life-long date. At first, I laughed and muttered that she must have lost her mind. But then I settled down and really thought about what she'd said. And for the first time, I realized that I, too, had once thought the very same thing.
Of course, this gave me pause for thought. I began to wonder if we were the only two people on the planet who had ever employed this line of thinking. But after talking to lots of other people in committed relationships, I was amazed at the findings. Nearly every one of them – at one point or another in their relationships - had shared the same thought as well. And most were extremely disappointed to discover that such was not the case.
So, how do we get this crazy idea? Where does it come from? More to the point, how can we - obviously intelligent human beings - embrace this fallacy without checking it out first?
The answer is simple. We're in love.
I've often said that if we could develop a system to force the heart and mind to work together, it would be worthy of the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, it will never happen. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. Fact is, people who enter into long term relationships have at least two things going for them. Yes, they're in love – but more important, they're still in infatuation mode. And it's the latter that makes the thought of a life-long commitment not only plausible, but extremely enjoyable. In fact, if it weren't for infatuation, the whole idea of committed relationships would simply cease to exist – and the human race would be a very unhappy sort, indeed.
Infatuation occurs when the heart and mind refuse to work together – and to a large degree, it makes the world go 'round. While under its spell, we become oblivious to everything except the fact that we're in love. We don't see minor character flaws. We discount habits that could annoy us in years to come. We even think that we can single-handedly change the world. And that being the case, it's an absolute given that we could change our mates should they suddenly stumble into a state of imperfection.
When we enter into a long term relationship, though, other things quickly come into view. Things like dirty socks and underwear. Things like toothpaste tubes squeezed from the wrong end. Or maybe even shoes in the middle of the living room floor.
Other aggravations enter the picture, too. There are bills to pay, calls to make, and errands to run. Dentist appointments to schedule, trips to the supermarket, piles of dirty dishes, and toilets to be cleaned. Right in the middle of it all, your mate calls to see if you can handle one more little thing. And just at that exact moment, the dog – who's always been the most docile and gentle soul imaginable – decides to detain the postal worker by grabbing his pants leg and baring her teeth. It's enough to make you crazy. But there's nothing you can do. It's a simple matter of mundanity at work. And whether we like it or not, mundanity is where we really live.
That being the case, long term relationships seldom meet the initial expectations. But this doesn't mean that you should avoid entering into one – or that the romance you've cherished so much will fly right out the window. What it does mean is that you should go into it with a realistic eye, and understand that sharing your lives takes things to a different level – a more comfortable level – a level where only perfect trust and true love can flourish.
I'll never forget a conversation my husband initiated early in our relationship. He announced that someday, he'd ask me to marry him. I remember telling him that for me, marriage had always meant losing a really good boyfriend and because of that, I just couldn't see the point. His response was that marriage to the right person could be a wonderful thing. That there was something not only reassuring but exciting about the monogamous relationship. It meant having someone special to come home to, someone fun to share life's experiences with, and someone wonderful to simply cuddle up with night after night.
Once I began to look at it from that angle, marriage didn't seem like such a bad thing at all. In fact, it took on a whole new light. I suddenly realized that my view of marriage had been flavored by unrealistic expectations – expectations that had nothing to do with real life – and as a result, I'd never found the happiness it offered. It was a mistake I vowed never to make again.
Even so, I have to admit that I was more than just a little nervous the night before our wedding. In fact, I stayed awake for hours playing the "what if" game, and worrying incessantly about what the future might hold. Fortunately, though, it was all for naught. While I did, indeed, lose the best boyfriend I ever had, what I found was much more exciting: the most incredible husband that ever walked the face of the earth. Even better, some semblance of infatuation – that wonderfully mysterious substance that makes the world go 'round – is still alive and well in our relationship. We now live a life I never thought possible.
Ruts In The Road
Daily living is, without a doubt, the most hectic business on the planet. We rush to the workplace day after day, solving one problem after another. There are meetings to attend, schedules to juggle, and complicated agendas to sort through. It's a load too hefty for even the Fairy Godmother to handle. But that doesn't stop us. We just keep moving forward, trudging right through until everything is done. By the time we're through, exhaustion is a thing of the past. In fact, we're doing well to remember our own names.
Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. On the way home we pick up the dry cleaning, handle personal errands, and tend to an assortment of other things that need our attention. We walk into a messy house, overflowing laundry bins, and a hungry family. Do we ignore it and relax? No. We just keep on pushing. We just keep on working. We just keep on rushing around until everything is nice and neat and in its proper place again. In fact, we get so wound up in what has to be done, that we hardly have time to think. The only thing on our minds is crawling into bed - and the annoying alarm clock that will jolt us from sleep in just a few short hours.
This is where we get into trouble. With so much on our plates, real thinking goes by the wayside. We begin to do things methodically, routinely, and automatically. Life becomes boring. And the fact that we're living it with the love of our lives really doesn't matter anymore. We view it as nothing more than some humdrum mess engineered by a team of puppeteers - all of whom insist that we dance to their personal tunes.
This is no way to live – especially not with the mate of your dreams. But how do you stop? How do you take back your life? More importantly, though, how do you get back to that place in your mind where love was the only thing that mattered?
Admittedly, it's a tricky business. It can be done, however, if you just make a few ground rules. The key here, though, is following through. Once you set the rules, you have to stick to them. You have to be tough. And if you even think of pushing them aside, just remember why you embarked upon this mission in the first place. It was to find the love of a lifetime – that person you couldn't live without – that person who could single-handedly leave you breathless, quivering, and begging for more. That alone should be enough to keep you on track.
While you may find other ways to reclaim your life and bring you back in control, the rules below work well for everyone. Give them a shot and see what happens. If you find that other steps are necessary, don't hesitate to add them. The sooner you do, the sooner everything will fall back into place – and the sooner you'll be living the fairy-tale life you always dreamed of.
$1· The 30-minute plan. Quitting your job usually isn't an option, but how you use your time at home is. That being the case, spend the first thirty minutes unwinding with your mate. Share the events of the day, both good and bad. Find something to laugh over. You'll both feel much better for it, and the rest of the evening will go much more smoothly.
$1· Share the cooking. No matter how you slice it, folks have to eat. But since everybody's hungry by the time they get home, it's not fair for one person to shoulder all the responsibility. A more reasonable solution is to share the cooking duties. Either take turns cooking dinner, or cook together. (The latter can be a lot of fun – and bring some humor to your evening.)
$1· Allocate one evening per week to errands. While things are bound to pop up now and then, you really don't have to run errands every day after work. Just jot down things as you think of them, then tend to the entire list on only one evening each week. Doing so will not only save your nerves and drive time, but will allow extra time at home.
$1· Clean the house once a week. No one ever died from dust bunnies. No one ever suffered at the hands of a dirty carpet. And no one – not even in the most imaginative fairy-tale - was ever swallowed whole by clutter. The point is that the house won't explode if it's not cleaned every single night. Plan, instead, to handle these chores on Sunday morning. That not only gives you Saturday to goof off, but leaves Sunday afternoon free for quality time with your mate.
$1· Share the household duties. Working together cuts cleaning time in half. In fact, if one of you scrubs floors while the other does laundry or pays bills, you may just find some time for the important things – like spending time together. While most of the chores can be handled separately, make an exception with making the bed. Doing this together is not only fun, but can be extremely sexy!
$1· Grocery shop together. While it's only natural for one or the other of you to have to run to the store for bread or milk, plan time to do the bulk of the shopping together. It's a great way to get it done posthaste, while having fun and spending time together.
You’ve reclaimed your life. You’ve found quality time to spend together. Even so, though, something’s missing. Your relationship seems anything but romantic. In fact, common ground itself seems to have gone by the wayside. It’s almost as if the two of you – the lovers whose hearts once beat as one – are now dancing separate steps to separate tunes. And that being the case, there’s no way you can dance together.
Or is there?
Absolutely. You just have to understand a few things first.
To start with, men and women think differently. They act differently. They have two separate chemical make-ups. Simply put, they just aren’t wired the same. It’s a good thing, too. Because if they handled everything in the same fashion, they wouldn’t be drawn to each other in the first place.
The infatuation process, however, screws things up a bit. It causes a temporary sort of chemical imbalance in the brain. As a result, reality takes a back seat to fantasy. It’s why we don’t see obvious flaws. It’s why we overlook things that we ordinarily wouldn’t. In fact, it’s wholly responsible for the process of falling in love.
Somewhere along the way, though, infatuation begins to fade. It’s not that we aren’t in love anymore – or that the relationship is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that the courting process is over, and because we are in love, the brain no longer sees the infatuation mode as a necessary part of our lives. Things fall back into normalcy.
Of course, the heart doesn’t understand this at all. It begins to question things – silly things – things that shouldn’t be questioned to start with. Trouble starts to brew. And before we can stop ourselves, there we are - stirring the cauldron and creating a mess out of nothing. It’s just another case of the utter chaos caused by the inability of the heart and mind to work together.
That’s all well and fine. But what can we do to fix things? More importantly, how can we live happily ever after with our mates even when they seem to have misplaced their mystery and their sense of charm? It’s simple. We just need to dispel a few myths.
Let’s start with the thinking process. There is a physiological reason that men and women don’t think the same way, and it has to do with minor anatomical differences. Here’s how it works. During the thought process, one or more impulses travel up and down the spinal cord, then back to the brain. The thought is processed and becomes a part of the memory bank. This is a given.
The route that impulses take to reach the brain and complete the thought process, however, is where things differ. The impulses bounce from four points in the male brain to complete the process, while it travels through six in the female brain. And while the number of points involved has nothing to do with which sex thinks more quickly, it has everything to do with the way that thoughts are processed and affect the sexes. Since men basically think in a square, their thoughts tend to have an analytical edge. The circular pattern in women is softer and more emotional. This means that the very same thought is usually viewed by the sexes from completely different angles. And that being the case, there’s no way we can always expect our partners to totally grasp where we’re coming from – at least, not without some digging and prodding and further conversation.
While this may seem mind-boggling at first, it also helps to explain why men and women don’t act alike. Because of the male angle, most men have an inherent need to protect and provide. They are natural warriors, hunters, and bread-winners. Most women, on the other hand, are born nurturers and care-givers. They can take on the troubles of the world, sort them out and fix them all in the blink of an eye. Best of all, they manage to handle the whole thing with a soft touch and a healthy dose of tender loving care. This combination strikes a very good balance, indeed, because one provides what the other can’t. Unfortunately, though, it can also cause a hell of a mess if we don’t understand why we’re different.
Let’s say, for example, that the two of you find an badly injured animal on the side of the road. It’s obvious that something should be done and you both want to help. One of you wants to care for the animal and do whatever it takes to heal its wounds. The other sees the damage and thinks that putting it out of its misery would be much kinder. Sparks fly. The fight of the century follows. And before its said and done, not only are neither of you speaking to the other – neither of you can possibly imagine what was so attractive about the other in the first place.
Of course, the best solution would have been to take the animal to the clinic and let the vet decide. But things didn’t even get that far. Because both of you were thinking and acting from different angles, stubbornness set in. Talking it over never entered the picture. And one of you made a decision that didn’t set well with the other. It turned into a horrible mess – and all because you both wanted to help.
To prevent this sort of thing from happening, you both need to understand the other’s thought processes and subsequent actions. Then you need to think about what originally brought you together. Chances are, it was the differences. It was the fact that your partner provided something you needed – a necessary but lacking component like strength, gentleness, or independent thinking – and managed to supply it in such a way that made you feel incredibly special.
You also need to decide if you really want to spend the rest of your life with someone who always thinks exactly as you do. If you really want to live with someone who reacts to every situation just as you do. Or more to the point, whether you really want to wake up to a carbon copy of yourself on a daily basis.
Of course, I already know the answer. And so do you. If any of those things were true, you wouldn’t have been scouting out the perfect mate at all. In fact, you’d have been perfectly happy and more than satisfied just living alone.
That being the case, do yourself a favor. Don’t just embrace your differences - be thankful for them. But more importantly, learn to appreciate them. Those bits of diversity are exactly what brought you together in the first place. They are precisely the things that make you a good team. Most of all, though, they comprise the individual components which make you whole – and keep you dancing together, step by step on solid ground, even when you think you can’t.
If It’s Not Broken...
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, was my Dad’s favorite adage. He used it in all areas of his life, and did his best to install it in ours. In fact, he said it so many times during the course of my childhood, I thought I might choke if I heard it once more. Once I was grown, though, I began to see its wisdom. And lucky for me, I’ve never forgotten it.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world seldom sees things that way – especially when it comes to intimate relationships. No matter how good things are, folks have some inherent need to make things better. They dream of flawlessness and perfection. An impeccable relationship draped in the folds of nirvana. And then they set out to make it happen. It doesn’t matter that it won’t. They just keep right on, pushing and prodding and trying to shape the relationship into what they think it should be - something that only exists in their dreams. In the final analysis, all they get for their troubles is a screwed-up mess that even the Ancients, Themselves, couldn’t sort through. Worst of all, though, they usually wind up destroying the very attributes in their mates that were so wonderful to start with.
It starts out innocently enough, alright. Usually, there’s just one little thing that needs improvement. One little thing that, if changed, would bring absolute perfection. Such was the case with me.
When my ex and I met, he was positively entranced by my sense of independence. There was nothing I couldn’t plan, nothing I couldn’t handle, and nothing that I couldn’t see right through to the finish. Best of all, though, I took the initiative. I really didn’t need supervision or outside help. I just made things happen.
Since he’d never experienced anyone quite like that, he was thrilled. I not only worked a sixty hour week, but attended school functions, handled the finances, and managed all the home-related details with an efficiency he hadn’t thought possible. Even better, I always had time for him. I seemingly ran everything by remote control, and he just couldn’t believe his good luck.
Unfortunately, though, that sort of independence also breeds strength – and I was no exception to the rule. Even worse, I had opinions about everything. Some were important, so I voiced them. Those which weren’t, I kept to myself. But even so, the constant stream of communiqués – discussions that he didn’t feel were necessary – began to get on his nerves. The strength, which he now viewed as sheer stubbornness, annoyed him. And that being the case, he set about devising a plan to remove these items totally and irrevocably from our lives.
While I won’t bore you with all the details, I can tell you this: He certainly didn’t get what he bargained for. In trying to break my spirit and turn me into someone who I could never be, he screwed himself. I no longer provided him with a near perfect life. (I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to. I just didn’t have that sort of stamina anymore.) I no longer juggled fifty things without dropping the ball. (How could I? My self-confidence was gone.) And at the end of it all, there wasn’t a lot of time left over for him. (I was much too tired to do anything but pull the covers up over my head.) He wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy. And it was, for all practical purposes, the beginning of the end.
The point is two-fold. First, only fools think they can ever really change someone else. More to the point, they should never try. Why? Because it never works out the way they envision. They may change them on the surface. They may even think they see results. But deep down inside, whatever was still remains – waiting and watching and afraid to come out. And that breeds resentment – an emotion that eventually rears its ugly head and bites you in the butt. It’s an emotion more destructive than any explosive on the military market.
Second, and perhaps, more important, trying to initiate such a change – especially in the near perfect partner - can ruin all semblance of happiness. That which was so attractive at the onslaught simply flies right out the window. All that’s left is the monster you created. And there’s nothing wondrous or attractive about that at all.
That being the case, I urge you to leave well enough alone. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Just enjoy what you have. Know that it’s as perfect as it gets. And if things really start to get on your nerves, take a good hard look at the “why’s.” You may find that the necessary changes don’t really involve your partner at all. You may discover, instead, that they need to come from you.
Refurbishing The Heart/h
Now that we’ve gotten all that straightened out, it's time to get back to the infatuation phase. Granted, this may take some doing. But if you're going to live happily ever after, it's something you'll have to master again. After all, no one – not even Prince Charming and Princess Perfect – can live in the same house day after day without getting bored, unless they're able to fall in love again on a regular basis. And reintroducing the infatuation factor to your lives is the only way to make it happen.
Of course, I could tell you to go back to flirtation, seduction, and romance. But that really won't do any good unless you're in the right mindset. You know the one. It's the spot where you feel absolutely wonderful and incredibly sick all at the same time, the place where first love spirits you off beyond all realm of common sense, and the point where you're so weak in the knees that you can hardly stand up. And in order to get there, you have to look at each other with a fresh eye.
Walking Down Memory Lane
One of the best ways to do this is to take a trip down memory lane. Remember all the things about your partner that used to make you smile. The things that used to make you laugh. And, of course, the way your heart used to leap from your chest every time he or she came into view.
Then recall some of your most memorable dates. Visualize them in detail. If you're the sentimental type – and most folks are, especially when caught up in the throes of new love – you probably have small mementos of some of the really special times. Little things like theater tickets, florist cards, and other souvenirs. Pull them out and pay close attention to the first thought that comes to mind when you look at them. Chances are it won't be the actual event, but something else. Something much more important. What you'll recall is a valuable link in the chain of events that made you fall in love in the first place.
Our first real date, for example, involved a St. Louis Cardinals game. I love baseball, and am particularly fond of the Cardinals. Aside from that, it was the year of McGwire, and the seats were incredible. Those things, alone, made it a very exciting date. It was also the hottest day of the year – the hottest day in twenty-five years, to be exact – and the heat index was such that newscasters everywhere were begging folks to stay indoors.
But when I came across those ticket stubs a few days ago, those details weren't among my immediate thoughts. What I recalled, instead, was the funny face my husband made as he tried to drink that way-too-sweet lemonade. I remembered the hand-held walk through the park after the game. The green shade of the trees, and the cool respite of the park bench as we sat watching the barges go down river. Most of all, though, I remembered the way he looked at me as we chatted. It was as if no one else existed. As if the whole world had chosen that particular place in time to revolve solely around the two of us.
Now that you know how this works, grab some paper and jot down your thoughts. Work with each event separately. Don't worry if what you remember really has nothing to do with the exact details of the event itself. To be perfectly honest, I can't even remember who actually won that Cardinals game. But that doesn't matter. What's important here is what you do recall. The first thoughts that pop into your head.
But what if you didn't think to keep souvenirs? What then? Not to worry. Begin by jotting down the circumstances of every date you can remember sharing with your love – then go on from there.
When you're finished – this may take some time – go back and look at what you've written. Then make plans to recreate some of the events. Of course, you may not be able to duplicate them exactly, but with a little thought and effort, you can come pretty close. I can't, for example, duplicate our good fortune at being in the stands when Dale Earnhardt won the Talladega 500 in October of 1999. I can, however, rekindle that sort of excitement. I can even manage a reasonable facsimile of the day’s events. And that's all that's important. All you're trying to do here is recreate the portions that matter most. The ones closest to your heart. For those are the things which first infected you both with the mysteries of infatuation – and the stirrings of new love.
How Do I Love Thee...
Another way to conjure the spell of infatuation comes in the form of a small plastic box. It isn't very expensive. It's easy to use. And best of all, it's readily available at book stores and stationery shops everywhere. This wonderful tool is none other than magnetic poetry.
If you're not familiar with this device, you're really missing out. It comes in lots of different genres – love and romance, erotica, holiday, etc. – and it's constructed from sheets of words that can be cut apart to create any message you want. And because they're magnetized, you can post the notes on any metal surface – the refrigerator, the range hood, or even the framework of the bathroom mirror.
That's all well and fine. But what does it have to do with infatuation? Everything! For one thing, some people are too shy to say what they really want or how they really feel. No matter how hard they try, they simply can't force the words from their mouths. Other folks just don't express themselves well verbally. And since their thoughts flow more smoothly in written form, magnetic poetry is the perfect solution. Anyway you slice it, these little gems are dynamite when it comes to rekindling the fires of infatuation you felt at the beginning of your relationship.
I discovered magnetic poetry a few years ago as I was leaving a bookstore. And since my husband has a thing for refrigerator magnets, those little boxes of magnetized words just seemed like the perfect gift. While I wasn't sure he'd use them, it didn't matter. All I really cared about at the time was that he’d know I'd been thinking of him. That being the case, I wrapped them up and took them home.
After they sat on top of the microwave for a week – untouched, uncut, and unused – I decided to give it a whirl myself. I left a simple "I love you madly" on the fridge just as I left for a business trip. Fortunately, that was all it took. I came back home to provocative little messages everywhere – even on a candle holder in my office – and the fun has yet to stop. In fact, we really look forward to the messaging, the search game it involves, and the romantic mood it evokes.
If this idea appeals to you but you’re not sure how to get started, just grab your box of poetry and finish the sentence fragments below. Be warned, though. Once you get started, you may never want to stop!
“I would trudge through puppy drool to...”
“I want to lick your...”
“I want to...until your toes curl”
“You make my heart...”
“Your love is like...”
“I am delirious over...”
“The very thought of your luscious...makes me want to...”
Now that you’ve gotten the hang of it, spend some time constructing your own messages. Be sappy. Be provocative. Or just be downright graphic. The choice is yours. Worst case scenario? Your hearts will race. You’ll feel sick. You’ll feel fabulous. You’ll feel it all at the same time. In this case, though, it’s nothing to worry about. You’re just falling in love with each other again – and that’s exactly what you set out to accomplish in the first place.
Since infatuation is infectious, the least amount of effort normally brings it back into play. If you’ve let things slip for a while, though, it may need some prodding – just a little something to help it along. And that’s where the spell below comes in.
2 pink candles
Metal pan or other fireproof dish
Long handled grill lighter [A cigarette lighter or fireplace
matches work well in a pinch]
Pen or pencil
Wait for a Friday when the Moon is waxing or full. Then use the pen or pencil to inscribe your name on one candle and your mate’s on the other. Anoint the candles and place them side by side in the pan with the names facing toward you. Run the flame of the lighter along the inner sides of the candles to melt some of the wax and quickly push them together. (The candles should now be stuck to each other as one.)
Using the pencil and being careful not to dislodge the candles, draw a half-heart around one name and a half-heart around the other. (When facing the candles, this will appear as if one heart encases both names.)
Light the wicks and visualize how things were for the two of you at the beginning of the relationship. Remember how you felt when you saw each other. Remember how your hearts nearly leapt from your chests. Then bring that feeling into present day. See it happening all over again. Feel the feeling – only with more strength and power than it ever held before – and chant:
Infatuation come to play
Come at once and come to stay
Weave your magic strong and well
Enchant us with your ancient spell
So that we feel what we once felt
As if our very hearts would melt
When the other passed in view
Do now what I ask of you
Let the candles burn down completely, then toss any left-over wax into a running body of water.
* * * * *
[Excerpted from Enchantments of the Heart by Dorothy Morrison; published 2002 by New Page Books, FranklinLakes, NJ]
 If you have trouble finding particular genres, try the magnetic poetry website at www.magneticpoetry.com.