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The Honeymoon is Over … Now what?

Oceanside News, Thursday February 17, 2011           Falling in love is often referred to as the honeymoon stage in a relationship. However, as most of us know, this stage does not last forever. 

During the falling in love stage we often daydream about how much better life will be with our new partner. One may even feel that, “I’ve known this person all my life.” And, unconsciously you have. We do not know the total picture of the other person and this void is filled with hoped-for qualities, traits we wish we had or that unconsciously remind us of our parents. We end up creating an ideal image of our partner that is more about fulfilling our needs than about accepting our partner’s traits and who they truly are. 

The hopes and expectations that our partner will fulfill these unattainable needs eventually fades. We see their flaws and their limitations, and they see ours. Off the pedestal we come. What decides the outcome of the relationship at this turning point? 

If the falling in love stage was more about getting one’s needs met, being cared for and experiencing euphoric feelings, then the relationship most likely ends. If during the falling in love stage friendship, compassion and commitment accompanied the romance, then the relationship moves to compassionate love. 

If romantic love is the amphetamine stage, then compassionate love is the endorphin stage. The key endorphin, oxytocin, resembles the opiates heroin and morphine and its presence in the body decreases pain, producing feelings of well-being. It is released to promote bonding between mothers and children and between partners so they work together.

When we are in compassionate love we experience content attachment. This brings pleasurable feelings of relaxation and rightness, and acts as an internal reward for all bonding behaviors – not just with our mate. This loving feeling can occur even when one is not in a long-term relationship. 

Endorphins are also released during extended amounts of exercise, while eating spicy food, when earlobes, lips and noses are touched, as well as during cuddling. Oxytocin levels rise during long hugs with friends or family, while harmoniously dancing, through warm feelings of rapport, partaking in prayer or other spiritual activity, and even while imagining these activities. In this way, we can meet the need of feeling connected without necessarily being in an intimate relationship. 

Carl Jung believed that our unfulfilled needs and missing qualities are met not by searching outwardly, but are found within. When each partner takes personal responsibility for fulfilling their own needs this relieves the other partner of this responsibility. When the roles we wish partners to be are removed this allows both people to be who they truly are. This is the gift of true compassionate love. 

Oh, yes, back to Charles. It appears that he and Camilla are in compassionate love.

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.