Reality check on love

Love is not about running around trees and singing songs. There's more to "learn" and "unlearn" about love

CoupleLove is often equated with romance. Riding into sunsets, knights in shining armour, being together eternally, soul mates, reading each others' thoughts - all these themes are woven into blockbuster movies and chartbusting songs, and marketed persuasively to pass off as the "real" thing.

So what is love? Here's bursting some myths about love and separating what can be a figment of the imagination from its bona fide terra firma status.

Myth 1: Love is being in love

Reality check: "Being" in love is a feeling, an emotion.

Though it's nice to feel being up there in the clouds, viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses, it's best to remember that feelings, like clouds, are passing phases. The winds of change can sway them anywhere. Relationships, especially long-term, cannot be based on something ephemeral. Of course, feelings are important, but what one does with them that is more vital. Love is a verb, not a noun. Love is doing, not being.

Sure, love is a feeling, but it is also commitment, action and accountability and the ability to give to the relationship.

Myth 2: Love happens at first sight

Reality check: Love takes time - the first sight is just an attraction.

Active love comes from knowing the other person, accepting not just the attractive side, but also the shortcomings. Research indicates that the better you know and accept the other person, the stronger and happier your relationship will be.

Myth 3: Love will take care of everything

Reality check: Fact is, it won't and it can't.

That's simply because love is not enough to make a relationship work; compatibility and sharing values is important. Having similar interests, yet giving space to the other individual; supporting each others' goals yet not interfering in their pursuit; being realistic in the expectations we have from each other - are all ingredients of "healthy" love.

Myth 4: Love will meet all my needs

Reality check: Another person can never meet all your needs.

In fact, chances are that if you feel emotionally empty and get into a relationship to "fill" yourself up, it will be the road to disaster. Emotionally healthy individuals have better, more satisfying relationships. Another person can complement you, not complete you. This is your responsibility and you need to look at different avenues to fulfil your needs and interests. You have to be proactive about your needs, not have unfair and unrealistic expectations from your partner to meet them.

Myth 5: True love leads to marriage

Reality check: You might be in love with several people at different points of your life.

That's a part of growing up and changing, and is all a part of the big romantic theme. But marriage is a practical commitment. In fact, if you marry the person you truly are in love with, without considering the practical implications of your choice, Mr or Ms Right can morph overnight into Mr or Ms Wrong! It is important to separate the feeling of romantic love from committed love. The former is part of growing up, the latter a sign of maturity.

Myth 6: You don't have to work on real love, it just happens

Reality check: The biggest and most pervasive love myth, this assumes that love is something that once set into motion, will carry the two of you along on its own stream, paving the way for sunshine and rainbows, steering the course to an idyllic haven where things are taken care of automatically.

Not so, warn marriage counsellors ad nauseam. Love needs work— sustained, committed, caring work. In fact, love is working towards a happy life together. Listening deeply to one another, taking action on issues that are important to both of you, communicating with the aim of understanding each other's point of view, respecting differences, arguing constructively — all are a part of working on love. It means taking responsibility for the feeling that you began with and working towards keeping it alive.

Myth 7: Loving is greater than just liking

Real love begins with "like". In order to love another, you must essentially like the other person. Otherwise, once that heady, woozy feeling in the heart evaporates, you become face to face with a stranger.

When you "like", you are interested in knowing about the other person, not just in what he or she makes you feel. You are involved in their life at a caring, respectful and responsible level, which fosters intimacy and communication, the cornerstones of mature love.

Myth 8: Love means being understood without saying a word

Reality check: Sounds nice on greeting cards, but the role of effective communication cannot be stressed enough in a relationship. It is the engine that drives and the oil that lubricates the smooth running of a relationship.

Unsaid, unspoken things are best left to the realm of mushy movies and paperbacks, where a glance is supposed to convey a thousand sentiments.

In reality, speak up. About your needs, what's bothering you and just what is it that you want. Don't expect your partner to be a mind reader. Are you?

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