There is nothing like falling in love. Your whole self, body, heart, and mind, yearns for the person you are in love with. You want to be with them all the time, you wonder what they’re doing or what they’re thinking when you are not around them, and the whole world just seems like a better place. There’s only one problem.
You can’t, and won’t, be falling in love forever. At some point, if you want to keep the relationship, you have to go from falling in love to being in love. If you’re already at that point, you might want to read The Secret Killer Of Relationships or The Very SImple Secret To A Happy Marriage.
Falling In Love
Falling in love is the beginning (and can sometimes re-occur later, but I’ll get to that)… it’s that place where the other person, your significant other, can do no wrong. Everything about them is beautiful, fascinating, and you can’t get enough of them. Any time your focus is not fully on something specific, your thoughts drift to the newly significant other in your life.
At this point, everything is new… every day together brings new revelations, new learning, which make you feel like you’re getting more and more “inside” the other person. You let each other in deeper than the surface, and there is always a constant feeling of growing closer, an observable closing of the mental and emotional distance between the two of you.
That is a huge part of the greatness of falling in love… getting closer at a visible rate. It’s also part of why it can’t last forever. Eventually you are close enough that even as you grow closer, it’s not as visible, and so it feels like you have stalled, or even like you are growing apart. When you are (bad, but understandable, analogy coming up) a mile apart, and you get 10% closer, that’s a huge distance. When you are a foot apart, and you get 10% closer… that’s a lot harder to see.
So does this mean that you have reached that point where you love each other, but you are no longer “in” love?
No… when you are growing closer at a very visible rate, that’s the “falling” part of falling in love. When you are already close, and moving closer by inches (or even fractions of an inch, eventually), that’s when it changes to being in love. It doesn’t mean you’re no longer in love, it just means that seeing results of your efforts, where you see the relationship grow, is not as easy, and so you need to find other sources of motivation as well.
Being In Love
Being in love is where it starts taking conscious involvement to keep the “in love” part without the falling. Now, instead of falling in love, you need to start being in love. You will have to go out of your way to keep yourself in your partner’s thoughts (and make sure that they stay in yours!). If you don’t go out of your way, it won’t mean anything.
What does it mean to “go out of your way”? Going out of your way can mean different things to different people, but the important thing is that you are devoting the two things that you can’t possibly acquire more of to them. What two things? Time and attention… you can’t get more time and you have only a limited amount of attention to invest during the time you do have. Giving time and attention, therefore, is the universally recognized way to convey someone’s (or something’s) importance to you.
When you are falling in love, and everything is new, it’s easy to devote an enormous amount of attention (and with it time) to your significant other. New things always have a draw on our attention… it’s part of being human, and part of our survival instinct (you have to determine whether or not something new is a threat, after all). That’s why it’s also easier to stick with a new diet, or a new workout, or why you may find you love a new dish or a new restaurant. Once something (or in our case, someone) become familiar, however, it requires a conscious decision to dedicate mental energy (attention) to that thing (or, as I said, person).
When you combine that advantage of newness drawing our attention with the visibly growing closeness of the relationship, it makes giving more attention to the relationship a no-brainer. It doesn’t require much in the way of conscious effort, because not only is your subconscious driving you to make sure this “new” thing is not a threat, but the rewards are blindingly obvious.
Once you get to the point of obviously diminishing returns, however, you start to notice that the same amount of effort doesn’t move you the same amount closer. At the same time, the subconscious drive to categorize anything new as “threat” or “non-threat” fades away, leaving you with much less “drive” to devote attention to the relationship. Other things start to claim your attention, drawing it away from your significant other.
I mentioned earlier that your partner needs you to give two things in order to keep being in love, as opposed to just loving each other (the difference between soul mates and good friends). One was time, the other attention. Out of the two of these, time is the easiest to give, attention the most important.
Attention Is Money
Despite the phrase above, attention is far more important than money. Attention is the currency by which you show how much you value something. You’ve heard the saying “time is money” but time without attention means nothing. Whatever it is that you do, it’s highly unlikely that they truly pay you for your time… they really pay for your attention across time. They pay you to write, to watch a security monitor, to serve burgers… whatever it is, they may pay you for the hours you do it, but if you don’t “do it”, whatever it is, you don’t get paid.
This applies to relationships, too. Giving time without attention is sort of like leaving a seventeen cent tip at a restaurant… it lets the other person know that you didn’t forget, you just didn’t think they were worthy of more. It’s insulting, whether done consciously, as with the tip, or subconsciously, as with spending time with your significant other without giving them your full attention.
When you give someone time, without attention, you are telling them that they are low on your priority list. It doesn’t matter whether you intend for them to be or not… you are showing them, with your actions, that they are. You can show someone that they have your attention in many ways… communication is an extremely important one, but there is also buying them something (probably the least effective way), making them something (the more it reflects the fact that it is something YOU created, the better), or doing something with them (ie going out to dinner and/or a movie).
All of the ways listed above can show your attention, but if you don’t show your mental involvement, show that you were thinking of them specifically, the value drops. For instance, when you buy something for your significant other, if you don’t take the time to buy something that they specifically like (for instance buying roses when your wife prefers tulips), it loses some of its value… that doesn’t mean it has no value, just less. The same goes for making them something… if you don’t show that you were thinking about them when you made it, it loses some value. If you do something with them, and keep taking phone calls, it takes away some of the value.
Communication is a special case. By the very act of communicating, you are giving them some fraction of your attention. Different forms of communication show different amounts of attention, and also show how much of your attention the other person has to different degrees. Email, for instance, doesn’t require much attention, or show how much attention the other person has, unless it’s a long and involved email, which could STILL have been written across time, and thus be less of your attention. Instant messaging, on the other hand, still doesn’t require a lot of attention, but shows how much of your attention the other person has a little better, because they can see how long you take to respond. Voice communication (ie a phone call) is better yet, as it requires more attention, and they can hear in your voice how much of your attention they have. An in-person meeting provides them with the most attention, and lets them read your body language as well to determine how much of your current attention they have.
What it boils down to, then, is that the difference between falling in love and being in love is that you can’t fall forever. Eventually you have to move from falling in love to being in love, from the easy part to the part which requires your conscious effort. It IS worth that effort, though… being in love still moves you closer, and still builds your relationship and love higher. It just exchanges speed for depth… it goes back and fills in all the little chinks that falling in love passed over.
You can also fall in love all over again. This usually happens when you let your partner slide from your attention for too long, and then something wakes you up to that fact. All of a sudden what was old and familiar is new and different. You close the gap that opened up between you, and now have that momentum to keep you going once you move back to being in love once again.
Again, falling in love is absolutely wonderful. It is an amazing experience, and one you will likely always remember. Being in love, though, has depth and duration that falling in love is not capable of producing.
Falling in love gets you to the starting line. Being in love is the rest of the race. And when you win at being in love, you win big.