The Secret To Finding True Love And Holding On To It

Annie Gurton

Relationship Therapist

So, you’ve been on Tinder, RSVP, or e-Harmony, and you’ve liked the look of someone. You’ve had a couple of dates, and you really, really like him. In fact, he’s almost too good to be true. He’s not only attractive but he ticks lots of other boxes – similar interests, backgrounds, educational level and so forth. He’s charming and also appears to be sincere, and the values he talks about are similar to your own. He makes you laugh and, best of all, he seems to find you funny and attractive too. How should you proceed?

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It helps a lot to understand the underlying process that has led you both to this point. By knowing about the psychology of finding true love, you can be empowered to make the best decisions to give the relationships legs and to ensure that it starts off healthy and stays that way.

It is amazing how it happens. We meet so many people all day: there are people in shops, on transport and in the street – and yet we feel attracted to so very few. In a whole lifetime there are often only two or three who really make our hearts sing and we fall in love. For some people, it never happens. What is it about those rare few that we really connect with, want to live with and have children with, and promise never to leave until death do you part. Whats that all about ?

An American couples counsellor, Harville Hendrix, explains that we look for someone who has the same ‘woundings’ that we do. Even if your childhood has every appearance of being perfect and ideal, there will have been some ‘damage’ caused – often inadvertently, sometimes catastrophically – by your caregivers. We are all wounded – no-one survives childhood without experiencing some kind of pain. That’s because when we are born we all expect our caregivers to be there for us and respond to our every request, and to meet our needs indefinitely. It just doesn’t happen, and we learn to adapt and survive.

We are all looking to pair-up with someone. Its part of our innate animal programming to bond with an intimate other. If it doesn’t happen, then we form other friendships which can suffice, but in an ideal world everyone would have a ‘mate’.

The fact that both of you were on an internet dating site means that you are both reaching out to connect with someone. When we see a person that we find attractive, and when we fall in love, it is because we unconsciously recognise that the other has similar emotional woundings, probably suffered at the same developmental stage.   How often do you hear someone say that their partner is just like their mother or father? I hear it a lot in the therapy room, and its because its true: we do pair up with someone who reminds us, consciously and unconsciously, of our primary caregivers.

So, having met someone who you find extremely attractive means that you have met a person who is damaged in the same way and at the same stage as you, and that this relationship is where you can both heal those wounds and grow as individuals.

All relationships go through the same stages (1. initial romantic phase of intense love with oblivion to flaws and highly emotional, 2. followed by a conflict phase when the scales drop from our eyes and reality sets in 3. followed by an intense deepening to real love). There is often an ebbing and flowing of intensity of emotion, as one then the other feels connection then loss. It is in the middle stage, the conflict stage, that our woundings appear as issues and frustrations between the couple. And it is within the relationship that we heal and grow. Many people end relationships at the same point, only to start another that is just the same.

At the early stages of a relationship it is not hard to ‘blow’ it. New relationships are often fairly fragile, and if you think you have met Mr Right, it is important to strike the right balance of revealing, enticing, bonding, letting go and distancing. That’s because in all relationships we look for a balance of security, privacy and independence, and the challenge is how to achieve those in a balance which suits you both.

Often new relationships are ruined before they start by mis-understandings. One or the other appears too ‘needy’ when all they wanted was to make secure contact, or someone feels stifled and wants to be private or independent, and the other mis-read the signs and thinks they’re not serious. At this stage of a relationship it is like a dance, and its easy to get it wrong. But there are a few guidelines we can offer:

First, its good to set boundaries. Be clear what your expectations and hopes are (of a casual relationship, or a long term commitment). Its OK to state how you see the relationship unfolding, for example, whether you want to see each other a couple of times a week or more. Its OK to want to keep your own place, to have a couple of nights off each week to see your friends, in fact thats all healthy.   It good to be clear about whether fidelity is important to you, and how much privacy you need. Its really best to be honest, even if your views change later. If the match is good, the other will respect you for being straight forward.

Second, be true to yourself. It is tempting, when you meet someone new who you feel is a good match, to try and do and be all the things you think he wants. If he is very enthusiastic you can feel flattered and find yourself doing and saying things before you are ready. You can find yourself adopting new hobbies and new ideas – this is a normal part of ‘rapport building’ where we do try and find a good fit, but if you find yourself distorting who you really are in order to fit the other, take a long cool look at what you are doing.   Keep hold of your true self and stay grounded.

Third, take it slowly. It takes time for us to process emotions, and you are more likely to build a relationship that will stand the test of time if you invest in being cautious at the beginning. Lay out your stall of the most important things for you, but keep things back as well. If the other person is trying to please you, they will latch onto all of your ideas and activities and claim them.   Although there may be a strong attraction it is impossible to properly know someone, and therefore to properly love them, within a few weeks or even months. It takes time to really understand someone, and too much haste can lead to many false expectations and ideas.

Lastly, remember that, underneath all the fine words and the posturing, what you and your new friend are looking for is that combination of security and privacy. If you can offer those two things in the right amounts, at the right time, the relationship may stand a chance of lasting.


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