This is a TED talk worth watching. Alexandra Redcay breaks down the process of falling in love and a common trap we fall prey to when picking a spouse. The most important takeaway is this: we fall in love very fast (within 3 weeks of dating). Obviously, 3 weeks is not enough time to know someone in any capacity. Being in love is an extremely powerful emotion and bond. Once we fall in love, a lot of time has to pass before we see that person for who they really are. Many times this new love is not someone who is compatible with us, nor someone we have much in common with. Our close friends and families often see this. When they point red flags out to us, we become defensive and render excuses, “You don’t know him the way I do- he’s different when it’s just the two of us.”
Sometimes, as the relationship unfolds and the initial passion dwindles, we see the red flags for ourselves, and the relationship ends. I think most of us know what it’s like to reflect on ex-partners and spouses and think- What was I thinking? They were so wrong for me. Other times, we don’t see (or refuse to see) the red flags, go full steam ahead, and marry the person. We lose precious years of our lives investing in a relationship that was never going to work out, with someone we were never compatible. When the relationship inevitably ends, our loved ones bite their tongues thinking, I knew the whole time he/she wasn’t right for you, but you just wouldn’t listen.
I have talked with many people who fell into this trap. Plus, I personally have dated “red flag” guys, all the while rebutting my loved ones’ objections. Most of us have lived what Redcay addresses, but few of us mindfully date with the wisdom she shares in mind. I certainly didn’t have this knowledge when I was single. True to her model, I fell in love with Bob within 3 weeks from the time we met. While my passionate and adoring feelings were sincere, I didn’t actually know him. Luckily, he is a wonderful man, but my goodness, he could have been anybody. I was head over heels in love with a basic stranger! Our hearts go all in on the first hand. We are hooked by week 3 of dating.
Okay, so let’s delve deeper. Let’s look at one of our biggest myths when it comes to love and relationships.
We are a culture of hopeless romantics. “Love conquers all.” “All you need is love.” “Love will find a way.” Falling madly in love with someone is the ultimate thrill and achievement in our culture, epitomized by the saying, “They’re THE ONE!” We have an entire genre of movies dedicated to romantic comedies. We raise our children on Disney movies that instill an utterly unrealistic and over-the-top “magic carpet ride” type of love. We are steeped in a culture that espouses that as long as you’re in love, the rest will sort itself out. Don’t worry about the logistics, love is all you need to make a relationship work. One day you’ll stumble upon the person you’ve been waiting your whole life to meet, you’ll fall in love, and live happily ever after. In our culture, happiness is synonymous with finding true love.
If you’re still unconvinced, consider this hypothetical. Ask any American bride or groom on their wedding day why they are getting married and why their marriage will last. Do you think their answer will be, “Because we have realistic expectations, we practice constructive communication, and are willing to put in the work?” Ha ha, NO! Ask that groom why things are going to work out with his blushing bride, and I guarantee he’ll answer, “Because I loveee her.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of love, romance, and affection. I’ll never escape my Disney upbringing (nor do I want to). But, I’m not a fan of the pervasive myth that if you’re in love with someone, your relationship is real, it’s worth fighting for, and it’ll last until the end of time. Um…NO. Love is definitely not enough. Feeling in love is a temporary emotion that is destined to evolve into a deep, companionship type of love. Plus, as already addressed, being sincerely in love with someone does not mean you’re compatible with them. You’re in love after 3 weeks!
Now let’s talk about another prevalent reality in our culture: divorce. Roughly 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Ouch, really consider that. Half of all marriages fail and second marriages are even more likely to fail. If you plan on getting married one day, these are some terrible odds.
What is going on? How are we a culture of both hopeless romantics strung out on Disney princesses AND a culture rooted in divorce and fleeting relationships? I mean, it’s fine if we believed in short-term true love, but that isn’t the case. We don’t think ah yes, Cinderella found her Prince Charming. They are madly in love. Their relationship will make a sensible three year courtship. As I stated earlier, we believe love to reign supreme. It’s not a reason to marry someone, it’s the reason. We believe love sustains marriages, not pragmatism.
Here’s something our culture needs to embrace. Love IS beautiful, sacred, incredible, and worth celebrating. Yet, it is not the be all end all, and being in love with someone doesn’t guarantee your relationship will last. Loving somebody doesn’t guarantee that you’re compatible with them. Feeling in love is wild and thrilling, but it’s not reason enough to say “I do.”
Watch the TED talk and heed her dating advice, so you don’t fall into the trap of committing yourself to the wrong person. Date a substantial amount of time before getting married. You need time to spot any red flags before walking down the aisle, and you can’t do that without dating a sufficient amount of time.
This topic means a great deal to me. I know too many people who have lost years of their lives investing in a relationship that was never going to work out. Members of my family have gotten divorced because they were too in love on their wedding day to see the red flags obvious to others. They bought into our cultural myth that love is all you need.
Believe in love, but also believe in its power. You fall in love within 3 weeks of dating- way before you know who a person is. Honor love by not believing in it blindly.
Thanks to Alexandra Redcay for her excellent research and TED talk- keep it up!
Need dating advice or have a relationship question? Write your story and question in the comments.