Many people fall in love with someone who will love them rather than to give love to someone else. “I love you” often means “I feel good that you love me.” In the Passionate Fantasy phase at the beginning of a relationship, it doesn’t seem to matter what the components of loving are, because you are both usually getting enough warm attention from each other. You seem to be able to read each other's mind. You may be surprised that often agree about things that you usually see differently. You assume the other will always be thoughtful, kind, happy and agreeable. You feel ecstatic and wonderful.
As the honeymoon phase winds down and you move into the Reality phase of the relationship, your flaws and differences emerge. No longer are all of your expectations being met. Power struggles begin. You may feel disillusioned, resentful and bitter when the other person is not as accommodating as were before. Playfulness is replaced with arguing and withholding love. You may find yourself thinking “if you loved me, you’d agree with me like you used to.” You long for the relationship that you had before. Without realizing that you can’t recreate the fantasy you had, you may conclude that the person changed and that you don’t love them anymore.
Some couples break up at this point. Others move on into the Compassionate phase of the relationship. They realize that sustainable loving includes relinquishing the expectation that you will get everything you want and embracing the importance of considering the other person’s desires in decision making. You make room for individual differences and become willing to negotiate. You focus on giving and nurturing rather than receiving and complaining. You respectfully validate each other and creatively find resolutions that will work for both of you. As you appreciate the other and are grateful that they appreciate you, you can create an enduring and satisfying relationship.
To learn more about the developmental stages of relationships, read the first article under “Helpful Articles” which is entitled, “Falling and Staying in Love.”