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If I were to ask the question “What is love?”  there would be a myriad of answers—and depending on one’s love language, they would all be correct.  When I asked myself the aforementioned question my initial response was, “Love is hard!”

Yet one may describe love, especially around Valentine’s Day, as  warm, fuzzy, intoxicating and magical.  Validating the warm fuzzies are the cards, flowers and chocolates many will receive on Valentine’s Day.  Yet, many romantic relationships are doomed to failure.  According to statistics there are nearly 24,000 divorces in the United States every day.

If you follow my columns,  you know I’ve been lucky — or some would say unlucky — in love. After being widowed twice, I had a six-year relationship that unceremoniously ended when an undetected grenade detonated. In retrospect, perhaps that grenade was there all along.  Yup, love is hard.

The love between romantic partners is complex to say the least.  There are a myriad of reasons why what we feel as “forever love” is short-lived. Improving or maintaining a relationship requires that we pay attention to our partners. 

Folks do not communicate their feelings. After the warm fuzzies morph into a cold shower of reality, some are left stunned.  Reality can be  scary! Relationships require effort and motivation. Sometimes a relationship hits the critical “should I stay or should I go” juncture;  more detrimental is the malaise of a cruise control relationship. Boring! 

For some, the head-spinning,  falling-in-love sensations is considered love. That feeling is the effect of a cocktail of feel-good hormones.  Some folks are addicted to that sensation and seek it by going  from lover to lover.  Unlike scotch, these  feel-good cocktails have a short shelf life.   

Love and infatuation are both intense emotions and are often confused.  The experts say that when one is infatuated they are carried away by unreasoning passion or love—addictive love.  Infatuation occurs in the beginning of most relationships when sexual attraction is central. A word to the wise:  Infatuation usually carries high-risk choices and reckless abandonment of one’s moral values.  Enduring love requires genuine commitment to another. Betrayal is not in the equation. 

Most couples have their share of fights.  Poor conflict resolution results in a detrimental trio:  fight, flight or freeze. Couples may fight, stay mad, hold grudges. They fail to address important issues by sweeping them under the rug.  With no resolution, they  may freeze emotionally. Typically one goes through the motions on the outside but stops caring on the inside.  Successful couples have the capacity  to solve problems. They  have the ability to learn and grow through interpersonal difficulties.

The ability to see flaws in your partner, without calling it quits, is essential to a healthy relationship. Not red flags, but flaws—and we all have them.  We expect our partner to read our minds when they don’t meet our expectations. “She/he should have known” is a typical expectation.  Really? When did mind-reading become a prerequisite for a stable relationship?

Patience and mutual respect are paramount even during the dry times.  Most relationships go through a dry phase one or more times.  During these spells, intimacy, both physical and emotional, suffer.  You may even dislike your partner.  This could be because they have done something that irritates or infuriates you.  Research has shown that arguments and fights are common in healthy relationships. Remember,  when there are no differences, there is indifference.

There are no guarantees in love. Couples can easily grow apart over time, especially when each person has responsibilities and commitments that pull them in different directions. These outside forces can start to diverge on their path, often to the point that they feel estranged from one another. 

The little idiosyncrasies that that may be charming in the beginning can drive us up the wall at times later on. Scientists have proven there is a thin line between love and hate. The same chemistry involves both emotions. Huh? I leave that to the scientists to explain.

Love can make us vulnerable and can be emotionally exhausting, especially if your partner is emotionally unavailable.  Love cannot lie dormant; things will not fall into place without action. Love is an action word; it is not something you can just say; it something that you need to do. 

My personal experience has shown me that communication is paramount. Communication builds trust and honesty. It also decreases the needless arguments which are normal in a healthy relationship. In short:  When one does not express their feelings and shuts down, it can break a relationship.

You may be thinking that this gal is down on love because of her history. Quite the contrary.  I live in the now but have learned from the past. I took a giant leap of faith and am coupled with a great guy. Most folks, if they are honest, desire a secure connection with someone we love. 

Yes, love is hard. However, a reliable source says: ”And now this remains: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

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