"What happens to the love after you get married?" is the most common question asked by divorcees, according to Dr. Gary Chapman, marriage counselor and author of The Five Love Languages. Yet, with all the books, magazines and practical help available, he asks, "why is it so few couples seem to have found the secret to keeping love alive after the wedding?"

The answer, he proposes, is because people speak different love languages, just like they speak different linguistic languages. Your love language and that of your spouse may be as different as Chinese and English, he says. Therefore, if we're going to be effective communicators of love, we have to be able to identify our own love language and be willing to learn our partner's. According to Dr. Chapman, "Seldom do a husband and wife have the same love language. So, while we tend to speak in our own primary love language, we get confused when our spouse doesn't get the message.

Love doesn't have to disappear after marriage (or some other form of commitment) but to be kept alive, it requires that we put forth the effort to learn a secondary love language. And learning your spouse's love language has nothing to do with being "in love." Let's look at "falling in love" for a minute. What exactly does that phrase mean?

At its zenith, being "in love" is euphoric, there's no doubt about it. We can't get the other person out of our mind. Our loins ached for them. We wake up in the morning wanting to roll over and throw our arms around them. If they're not there, we despair. When we're together, we don't like the thought of being apart. When we kiss, our blood seems to flow together. We're about as close as we can get to ecstasy. We delude ourselves that our beloved is perfect. And therein lies our downfall, and ultimate heartbreak. Chances are we won't even think to ask our friends and family about the object of our affection for fear of hearing the truth.

Today's entertainment, more than ever before, perpetuates the myth of living happily ever after, so it's no wonder we believe our feeling of being in love will last forever. Even if we can intellectually recognize that eventually we'll have differences. Too often, that kind of rationalization is met with the irrational belief that we'll discuss our differences openly, make concessions and blissfully come to agreement.

After many years of long-range studies of the "in love" phenomenon, psychologist Dr. Dorothy Tennov concluded that the average lifespan of a romantic obsession is two years. Most of today's divorcees admit the thought of terminating their relationship coincides with that same term. Welcome to the real world of marriage, where hairs are always in the sink, shoes don't walk to the closet, coats don't like hangers, a look can hurt and a word can crush. Alas, the "in love" experience was but an illusion.

So, what cause the problem? Faulty information, in the form of the opinion that the "in love" obsession would last forever. Think about it - if you obsessed over one thing in your business, if you lost interest in other pursuits because of that obsession, the shock wave you created could easily ruin you. If you're a college student, your grades could easily plummet. The important thing to recognize is that the euphoria of being "in love" creates the false impression that we're experiencing an intimate relationship. That kind of thinking is fanciful, unrealistic and egocentric. And it leads only to falling out of love.

Perhaps the in-love experience shouldn't be called that at all. Since it's not an act of will, or a conscious choice, we can't just make it happen. Since it's effortless, and requires little discipline or conscious effort, perhaps it's as nothing to us. Just as the instinct of animals (and human beings are animals) drives them to build a nest or den and procreate, perhaps the instinctual nature of the "in love" experience drives us to do outlandish and unnatural things for and to each other. On top of that, someone who is "in love" is generally not interested in genuinely fostering the personal growth of the other, according to psychologists. Our primary motive for claiming to be "in love" derives from our desire to terminate loneliness, or ensure that result through marriage.

Nor does the "in love" experience focus on the growth of either person in the relationship. It simply provides a sense of having arrived - we need go no further. So, if falling in love isn't real love, what is it? In purely animalistic terms, it's a genetically-determined instinct to mate. Whether or not you agree with that statement, if you've fallen in and out of love, you have to agree the experience had a lot to do with procreation, and when the wave of emotion subsided, as it ultimately did, you catch yourself wondering why you did what you did.

Being "in love" is undoubtedly a high. But to transform that feeling into real love, you have to unite reason with emotion, and that involves an act of will and discipline, and the honest recognition of the need for personal growth and mutual support. Our most basic emotional need is not to "fall in love", but rather to be genuinely loved, and that means putting forth the effort to benefit our partner, to enrich their life by our effort, and to gain satisfaction from knowing we've done that. Such action does not, as Dr. Chapman writes, "require the euphoria of the 'in love' experience." To the contrary, "true love cannot begin until the 'in love' experience has run its course. That should be good news to couples who feel they've lost that "in love" feeling. Love is a choice, an attitude, a way of thinking. The person who chooses that definition chooses to find appropriate ways to express it. And that brings us back to your love language.

Author's Bio: 

he Publisher of HomeBizNews, Lorne Peasland, is a former advertising agency owner and national media consultant, the founder and past-president of the Canadian Home & Micro Business Federation, and author of "Influencing Public Opinion - A Communications Primer For Political Candidates, Community Activists, and Special Interest Group Spokespeople" (ISBN 0-9697364-0-1). He is a home-based marketing consultant, writer and speaker, and can be contacted through either of his web pages at http://www.accept.ca/homebiznews/lorne.html or
http://www.accept.ca/homebiznews/pms2.html, via e-mail at
lorne@pacificcoast.net., or by phone at 250-708-0250.