The Art of Falling in Love
THE PATH TO LOVE
“No one who knows them believes that this marriage can make it. I am not exaggerating. No one.”
My orthodontist continued adjusting my latter-life braces while explaining all he knew about his friend’s marriage. Their story matched so many others. Names and locales differed, but the basics remained the same. She had an affair. He retaliated with an affair of his own. Hers was brief, accompanied by intense guilt and a strong desire to restore her marriage. His was not. It evolved from a vengeful fling to an intense craving to be with his new paramour for the rest of his life.
“I can help. I’d say the odds are three out of four that I can help them fall in love again.”
That’s what I wanted to say, but his hands were in my mouth. When he finally gave me a rest, I spoke the words with a quiet confidence born of experience with thousands of couples. My orthodontist’s reaction was not nearly as confident, but he was intrigued enough that he asked me to explain.
I told him about the LovePath. What it is. How it works for people who are single or married. Why it can change the course of lives, even when that seems impossible. I concluded by asking him to use his influence to get his friends to come to a Marriage Helper weekend
workshop, sessions geared specifically for couples in crisis. I promised him that I would make a personal appearance to present the section on the LovePath and to meet his friends. I told him that it made no difference if they wanted to save the marriage or not; if they attended the workshop, we still had a 75 percent chance of saving the marriage, even if one or both wanted the marriage over. “Put all the pressure you can on them. Just get them there.”
In that weekend, the husband began to understand love as he never had before. He gained insight into himself and where his current path was taking him. He discovered a different path altogether, and for the first time in years had a glimpse of what true love could be.
“I am more in love with my wife than I ever thought possible. We will love each other more every day as long as we live.”
The workshop did not reduce the intense passion he felt for his lover, but it opened the door for a rather remarkable life change. Because he lived near me, I agreed to meet with him weekly as he worked through understanding himself, his emotions, and his future. Slowly, he started on the LovePath, but with his wife now rather than with the other woman.
His wife focused on the LovePath as well, doing what we taught to make love grow.
How did it turn out? If you ever see the ninety-minute DVD made to accompany this book, you will meet them on your TV screen. Not only did they follow the LovePath to fall deeply in love with each other, he now volunteers to help other couples do the same. As he said a few days before I wrote this chapter, “I am more in love with my wife than I ever thought possible. We will love each other more every day as long as we live.” She stood beside him, saying the same words, smiling.
They will be in love forever.
I CAN HELP YOU FALL IN LOVE
I help people fall in love.
Sometimes I help singles learn the path of love so that they can find and savor the love of their dreams. I help couples who crave more in their marriages to fall in love more deeply. I show the lonely, alienated, or hurt how to fall in love all over again when they have misplaced their love and cannot find it anymore.
I will show you how to have the love you want.
No, there is nothing magic or special about me. It’s just that I know love. As with most of us, I have learned through personal experiences—both good and bad—but I have also learned from social and medical science, which I study constantly. Most important, I have learned from working with tens of thousands of couples and guiding them successfully through a process that creates, deepens, or restores love.
This process is the LovePath.
THE MOST WONDERFUL RUMOR
If I were to ask several great philosophers to define the meaning of life, I imagine I would receive a variety of responses, from the religious to the philosophical. However, most of the answers, regardless of their complexity, would ultimately have something to do with that simplest of words, the idea that launched ten thousand pop songs and old movies, and the quest that every world religion ultimately embraces: love.
As human beings, we have needs that scientists can explain and quantify:
We need a breath of oxygen every couple of seconds.
We need water every few hours.
We need food every day, and we need shelter every night.
These are the simple physical requirements of survival. However, we need love and acceptance, too. Once those more basic survival needs are taken care of, we spend most of our lives searching to fulfill the great desire that satisfies the soul—the experience of love.
This thing we all want so badly doesn’t cost a dime, yet the pure form we seek is more precious than gold. I am speaking, of course, about what we might call “true love.” Because you are a human being, I believe you know exactly what I am talking about.
Of course, there is bad love. I imagine you could tell some stories about your own experiences with this. If bad love could be cashed in at the bank, we would all be very wealthy.
However, true love is another thing entirely. None of us wants to compromise on the quality of love that we get out of life. We want love that overpowers, that sweeps us off our feet.
So how do we get our hands on it?
Some people believe there is no such thing. They say that as long as people themselves cannot be true, there can be no true love. Sure, most of these cynics have fallen head-over-heels in love, just like everyone else. But as often as not, after love fails, people decide that maybe it was all an illusion, a hormonal hiccup, a biological itch that had to be scratched. A passing fancy after some fancy passes. Love comes, the skeptics say, and then it goes. It’s simply too good to last.
Others believe that love exists, but that it’s a mysterious force, a powerful, roaming emotion with a mind of its own. It is a viral infection of passion that we catch for a while only to lose. This thing called love, they claim, is no more within our control than an asteroid plummeting from outer space to flatten us on the sidewalk. Love is mercurial. After all, you didn’t hire Cupid, and neither did your mate. The little winged fellow flew out from behind a bush one day and fired a couple arrows your way, like in the cartoons. The trouble, according to this myth, is that the narcotic on the tip of those arrows is temporary. It wears off, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Ask some of the Hollywood stars who are regulars in the gossip
columns; the narcotic on some of their arrows apparently lasts no more than two or three weeks.
So there are those who say true love does not exist, and those who say true love does not endure.
But for some reason, those of us who have known love can’t believe the critics, can we? Because for all the bad love we’ve endured, observed, and heard about, rumors persist of something that is not bad love at all, of something real and wonderful. Just when we think love has gone completely out of style, we run into some stubborn instance of a sincere, genuine, and powerful love. Have you ever seen an elderly couple like that? Say, two octogenarians as fully devoted to each other as they were half a century ago? These two do not just tolerate each other but absolutely dote upon each other. No, I am not talking about the gentleness and politeness common to many seniors. I’m talking about a very obvious passion between two ordinary human beings—a passion that has endured and even grown stronger, year by year. A passion that keeps the life and light shining in their eyes even in their declining years.
But real love is not confined to some past generation. There are couples out there who enjoy a fabulous and fulfilling love relationship every day. Do they ever bicker? Absolutely. Do they act like love-struck teenagers who are obsessed with each other? Nope, we are not talking about hearts-and-flowers stuff, but mature, fully developed love that makes better human beings out of everyone who finds it.
Interested in learning about that kind of love, and the path to find it? Keep reading.
GETTING ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Years ago, I began to ask serious questions about this mysterious human experience of love. I had a life history that raised serious questions in my mind and spirit. I could see my life as a twisting path from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.
I wondered how I fell in love, how I fell out of it, and if I could ever fall in love again.
As a young man, my path intersected with that of another human being, Alice, who eventually became my wonderful wife. She was heading somewhere in life, based on her identity, her needs, and her goals. I was heading somewhere else, based on my own. We felt a mutual attraction, which is the first stage of the romantic experience. I bought into everything about Alice that I experienced with her—her identity, her needs, and her goals as I understood them. (Pay close attention to that last phrase; in time we will have much more to say about it.) Alice bought into the totality of what she encountered in Joe Beam. What we experienced is the event of mutual acceptance.
Then, after connecting in such a fulfilling way, the emotional narcotic kicked in. There were joy, excitement, and that thrill that comes like a great wave and washes two people toward the impulse to become life partners. This is attachment.
Why was love so wonderful to find, yet so hard to maintain?
All of these stages are standard. I could be telling the story of millions of people. But then comes the intersection of another factor: time. The passage of time changes nearly everything in its path. Including love.
With the passage of time, my passion began to waver. What, I wondered, happened to me? Why had the road in my journey grown so difficult? Why was love so wonderful to find, yet so hard to maintain? I loved loving Alice; she loved loving me. Why did the “drug” wear off? Had it all been an illusion? Could we get back what we had had? Did we even want to?
After fifteen years of marriage, I entered a period of my life that was painful beyond belief. Alice and I divorced. I lost my sense of who I was, wounding Alice and myself in the process. In time I found my way back onto the path—not just the path of being committed to a relationship but also the path of making that relationship really work. After three years of divorce, Alice and I married each other again. I am here
to tell you that it was not easy or neat to do so. It took personal growth, understanding, perseverance—and a few swift kicks to my rear, among other things.
Here’s what I discovered: There is a way. A starting point. A direction. A strategy to get to where we wanted to be. The power of love is not some mysterious extra-human emotional force whose mysteries and staying power are beyond our control. It is no simple itch that needs scratching. (Can you think of any “itch” that can wound us so deeply—or that feels so good when we scratch it right?)
No, what I discovered is a journey that I began to call the LovePath. Every single one of us has the opportunity to travel this road of self-understanding, interpersonal bonding, and ultimate gratification. Best of all, it’s a way of living that we intentionally and proactively choose, rather than passively gain and lose. On this path, anyone can find and experience love, relationships can be built to last, and relationships can be rescued if they fail. The LovePath is the most hopeful, exhilarating message I know, so I have devoted my life to telling people about it. Those who understand and follow it master the art of falling in love.
I work with thousands of people, both single and married, who are wanting to start the path, are somewhere on that path, or are stranded by the side of the road. In helping so many ordinary, struggling people understand the different stages of the LovePath, in helping them learn the art of falling and staying in love, I have seen miracles take place. We have been able to help lovers build relationships that work and keep working. On the part of the path that constitutes marriage, we have helped thousands upon thousands of couples reach levels of love they never expected to find. Perhaps even more fascinating, we have a record of accomplishment of saving three out of four crisis marriages—marriages on the brink of ending when the couple attended our Marriage Helper seminar.
I see the light go on in people’s eyes as they understand their journey for the first time. Moreover, I know they want to make it, that they’ll find the happiness they’ve always wanted.
This approach works; I have seen it. I have lived its success myself,
and I have the scars to prove what happens when we stray from the path. I have been interviewed on many radio and TV programs to share the keys of a healthy, thriving, and fulfilling relationship.
Now I look forward to sharing those keys with you.
WHAT IS LOVE?
Dr. Robert Sternberg, provost and senior vice president at Oklahoma State University, developed a model for understanding love that is found in Cupid’s Arrow, one of more than sixty books he has written. To understand love, Sternberg divides it into its three basic components: intimacy, commitment, and passion.
These are not the steps of the LovePath, but rather results of following the LovePath. They are what we seek in true love, and the LovePath brings them into existence for us. Before beginning the path, let’s explore what Dr. Sternberg and others have learned about the dimensions of the love we so want and need.
Intimacy is being transparent, building trust, and allowing another to look deep into your soul.
Intimacy is closeness, warmth, and the feeling of being bonded together. When men hear the word, they tend to think of it as something they do. Women, on the other hand, think of it as something they feel. Intimacy is truly knowing one another or, taking the very sound of the word, into-me-see. Intimacy is being transparent, building trust, and allowing another to look deep into your soul. Intimacy means giving respect, developing deep friendship, and connecting on a level that words never reach.
Without intimacy, true love cannot exist. Yet intimacy is one of the most difficult things to master because to achieve it, two individuals must allow their souls to go naked before each
other, ensuring that their love is for the real person—not a picture the person has painted. When one feels intimacy with another, she feels that the other is a friend in the deepest and most meaningful sense of the word. He is one who knows her as she truly is, not as she represents herself in different environments and situations. He sees her weaknesses, flaws, or failures yet continues to believe the best about her. He understands her deepest desires, her dreams, and her fanciful wishes—even those she would be embarrassed for anyone else to know.
He knows what she is afraid of, what she will fight for, and, perhaps, die for. He is aware of her consistencies and her inconsistencies, but never bothers to catalog either. He cares about what she wanted to be when she grew up and understands her feelings about what she became instead.
Her secrets are safe with him. Her love. Her total being. She never thinks of the possibility of his betrayal. She knows that he loves her deeply and completely, that he will never leave her, that he would search the earth over for her if she went missing.
If she were in danger, he would protect her. It would not matter whether she was right or wrong; he would never abandon her. He would sacrifice himself for her in battle, even if the battle was one she was wrong to have started.
He sees into her soul.
Soul mate, you say?
No. That phrase is too trite. A truly intimate relationship is one that exists in the deepest regions of our being, one that is essential to our innermost sense of worth and to our need for security in an insecure world. It is not just a friendship. It reaches the depths. It is oneness.
It is the purest form of love.
Not only do most of us crave this kind of love and relationship, we must have it to feel complete. It is the strongest need within us after our need for physical survival—and sometimes it transcends that.
Not long before writing this, I received another letter underscoring this universal desire for intimacy. This particular letter came from a young woman who had recently ended an affair and was struggling
to put her marriage back together. She intensely desired to earn her husband’s trust and fall in love with him all over again. No matter how much they worked at it, she was not developing the same level of emotional bridging with him as she had with her former paramour.
I’m not chasing some kind of sexual thrill. I don’t even care if I have sex at all! I need a man who will look inside me, know me, understand me, and love me. But the only way my husband knows how to communicate right now is to have sex. It’s like he’s reclaiming his territory or something. Like he’s trying to prove he can be better than . . . well, you know who I’m referring to. Why can’t he understand that the affair wasn’t about sex? It was about two people bonding and being totally open to each other. That’s what I want. It’s what I have to have.
But that is not happening! With my husband, I have to disguise, hide, and whitewash my true feelings. He just can’t accept me as I am. I do not want to continue in this marriage if to get his love I have to pretend to be somebody that I’m not. How am I supposed to fall in love again with this man . . . this man I hurt so deeply and I want to love so badly [sic] . . . if he either can’t or won’t love the real me?
Am I wrong to want this soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart level of love?
No, she is not wrong. Her unfaithfulness did not remove her need or her right to have emotional intimacy with her husband. If he chooses to continue his marriage with her, not only will he need to find healing for his own hurt, but he also will have to help heal the hurt in her that made her vulnerable to unfaithfulness. He must understand her deep-felt need for intimacy and open himself to achieving oneness with her. That level of intimacy goes much deeper than having sex.
Passion, too, is much more than sex. It is a craving for oneness with the other. Sexual passion subsides with the length of relationship, but
passion can grow throughout a lifetime. It’s the emotion you feel when you experience something wonderful—maybe a gorgeous sunset or an exciting event—and the first thought that springs to mind is the wish that your lover were with you to share it. This passion keeps love not only alive but also dynamic, and is even better when older than when young.
Whatever lovers feel, they do not hide. They share more than their mutual existences; they share their hearts and their minds.
Love screams out for passion, for expressions of one’s feelings in thought, word, and action. Lovers laugh together, sometimes loudly! Lovers feel free to whoop, holler, sing, dance, throw kisses, or just sit together on a swing in silence. They can fall at each other’s feet or just watch the other sleep. Whatever they feel, they do not hide. They share more than their mutual existences; they share their hearts and their minds.
Isn’t that what makes romance so exhilarating? Think of a young man passionately in love. He gets excited at the sight of his lover, thinks about her constantly when he is away from her, and sees her as the most beautiful girl in the world. He would rather be with her than anyone else and cannot imagine anyone making him as happy. Nothing is more important to him than his relationship with her. He adores her, cannot imagine life without her. Any thought of losing her creates immediate panic.
If you have experienced passion for your beloved, you know how wonderful it is—and how we relish the sensations of such intensely romantic love.
Commitment is the bedrock of love.
It is the decision to continue a relationship, to love someone, and maintain the love. It constitutes a measurement of how strongly we
value our relationship. When one is committed to another, it means that we will always be there with the other person—no matter what—and for the other person.
Commitment keeps lovers together when life and its circumstances try to pull them apart. It gives safety and assurance. Committed lovers know that passing emotions are not a true gauge for the demise of their relationship. Commitment means that no matter what he feels as she walks out the door in the morning, he knows she is coming back. No pitfall, no person, no situation will be allowed to separate committed lovers.
We want the intimacy and passion that makes love magnificent, but we just as strongly want to know that our lover will be with us tomorrow—and for the thousand tomorrows after that. We want to know that the other person is with us through thick and thin. Good times and bad. When we deserve our lover and when we do not.
In a truly loving relationship, we have an unalterable need within us for absolute confidence that we both are committed to maintaining our relationship. We need to know without any doubt that neither of us will ever let another person or thing come between us. We need to be certain that our love for each other will last for the rest of our lives, and that our relationship will be stable. We need to know that each feels responsibility for the other. Moreover, that neither considers the possibility of the relationship ever ending.
Romantic love without commitment is like leaping from an airplane without a parachute. You may experience the most intense physical sensations and maximum emotions of your life, but it will end badly. Very, very badly.
You and I live in a strange world. On one hand, our culture is obsessed with love. Just look at the magazines at the checkout counter of your grocery store. What guiding themes do you see? The editors of the “glossies” are not fools. They know love sells. Why wouldn’t it, with so many of us searching for answers about it?
On the other hand, our culture is confused about what love is. If we watch enough movies and TV shows and read enough issues of People magazine, we’ll end up thinking that love is something that happens to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their red-carpet friends, that great love is the exclusive domain of physically beautiful people.
Then, if our image in the mirror is not Hollywood-class, we despair. We cannot help but notice that many of these dazzlingly gorgeous people cannot hang on to a relationship, even though they both are physical perfection! So what does that say about our chances with more “resistible” partners?
Then there is the Playboy magazine angle. That industry sells the sizzle of love as the sum of all body parts, surgically enhanced by doctors and manipulated to perfection by computer whizzes. Is that what love really is? A fantasy? In addition, if there are only so many female swimsuit models or male soap opera stars, are we doomed to experience some lesser, sub-foldout love? Can we be happy with someone who would never be a candidate for the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated?
I have some very good news for you. As difficult as it is to filter out the constant media messages that bombard us, we can know what real beauty is, and what genuine love feels like. You can have a relationship so wonderful that the glittering celebrities, if only they understood what you possessed, would give up all their looks for it. The fact is that every one of us can find genuine beauty in ourselves, the same in a life mate, and a mutually satisfying love that will endure forever, a love that hard times will only enhance and strengthen.
Are you ready to find out where you are on the LovePath? Are you ready to discover what the next phase of the journey holds for you?
A PREVIEW OF THE LOVEPATH
Perhaps you want to know a little more about what lies ahead. After all, why should you read one more book about love and relationships? Well, here’s a glimpse of what you will gain from reading The Art of Falling in Love.
First, I will give you the tools to understand the path you have already walked. As you do so, you will find yourself thinking, “That’s exactly what happened to me! How did Joe know that?” You see, so much of our road is universal. So many of our obstacles are the same ones that everyone else faces, and for good reason. Scientific research is helping us understand the human experience more clearly than ever before, including romantic love. We’ll explore together the latest findings about why you made certain decisions and felt certain feelings. You will learn amazing new truths about yourself.
Second, I will help you learn how to get what you want and need from love. As you come to know yourself and the LovePath better, you will better understand your needs and learn how to communicate them. When that happens, life and love bring you more fulfillment than you ever thought possible. Marriages on the edge, marriages in distress, will grow and deepen, becoming what the partners always longed for. Any already strong marriage or romantic relationship can become even stronger using the concepts we will discuss in this book.
Third, I will give you tools to learn how to overcome the past. Have you ever felt as if you were trying to walk uphill with a huge burden on your shoulders—and you could not seem to lay it down? Our life experiences cause us pain, damaged emotions, and unpleasant memories that we cannot seem to erase. I have been there myself. We can overcome the negative events of the past and experience life with a clean slate. There is no reason in the world that your past should be repeated in your future. This book shares the keys to letting go of those old burdens.
Fourth, I will help you learn how to fall in love the “right” way. If you already have a mate, you will discover how to fall in love all over again. I enjoy this aspect most. If you are single, the path will help you avoid common missteps. If you are married, you will learn how to make your marriage better. Even if your marriage has entered dangerous territory, you are going to find that miracles still occur—and that there is no reason one cannot happen for you. We can do much more than help you patch up old wounds with a Band-Aid so that you may grit your
teeth and soldier on. We can show you how to reawaken the love you thought was lost forever and find a deep intimacy that is much more powerful and fulfilling than you ever had—or thought possible.
Does this sound like a journey you would like to travel?
Then come, let us begin the path.
Love is not some magical thing that suddenly appears or disappears. It is a process. Learn the process and you can use it to develop, deepen, or rescue true love.
Love has three basic components:
• Intimacy—openness and vulnerability to your lover
• Passion—a desire for true oneness with that person
• Commitment—doing what it takes to make the relationship last
In The Art of Falling in Love, you will learn four things:
• How to understand the path you’ve already walked
• How to get what you want and need from love
• How to overcome the past
• How to fall in love the “right” way—or fall in love all over again
If you are reading this book along with others, use the Group Discussion Guide at the end to gain greater insight.