To quote the late, great Ms. Whitney Houston, how the heck do you know when you are “in love”? Who apparently may not have known, or did know for a while but it changed ala Bobby Brown but I digress. I’ll tell you this much, when you are, you generally don’t need to pose this question. But alas, love is sometimes not as simple as this. Let’s do the rounds shall we?
This is usually the part of romantic love that we all associate with it being “it”. It’s when we can’t eat or sleep, because all we do is think about our beloved. We feel obsessed with him or her. We want to know everything about him or her and can’t wait until you are in one another’s presence. You are ready to go whole hog and jump in hook, line and sinker. Hold on though, kimosabe. Stop the gravy train through the quickie drive through wedding. There’s more to this “stage” of love than meets the eye (or heart).
With Every Season…
Yes, many people have made the mistake of jumping too quickly. If your love is based solely on infatuation, then it will sadly not last. How to fix this little snafu? Hang out awhile. I always suggest to couples to spend a solid year together. Experience all of the seasons as a couple. Get to know the ups and downs of your moods and the inner workings of one another’s lives. I guarantee you there will be stuff that comes up that at the very least you don’t expect and at worst that you absolutely dislike. The key is waiting it out to see if you two are truly compatible at the end of the day.
Adult Promise Rings?
I know waiting might be difficult. We love the idea of being in love and getting swept up into the romance. Yes, I am talking to you Pamela Anderson. Good God, if you have absolutely had to get married right away, I suggest doing a little longer engagement or do an in formal “promise” ceremony. I actually think promise rings for adults during the first year they are together are not a bad idea. Juvenile by name? Perhaps but a lot smarter than getting in over your head.
Sharing a Single Bed, Er House
Thanks for chiming in Mr. Bob Marley. What I am trying to say is, please live together first. No one truly knows if they are compatible or if the love will stay without sharing a roof, bills and a life together in this intimate way. The one caveat is not to move in too quickly. Allow enough time to assess the risk and then make the move to a joint household. Note I did not say joint accounts. That can be for much, much later, or never.
It will either become love or it will die and you will move on – hopefully before you did anything too quickly (um, now I’m pointing at you Ms. Britney Spears—boy, celebrities make really great examples for what not to do sometimes). This is the meat of the love question as far as I’m concerned. As I’ve written before, I don’t have too many hard and fast rules about dating but spending a sufficient enough time together before making anything legal is a biggy. Once you are beyond that, if life is happy, you feel secure in yourself and relationship, you’ve crossed a few hurdles as a couple in those first four seasons together, and you find that admiration and respect for one another only gets stronger every day (this cannot be a one sided deal by the way. We are talking MUTUAL here), and you’ve had some big talks about money, family, lifestyle, values while still wanting to jump into one another’s pants; then by all means get hitched.
And if not?
If you still have questions about what true love feels like at this point, talk to your partner and maybe go into a little couples counseling. I also don’t recommend people wait for years to get married if the situation isn’t right or the feelings simply aren’t there. I wouldn’t say it is wasting time but there is something daunting about a Five Year Engagement. People do marry for other reasons like general compatibility, a feeling of security, friendship, mutual goals, and family. Call a spade a spade; at least know it going in. Some of these marriages work too but not without a high level of communication and understanding. A therapist can really help with that. Check out your local www.aamft.org or www.aasect.org to find a good therapist near you.
Of course, you don’t have to get married at all. There are plenty of long term, stable, monogamous and even non-monogamous relationships I’m privy to that work great. But if you are on the general western culture ideal path of getting hitched and making the American dream happen, I suggest you take the question of “how will I know” pretty seriously and give it a season or four to percolate…J.Lo.
Dr. Kat is the resident sexologist at Adam & Eve and also runs a private practice and media consulting business. She has a Doctorate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her professional affiliations include AASECT, SSSS, and the American Board of Sexologists. She also has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and completed a postgraduate degree in Marriage, Family and Addictions Recovery Therapy.
© Copyright Dr. Kathleen Van Kirk