It is a phrase we use to describe the confluence of biological, physical and emotional aspects of attraction and connection to someone. Yes, it feels real. It is fun and exciting, and it can lay the groundwork for a solid friendship and loving attachment. What is unfortunate about this initial state of attraction is when it is mistaken for actual love, which is not a state of attraction. The feelings of “falling in love” are real. We know that hormones coursing through our bodies and brains change our mental states which ultimately affects our moods, desires, and the way we view others. We move towards those to whom we feel attracted (physically, emotionally, cognitively).
Taking the phrase literally, when someone falls, it is usually something that happens TO them, and has nothing to do with their choice (usually people don’t choose to fall). Falling is also something that takes only seconds to happen. That is an unrealistic way to look at love, like this one-time thing that happens TO us, that we have no control over, and that happens within the span of a few seconds. Yet, it does sometimes feel as if love is a free-fall. It is a real thing in terms of the feelings, the release of chemicals, and the “high” that you feel at the beginning stages of a romantic relationship. People use the term “falling” to describe love because it can feel that way- our emotions just keep getting stronger and stronger, almost without us having to think about it. Unfortunately, this phrase has caused many people to doubt their relationships. It fails as an expression to show the hard work that goes into real love and attachment.
Our attraction ebbs and flows as we see the human parts of our partner and our idealized thoughts of who they are fade. This is natural and normal and is actually a necessary aspect of a relationship for true intimacy to take place. But we often prefer the feelings we had when we first “fell in love.”
“Falling” can make it seem dangerous like we have no control or choice. This makes it seem like you can’t help who you fall in love with. Unfortunately, we can sometimes “fall” for that. We think that things will just “fall together” because we have fallen in love and struggle when we realize that it will have to be put together every day. This phrase takes the work out of it when the reality is that love takes work. It can feel like there’s only one person (a “soul mate” so to speak) for each person when you see romantic comedies or hear others talk about this. It gives the impression that the feelings should last forever (and if they don’t, it’s because you’re with the wrong person). It makes you feel like it should always be so easy, or you wish it were as easy for you as it is for other people.
Falling in love is just language to try to describe a natural human experience that many of us have felt first hand— and the experience, while sometimes short-lived, is valuable in attachment. It is the process of another person becoming increasingly important in another’s life. This idea is poetic and fun to play with and say. Listen to this song by Elvis. This song brings about feelings of ease and peace. There’s something wonderful about the romanticism of movies and songs that talk about this. There are even times in our own relationships that it feels as though loving is as easy as falling. When the term “falling in love” is used to describe a process of growing more connected and closer to someone, then it can be helpful. This process involves feeling like love is growing and you begin to think of the other person more and more. Soon, you can’t picture your life without this person. It is good news that love is not something that just happens TO us, by getting a choice about it, we have power over that choice.
We build and create love. Real love requires vulnerability, grit, humility, sacrifice, awareness, and assertiveness, especially when it is difficult.
The work that is put into the relationship can make love beautiful because it becomes uniquely yours. It’s deeper and more connected. It’s not just something that you didn’t have a choice about, instead, it is something you created together. When you hear the phrase “falling in love” or, more sadly “falling out of love” remember that it speaks to the process of becoming deeply attached to a mate, and potentially detaching.
Love requires intentionality and risk-taking: asking questions that help you get to know the other on a deeper level, choosing to make healthy choices for yourself so that you can show up as more of your true self in the relationship, prioritizing time together, doing your own healing work so that you can receive the love and care of the other, being vulnerable and showing the other parts of you that are difficult to share, asking for what you need in the relationship, setting healthy boundaries and having the other respect those boundaries….etc. All of these things help grow feelings of love in a relationship.
Relationships can be difficult and we all need help at times. Love is hard work, a constant laying down of yourself for others, choosing to stick through hard times.
Luckily for us, we live in a time with great tools such as groups, therapy, podcasts, freedom to seek help from religious leaders, etc. Sometimes the “hard times” are external influences, but just as likely will be the internal hard times of working through our own issues together in messy ways. In the midst of all this “real” love (the hard work kind), the days of “falling in love” become sweet memories to help us remember the fun and exciting parts, the fire, in which we connected in the first place.
While the term “falling in love” gives a false idea of what’s real, and doesn’t put words or ideas to the full commitment, work, and authenticity of relationships- let’s enjoy the moments of feeling swept away by another – it feels romantic, erotic, and hopeful. Then, let’s remember they are feelings, and just like all feelings they will ebb and flow and that has little to do with the actual person &/or relationship. Remember that you do have a choice about who you love and how you love.
If there’s any way we can help you grow and build your love, please feel free to Contact Us.
The Phoenix Counseling Collective