When our car’s gas tank is empty, we don’t throw our hands up in the air and say, “Well, it was fun while it lasted. Time to get a new ride!”
We fill the gas tank.
That’s what I pictured in my head as I started Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages this week. He says that just as a car can’t run on an empty gas tank, our relationships can’t run on empty love tanks. And when our love tank seems empty, we shouldn’t throw our hands up in the air and say, “Well, it was fun while it lasted. Time to get a new person!”
We fill the love tank.
What are your initial thoughts on our March book club pick, especially Chapman’s distinction between infatuation and love?
Hollywood has really done a number on me!
I don’t know about you, but Hollywood’s hot and heavy, overly sentimental love stories have really done a number on me. These idealized romantic tropes make me think that if I don’t melt into my husband’s arms at a single, grazing touch of my shoulder, then it’s not true love.
Never mind that I’m standing over the sink splattering soapy water everywhere because this risotto pot is just too damn big to wash in this tiny apartment-sized sink.
Or never mind that it’s midnight and I’m still elbows deep in English 101 papers by students who can’t seem to agree on whether the book we’ve been studying for the past four weeks is by someone named Marcus Gladwell or Malcolm Goodwell. (Hint: It’s neither.)
In either case, it’s supposed to be “Take me now, honey! I don’t care if the dog’s watching!”
After four years of marriage, six years of dog ownership, seven years of co-habitation, and twelve years of togetherness in all, color me disillusioned.
Frankly, I don’t know how any of us survived The Notebook!
Have you internalized these unrealistic standards?
Don’t get me wrong. I intellectually know that Hollywood is make-believe and exaggerates to sell tickets and feed our escapist needs. And I consciously know that it’s about as helpful to hold my marriage up to Jack and Rose or Satine and Christian as it is to compare my beach body to J Lo’s. Even if she is twenty years older than me.
But, as lengthy introspection and talks with my therapist have revealed, as smart as I am, I’m not immune to the bombarding and brainwashing of media, which idolizes infatuation over love.
Every time I snap at my husband or give him a death stare that says don’t you dare touch me at a time like this, a tiny part of me wonders, “Rachel McAdams would never react to Ryan Gosling this way. Does this mean this isn’t true love?”
We need to stop worshiping infatuation and start valuing “real love.”
In Chapters 1-3 of The 5 Love Languages, Chapman gives us a refreshing reality check about infatuation and real love.
He explains that a “romantic obsession” lasts about two years. Around that point, the “honeymoon phase” is over. Unfortunately, too many of us take that as a sign that the spark is gone and that we screwed up.
Instead of either jumping ship or resigning ourselves to a loveless marriage, Chapman presents a third alternative. In his words, “We can recognize the in-love experience for what it was – a temporary emotional high–and now pursue ‘real love’ with our spouse.”
“Real love,” while not always as sexy and racy and spontaneous as infatuation, is more genuine and more valuable. It is the type of love all humans require from childhood on.
When our love tanks are full of this sincere, deliberate love, we experience magic a cheesy Hollywood rom-com can’t touch!
Do you agree?
Any time I encounter an Internet conversation about this, half the commenters agree with Chapman and commiserate that marriage and commitment are way more work than we expect. The other half insist that their marriage does feel like a sexy magical fairy tale and that if we settle for anything less, we are kidding ourselves or selling ourselves short.
Where do you stand? Let me know in the comments below!