When we fall in love, we typically do not yet really know the subject matter of our love.
We may fall in love with a person, a place, a job, a pet, and even an inanimate object.
Falling in love, says Alan Watts, is an act of trust. Thus the word “fall.” We take a leap of faith, not knowing what the future holds in store for us, and thrust ourselves, often blindly, into the arms of the beloved.
Therefore, whom we fall in love with, is nothing but a figure of our imagination. This is important to understand. With some exceptions, such as falling in love with an old friend, one we knew for many years, and suddenly an arrow from Cupid makes us see that friend in a different light, we don’t really know who we fell in love with.
Over time, we get to know our newfound love, the person, the town we just moved into, our new workplace. It is then, more often than not, that we get disillusioned. This is because, hardly ever, our love subject can realistically meet the expectations set by our imagination. It is then that friction begins. We wish for them to be something they never were. Yet the fault is not theirs but our own. They were never that which we imagined. As the idiom goes, love is blind. We only saw what we wished to see; we ignored the rest. What follows is typically a disappointment. I love you, you’re perfect, now change, was the title of a 1997 musical comedy. It nailed it. The perfect we imagined, never was. When we realize it, we end up wishing to mold our beloved into the ideal existing only in our mind.
As mentioned above, this process happens not only with a person.
We may land a dream job. The employer offers great benefits, amazing work environment, lovely co-workers. But after we work there for a while, the things we could not see when we were in love with this new job, suddenly surface. Maybe the company promotes the wrong people to managerial positions. We encounter dirty office politics. Benefits that look great at first, turn out to have catches we didn’t notice when we signed the employment agreement. We then fall out of love. Unrealistic expectations meet disappointment.
In another example, we may move to a new town that looks like the ideal place to live. Yet, after residing there for a while, the ideal we imagined in our mind, is not what transpired. Yes, we may still like the place in comparison with places we lived at prior, but, here too, we fell in love with something that never was.
Same applies with a leader we may follow, be it social, political, spiritual, religious, or otherwise. At first we think the world of this guru. We miss realizing that they are only human, with challenges and faults. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, MLK, just human. There is much to be appreciated about some of these figures, to draw inspiration from, but when we idealized anything, we do wrong by both the subject matter and by us.
What I am learning over the years is not to evade falling in love. Falling in love is, well, lovely. Rather, I came to understand that it is a process. I realize that the intoxication that comes with falling in love is a form of illusion. I may allow myself to enjoy it for a while, yet if I surrender to this substance, disillusion must follow. Striking a balance between the joy of being in love and reality, is a skill I am developing. The key seems to be expectations. Realizing that the subject matter of my love is not the one that is changing over time. Rather, it is me who loses some of the blindness cast by Cupid’s arrow. Once I can accept that I fell in love with an ideal imagined only in my mind, I can be content with the relationship long-term, celebrating the nectar of falling in love, yet evading the disappointment that otherwise follows.