Speaking of Joy: Happy Valentine's Day

It’s Valentine’s week and that means sweet cards, fresh flowers and romantic dinners.

My favorite quote about love has been attributed to Walt Whitman but it’s actually a loose paraphrase of a line from his poetry.  I love the sentiment anyway.

“We were together.  I forget the rest.”

It’s a tight, skillful edit of what really matters – being together.  And forgetting, maybe even forgiving, everything else. 

Being together comes easy especially in the beginning.  Research shows that when we fall in love, the most primal and powerful part of our brain instinctually reacts. Studies done by Helen Fisher have shown that falling in love induces our reptilian brain to shower the rest of our brain with dopamine.

Even the way we describe it - "falling in love" - does not make it sound like a choice.  It sounds more like a willing desire to jump off a cliff. 

When love puts a spell on us, that dopamine turns us into a hyper-focused and highly motivated pleasure seeker.   Much like a drug addict.   

But what happens when the dopamine effect declines over time?   How do we stay together and “forget the rest?”

Most relationships die of neglect, boredom and resentment.  If you’re not growing together, you’re growing apart. 

When we have a love we want to hold onto, how can we forget and if necessary, forgive, too?

Here’s one simple step.  If we can forget then we likely don't have much need to forgive.  We may just need to get rid of our junk and hit the delete button.  Forgetting the little stuff is an act of grace.   It’s the extension of both respect and acceptance.  

Forgetting is looking the other way when our partner can’t seem to hit the laundry basket or repeatedly forgets to take off their muddy shoes at the back door.  Or my favorite?  Why do some people just refuse to throw away empty boxes in the freezer?  I can’t answer that question!

But I do know that a simple strategy to a happier union is to ignore life’s natural imperfections as much as we can. 

And ironically, if we can’t forget then it’s likely we really do need to forgive.  So how do we forgive?  How do we forgive and hold on to love rather than move on?

I think in romantic love forgiveness is easier when we first, let go of resentment; second, appreciate the good in our partner; and third, express love even when we may not feel very loving.

Unlike leaping off that cliff into love, forgetting and forgiveness are choices.    And in the pursuit of staying in love, those are two of the best choices we can make. 

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude,