Ask Kyle Anything… Answers (hopefully) to Jenna’s Questions

Jenna asks:

A while ago invited your blog readers to ask you anything. So I’m asking. How do you define “in love” and do you think it is possible to maintain an “in love” state with the same person for 5 years, 10 years, etc? What makes “in love” separate from other types of love or is there a difference for you?

Well, I’ve put this off long enough, I think, time to try to give an answer.

What is ‘in love’ to me?  The initial stages of being in love are very much about New Relationship Energy (NRE)  for me.  Everything about the relationship is new, there are so many things to discover and share and I always feel like I want to show them everything I can do, all the things I love, I want to open up the book of my life to them.  Everything about them is new and interesting and I have endless appetite for learning about their lives, what they love, what they hate, what they want out of life and, of course, how I can help them get what they want.   Being in love is a consuming feeling, over 90% of my conscious thoughts are about that person, about when I’ll see/talk to them next, what I want to say, things I want to share, what we talked about last, reliving moments with them.   Sleep is less necessary in this phase of the relationship, I’ve found, as though the NRE and new found love generate more energy than they consume.

This doesn’t last forever, not in my experience, not from what I’ve read and gathered from friends.  At some point that is completely impossible for me to predict, that initial incandescent burn eases down into something a little less hot, and that makes sense.  Though it feels like you have endless energy and wakefulness for the new love in your life, the reality is you can’t sustain that level of performance forever.  So if the relationship is going to continue, it has to find a sustainable groove.  You have gone through the initial rapid information acquisition phase and you know a lot about each other, enough to see the flaws as well as the things that continue to attract you to that person.  Doesn’t mean you don’t have things to share, and aren’t super hot for each other, but other parts of your life start reasserting themselves.  Like sleep, family, work, hobbies, other friends.  To transition from NRE to sustainable, you need to recognize those other areas of each other’s lives and respect the importance of them.

That’s when the real work of a relationship starts, I think.  That’s when you figure out how to fit into each other’s lives, rather than push the other elements of those lives aside to accommodate you.  And that’s not to say there aren’t compromises.  Friends will probably see less of you once you flip from single to in a relationship, it happens.  What is dangerous at this stage is the risk of losing friends entirely.  If your life continues to revolve only around the new person, you’ve gone too far, in my opinion.

I think the initial ‘in love’ phase that’s all consuming and ignores all else in your life mellows into something that is sustainable, and also grows and deepens.  You get to know your new love more and more over time, not just through the time you have alone together but by the way they are with their friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers.  That deepening is the source of power for a relationship going beyond a couple of years into decades.  And, as I’ve found in my own life, that mellower level of being in love can certainly flair up into white hot again at times.

I think there are a lot of levels of love, actually.  I’ve had numerous crushes that were romantic/sexual but were never consummated.  I’ve had friend-crushes that had almost as much intense NRE as the romantic/sexual relationships I’ve had.  I’ve had sexual relationships that were heavy on friendship and lower on romance.  I’ve had intense, long term friendships that went as deep as the sexual/romantic relationships and I was just as crushed when those friendships faded as when I’ve broken up with a girlfriend.  All of these relationships involved love.  I think one key to sustainable love in any kind of relationship is trust, and trust is built on honesty and reliability.

Going back to Jenna’s questions: if you mean, can someone remain as intensely in love as when you are in the first throws of NRE for a long term relationship, my experience is ‘no’.  And my experience is, ‘that’s not a bad thing’.  Intense, white-hot heat tends to make the strongest materials brittle over time.  Does that lack of that intensity sometimes lead to relationship problems?  Certainly, but I don’t think the answer is to retain the intensity, I don’t think you can.  I think being aware that NRE mellows is important, partners should talk about that and find habits, rituals and space to continue to build intimacy of all kinds even after that initial phase.  And here I throw in some caveats.  The life cycle of a close proximity relationship is going to vary from that of a long distance relationship (again, based on my experience).  I think an LDR can retain intensity for longer, because you don’t have constant exposure and proximity to contribute to a sense of comfort and complacency.  Someone who you don’t see very often is going to remain somewhat unknown, contributing to the sense of mystery and excitement.

I am currently in love with my wife, still in love with Roxy, in love with my daughters, in love with my life (even with the recent challenges), in love with my stories and characters.  I love my friends, though I’m not in love with them.  Hmmm.. so what’s the difference?  I think one difference is the level of joy and pain I can experience in relation to my experiences with them.

Jenna, does this work as an answer to your questions?  If not, feel free to ask more.  You should all know by now, you can Ask Kyle Anything.

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