by Patricia Winchild

When two people fall in love, they share a dream. It is the hope that those tender feelings, the fondness and passionate attraction they both have for one another will last and grow. Unfortunately, far too often, after the honeymoon period, things change.

When we begin a friendship, usually we put our "best foot forward" and hide the parts of ourselves that we sense would "turn the other person off". Lovers often believe they know each other well. Oh, they may notice a few flaws here and there that just peek out, but these only serve to make our partner human, which is, of course, a condition we share with them. They are "wonderful", "great", "extraordinary", we tell others. We are certain that we know who they are and we love it. The expression "love is blind" is too true about the early stages of a romance.

Two months, two years or even farther down the road; the lovers are no more "in love". They may still profess to love one another. But the charm, the magic, the dream quality is gone. They are learning to "get along" with one another, to tolerate each other or they are building up for a dramatic finish.

Why? What makes so many beautiful beginnings become unhappily-ever-afters? Consider Judy and Jim. They were sure they had that something special when they met. And they did. They had fun together, agreed they both wanted many of the same things, and were absolutely positive that they were going to have a much better marriage than either of their parents did. Jim's parents were in a bored, lifeless relationship and Judy's were in one filled with conflict, anger and pain. They had broken up several times.

Judy and Jim both noticed those "little things" in each other they did not particularly like: Judy had a tendency to be a bit careless about money, according to Jim. And he also found her job jumping a bit worrisome. She, in turn, believed Jim was far too timid about taking "necessary risks" and a bit too closed with his wallet. She was also more comfortable letting her anger out than Jim. These differences and some qualities they shared in common, such as impatience, and defensiveness never seemed to cause many problems early in their relationships. But, they appeared to grow. Later, minor annoyances that became less and less minor paved two different roads for Judy and Jim. These roads took them farther and farther apart from one another. Neither knew exactly when or how it happened, but they began to fall out of love. Those strong, loving feelings that drew them together like magnets became weaker and weaker.

Many people believe that things must change in relationships. And, of course, it is true that change is inevitable. But what we believe, and especially, what we expect, often affects outcomes. If we believe, for examples, that love can't last or at least behave in ways that suggest this, even it takes awhile, it is the "kiss of death" for love.

Relationships that work take work. This has become something of a cliche but it is still true. Finding someone to care about is easier than keeping someone we care about. And it does take two people doing this. One can live in a dream world of delusion believing they can "do it all" to make something work. But, sooner or later, this person loses steam or their partner leaves (physically or emotionally). Even when people know they need to talk about problems that surface in the relationship, few know how to do this well. And after a hard day at work (or with the kids), many people tend to just let things slide.

Judy and Jim used to enjoy one another's company. But gradually, they talked less and less, except about mundane or necessary things (and their relationship was not one of those). They played less, showed less affection and as they stopped being best friends; they began to become strangers.

The road back to love is a much more difficult journey than one where partners have taken care of the feelings they shared for one another. Habits and tendencies that could have been just minor nuisances can become metal bars that imprison each person in separate cells. Working on relationships may not be easy; but the alternative is much, much harder. Losing love followed by the accompanying loneliness takes its' toll on our confidence and self-esteem. Sometimes, however, even when people feel like they have little trust, respect or feelings left for someone they used to love, if both people are committed to finding that love again, it can happen.

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