Whirlwind romance is all about ‘me’

You know when you hear a story and think there’s something not quite right about it? Well, that’s what I thought this morning when I heard that Cheryl Cole has married her French boyfriend after just three months of meeting him. (I had much the same feeling of cringe when I heard about Channel 4’s silly idea to match up couples who have never met and then get them to marry.) Part of me empathises. I don’t know them at all. But good for them! A whirlwind romance is all about the dream of young love and happily ever after. So I genuinely wish them a long and happy marriage.But another part of me thinks there’s something not very smart about rushing in to what should be a lifelong commitment without having the time to check one another out.

How much time is enough? I don’t know. But what I do know is that three months isn’t it. It’s not enough time to see beyond the rose-tinted spectacles and love pheromones. It’s not enough time to meet family and friends who will tell you what your lover is really like. It’s not enough time to see how the habits you now see as sweet can just as easily become irritants. In other words, it’s not enough time to see if the foundations are strong enough to survive and thrive when that emotional rush of love turns into something deeper and stronger and different.

Whirlwind romances are risky because they are all about how we feel now. It feels good so it will last forever. Feelings are terribly important. It’s why we place such a high value on happiness and ‘happy marriages’ rather than just marriages. But it’s a mistake to rest all of our hopes and dreams for the future on how we feel now. If I follow my heart and how I feel, in essence I am saying ‘it’s your responsibility to make me happy’. A relationship based on feelings is about ‘me’ and ‘my’ continued happiness. So long as ‘you’ perform, then all well and good.

Meanwhile in the real world, lifelong marriage – and indeed any successful relationship – is about so much more. Couples inevitably go through times of ‘poorer, sickness, and worse’ precisely because life isn’t always rosy and people don’t always make one another happy. Long lasting happiness – contentment – comes from how we see one another, our attitudes to one another. The only way to make relationships work in the long run is to put one another first. When you see another person as being really important and valuable, then when they fall short, as they inevitably will, you’re so much better placed to see through it and come out the other side together. That feels good.

Having said all of this, yes, I believe in love at first sight. I experienced it myself thirty years ago with the girl to whom I am still married. I also recognise that odds are not certainties. Couples beat the odds all the time. But these odds are so unnecessary!

Slow down a little. Gather a little more information. Be a little less impatient. Find out whether ‘I’ can still put ‘you’ first even when ‘you’ don’t make me happy.

A little more time will dramatically reduce the odds of realising you’ve made a terrible mistake. And if it’s meant to be, then a little more time won’t take one iota away from the excitement and the romance and the dream.

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