Where is this thing called love? And how do you get there from here? For many it's an elusive goal that's over even before it has a chance to start - but it doesn't have to be. In A Fine Romance, nationally recognized psychologist Dr. Judith Sills shows how the whole agonizing and exhilarating process of love actually develops between two people - and how the rules of successful courtship can be learned and mastered.
It starts with "Can I buy you a drink?" It can lead to "Let's buy a house." It's called courtship, and for most of us it's an emotional upheaval.
This upheaval does not resemble in the least the romance you have been anticipating, the one in which you fall magically, instantly, and mutually in love. You've been envisioning a charming, imaginative seduction, followed by an eternity of passion, all gift wrapped in the security of devotion. You've been waiting to star in your own boy-meets-girl movie, complete with clever repartee and happy ending.
What's wrong with this picture? Well, nothing, so far as fantasies go. The sweetest thing about a fantasy is its ability to recreate the world to suit our personal preference. We need the surge of hope and energy our fantasies generate. The daydream of perfect love can be a better companion than a real-life boyfriend who is more faithful to the NFL than he is to you. The fantasy is a lot more attractive than the girlfriend who weeps when you argue and is jealous of your old friends.
But there is a risk attached to the fantasy of what will occur when you fall in love. The risk is this: Reality is so different from your mental image that you might not recognize the right relationship when it comes along or make it work once you've got it.
Developing love requires mental effort. It also takes tact, timing, and the ability to tolerate anxiety. The progression from infatuation to commitment, or from best buddies to true lovers, is a delicate one. It's a long process and we see it through with very few people in our lifetime. That process is courtship.
Courtship may strike you as an antiquated phrase. It stirs images of fathers in front parlors interrogating prospective suitors. Despite the dated associations, courtship is still the best word we have for describing the process between two people who are, however hesitantly, determinedly, or enthusiastically, developing a romantic relationship.
A Fine Romance is meant to offer a formal education in the principles of courtship. Each time two people meet and love, they don't invent anew the best way to develop a relationship. Every couple is influenced by the rules and requirements of the courtship process, whether they are aware of it or not. The ritual of courtship is as old as time and its stages are practically as predictable as the tides. So are its pitfalls, sore spots, and solutions.
Of Course You're Nervous
One aspect of courtship is guaranteed - anxiety. No matter where you currently stand on the desire for a mate, you are apt to find courtship an unnerving experience. Some men and women are doing nothing with their lives but looking frantically for a partner who will change everything. Others don't feel the least bit desperate, focusing instead on creating productive lives as independent adults. Oddly, no matter where we are on this continuum of neediness, when we get into a courtship we usually flounder. From the strongest of us to the most fragile, courtship tends to make us fall apart.
We are not all equally vulnerable to the anxieties of courtship, but we are all vulnerable to some extent. Finding someone to love who loves us in return is at the core of human happiness. Courtship is a primary path toward this love. When the goal is so crucial and the process seems so mysterious, how can we help but feel anxious?
Most of us would like to marry or remarry - someday, if it's right, if it all works out. Few of us have much of an idea of how to make it happen.
Often it will happen anyway. People pick their way through courtships every day without a clear understanding of what's happening to them. They get themselves off the courtship merry-go-round and into a marriage. If you ask them how they managed to work it out, they will otter a one-word explanation - love.