So when he married his beautiful girlfriend, I was not surprised that he asked me to give the “homily” at his wedding.
At the beginning as I sat down to compose my “sermon”, I thought that I would be composing an exhilarating paean to the joys and beauty of romantic love.
But being the difficult and perverse psychologist that I am, I found that I was simply unable to do this.
It’s not that I don’t believe in romantic love or that I don’t think romantic love is wonderful, having experienced this glorious madness a number of times in my life; it was just that on such an important occasion I felt compelled to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The Truth about Love and Relationships
So my sermon was about the inevitable and necessary phase of disillusionment, something that all intimate relationships must pass through.
Disillusionment is almost always seen as a bad thing, a sad and unfortunate failure. When we are disillusioned by someone, we feel that either we made an error in judgement or that the other has deliberately disguised their true nature – or a combination of these two things. Neither of these two possibilities is necessarily true.
When we fall in love with another person we are seeing something very clearly. We are seeing the true sparkling beauty of another human being. Almost every human being has a beautiful side and it’s a truly wonderful revelatory experience to behold that beauty in another – and for that to be reciprocated.
What we usually don’t see, what we can’t see, what we don’t want to see, are the frailties and faults of the person with whom we’ve fallen in love. We can’t see their warts and weaknesses because we are literally blinded by what to us is their dazzling beauty.
Romantic love or “limerance” (a psychological term for this type of love) usually lasts not much longer than a year or two, and often shorter than this.
When it begins to wear off we often feel cheated, angry and devastated. “I thought you were strong and wise – and now I discover that your strength is merely stubbornness and your wisdom, just infuriating know-it-all condescension!”
What is Disillusionment?
Let’s unpack the word disillusionment. Knock off the “dis” and the “ment” and we find the very core of the word: “illusion”. Disillusionment literally means that we had an illusion and now we don’t have it anymore.
Yes, this is a painful and bewildering experience especially when it involves what we hoped to be our life partner, but it is or can be the beginning of the true and deeper experience of love.
Many couples make the tragic mistake of concluding when they enter the disillusionment phase that they have made a terrible mistake. They think that the love has gone, and then angrily or sadly separate and go looking again for Mr or Mrs Right.
Unfortunately, Mr and Mrs Right don’t exist and the search for him or her is a terrible waste of time and energy.
Four Common Myths about Relationships
Russ Harris, a talented Australian Psychologist, nominates four myths (1) that confuse us in our search for a life partner:
- The Perfect Partner – no such animal exists;
- You Complete Me – no one can complete another;
- Love Should Be Easy – love is a fiery burning furnace;
- Everlasting Love – not if you think love is a feeling.
So if you are currently feeling disillusioned or caught up in one of the relational myths, before you decide to dump your lover it may be a good idea to come along for some counselling. It may be that the disillusionment you are currently experiencing is not the end, but rather the beginning of a deeper journey into the mystery of love.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a senior psychologist with over 25 years of experience, and has seen great success in helping couples to enhance their relationship, and work through their problems and difficulties.
To book, freecall 1800 877 924 or book Matt Ryan online today!
Harris, Russ. (2009) ACT with Love: stop struggling, reconcile differences, and strengthen your relationship with acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA, USA: New Harbinger.