The Cycle of Life and Love

For many, love seems endless. Exalted, they believe that this feeling is going to last until death separates the two lovers. However, things are more complicated.

First, there is a difference between falling in love and love itself. Falling in love is an emotion. Just like any other emotion, it is intense but short-lived. Being in love lasts somewhere between a couple of days and one year, on average. It depends on the ability of the lovers to generate emotions. The emotion of being in love will eventually die out, and will be, sometimes, replaced by the feeling of love. Love is a sentiment. Just like friendship, for instance, love is less intense but lasts longer, usually many years. And just like in friendship, love might not last until death. Some people are meteors in our life, some are available for longer periods, and some are there for a lifetime, but it is important to acknowledge that both friendship and love change over time; they become more complex and mature.

Having this in mind – the difference between emotions and feelings/sentiments – take a look at the image above, an image I created especially for this article. During our psychotherapy training, we were explained the cycle of love using a graph, but I chose for you images of the ocean as visual anchors. The first image signifies falling in love; the next 4 are the distinct stages of every relationship, and are part of the cycle of love.

Falling in love is a chaotic experience. It’s intense and brief, and you can’t properly see well what’s going on with you. Additionally, your perception of the other is also distorted. Note the fuzzy image of the waves and the excessive white color that makes almost impossible to distinguish the landscape. You know those are high waves – perhaps on a Hawaiian beach – and nothing more. The waves are huge, the wind is strong, the desire and the temptation, the lust and the sexual desire take over or hijack your inner life. A broken condom gives birth to many children during this period. And the certitude that “he’s the one” or “she’s the one” is overwhelming.

We don’t get high winds and high waves all the time. Same happens to emotions. Experienced partners know that they must wait until the initial emotion fades away so as to see if there is something left… if there is a feeling left… something that might guarantee a better life after the emotion is long gone. Getting married 2 weeks after the initial meeting rarely happens to be a good decision. It’s a good decision if love – the feeling – follows after, but otherwise… it may end in tragedy… or abortion… where available…

The majority of couples separate at the end of the first period. In modern times, the percent is huge, since there is a wide spread attitude that you need to be “experienced” before committing to a “serious” relationship. “Experienced” often means multiple partners and “roller-coaster” relationships. It is prudent to keep in mind a percent of around 90% of couples separating after the emotion of falling in love is over. Only time can tell if a relationship is going to last.

The minority of couples that can give birth to the sentiment of love, get into the cycle of love. The first stage is symbolized by the same big waves, but smaller. There is still a lot of spontaneity, curiosity and the drive to know the other one. Agitated sea that is… It’s the period when the feeling of love is at its maximum, both in intensity and stability. It’s a rich period and a rewarding experience. It’s the period when often the couple gives birth to children.

The second stage is less intense. You can see that the image I chose shows rather periodic waves but of smaller height. Now, important keywords are adaptability and an alternating affective life. There are moments when it seems that there is no love, but the next wave comes and the two partners learn to rely on the predictability of their feeling. Although there are moments when they’re tired after a nasty day at work or after the kids did something bad, after some time they find again each other and reassure each other. There is growth happening outside the couple as well, as the two aren’t afraid to spend time alone or in other groups… There is trust.

The third stage occurs after many years. Peace. Calmness. But also boredom and routine. The water is still or almost with no waves. Serenity reigns. This is good but can also be bad. Because eventually, the fourth stage erupts.

The 4th image depicts a storm. Resembles to the first image, the one of falling in love, but with 2 notable differences: everything is evident, you can clearly see everything, and there is periodicity. Moments of high intensity love are separate by deep lows, when hate, fear, uncertainty, and many other elements, interfere… You had enough of your partner. Middle-life crisis. Betrayal. Cheating. Ambivalence. The couple is shaking and everything seems to go in all directions. The end of cycle has arrived. Impulsiveness, discontentment, aggressiveness… the usual ingredients of the doomsday…

The cycle of love has reached its end. The partners must face a choice. Each of them. Emphasis on “must” and on “each of them”!

Are the feelings gone or not?
Is there any love left?
I’ve drained the last drop of feeling from this couple. Now, what should I do?
There is no development whatsoever!
We are stuck!

There are only 2 choices: go or stay.

Many relationships end here. There will be no cycle of love. It’s only the end of a story. Just like in friendship, it’s over. Each partner goes its own separate way. Common children complicate the situation, but they do not matter when we speak about love; they matter when we speak about commitment or responsibility, but this is another story.

But what happens if the relationship is to endure? They say that “being in a great couple is knowing how to fall in love with the same person, over and over again”. This is exactly what happens. You decide, deep in your soul, to start over with the same person, learning to rediscover that special one, learning to see him or her from a different new perspective. Human beings are complex beings and there is huge potential to discover stuff that you didn’t perceive even after many years, during the first cycle of love…

The couples consequently enter in the same cycle, however starting with the first stage of love, or the second, or the third. They never restart with the “falling in love” stage, as we’re talking about a sentiment, not an emotion. Falling in love happens only once, and although there are many emotional heights during the new cycle, they are part of the feeling of love. In conclusion, the couple encounters again the first stage of curiosity and richness, or the sequences of the second stage, or the serenity of the third stage. Some couples happen to have kids again during their 40s or 50s – it’s not unusual – as they are able to nurture again the intense love of the first stage.

The cycle of love can be re-initiated several times during a lifetime. Anything can happen at any stage, as life is a continuous row of decisions; we have the power to decide at any moment to re-enter the cycle or to leave the cycle. And… there are sometimes partners who have decided to part, got involved in other couples, perhaps fallen in love with other partners, and then, having understood life and love and this cycle, reunite and sometimes remarry, being determined to go together again through the same old cycle.

The great skill of living is being able to regenerate yourself, to renew your feelings versus life – the act of revival with each sunrise. We only have this very life and nothing more. And we have to deal with it. After some time, we think or feel that we know everything about this existence, just like we believe we know everything about our partners: their body forms, their patterns or reactions, their qualities and flaws… We need a quality that is essential to move on, otherwise we go down and become depressed and bored by too many certainties…

We need Curiosity

Curiosity helps us waking up and getting out of our bed, knowing that today is going to be exactly like yesterday and thousands of days before. It’s waking up just to verify this assumption and allowing ourselves to be surprised and see that life wasn’t exactly our perceptions, but something more, something that we failed to see while running as fast as possible towards our objectives. Curiosity is the energy behind the cycle of love – having the courage to do the same thing over and over again, finding pleasure in repetitiveness, and gaining wisdom from noticing that, in fact, no sunrise is the same, no sea wave is the same, and monotony is an illusion for the untrained eye… 


7 thoughts on “The Cycle of Life and Love

  1. M

    De acord, in mare parte! Excelent articol! Cu ce nu sunt de acord insa ca sentinta universal valabila este cu precizarea de la etapa a III-a legata de plictiseala si rutina. Aceste fenomene as zice ca pot interveni doar in cazul oamenilor care oricum se plictisesc si cu ei insisi, nu exista valori comune, nu evolueaza impreuna…Altfel, nu ar avea de ce sa existe acest potential distructiv intern, individual si in cuplu…Apoi, eu as spune ca sunt mai multe elemente implicate, printre care da, si curiozitatea, care poate fi legata intai de tine ca individ, respectiv e ca si cum ar fi un experiment pe care il faci cu tine insuti, sa vezi cum reactionezi, cat rezisti, etc si apoi cu celalalt, curajul de a te reindragosti in fiecare zi de aceeasi persoana, care nu e insa pentru oricine posibil, valorile comune, evolutia impreuna (oamenii se pot schimba daca vor ei, pozitiv, periodic, deci practic te reindragostesti de aceeasi persoana si totusi de alta, pentru ca tu nu mai esti acelasi, ea nu mai este aceeasi, dar totusi, concomitent sunteti si aceeasi, e un fel de oximoron), prietenia, dragostea (nu, nu dureaza 3/5 ani – asta e alt stereotip clasic, astfel incat as spune ca poate, in unele cazuri, e mai degraba termenul de valabilitate pentru sex, cu care nu se confunda insa, dragostea putand dura toata viata, daca o hranesti zilnic si asta tine in primul rand de tine si apoi de celalalt), etc.
    Pe de alta parte, da, alt stereotip de notorietate publica e cel legat de experienta, ca si cum am fi toti produsi pe banda si am avea nevoie de practica pentru a sti ce butoane (sufletesti si fizice) sa apasam pentru “the next one”, ca sa ajungem poate, vreodata, candva, la “the one and only”, toti cei anteriori (lista personala) fiind “incercari esuate”, oarecum. Realitatea dovedeste clar insa ca cei cu lista mai mare nu sunt mai fericiti decat cei cu lista mai mica/deloc, ba dimpotriva (ex mai multe avorturi la activ, BTS-uri, cicatrici sufletesti multiple, etc), dar fiecare cu alegerea personala (nimeni nefiind de judecat/etichetat)… pana la urma, vorbim de alegeri si de asumarea responsabilitatii alegerii, nu?
    Seara faina!

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    1. Sunt de acord in mare parte cu ce spui. Exista stereotipuri din belsug. Totusi, nu pot sa nu atrag atentia ca, desi timpul variaza de la partener la partener, fazele iubirii raman cumva aceleasi. Majoritatea oamenilor de azi (cel putin cei vizibili in spatiul public sau pe social media), se opresc in faza 1, cea cu indragostirea. Dar e normal sa parcurgi tot ciclul. Unii nu parcurg niciodata complet ciclul si nu ajung in timpul vietii lor la faza 3 de plictiseala. Dar totusi, ca si terapeut, trebuie sa am in vedere ca aceasta faza poate surveni in unele cazuri, si sa pot sa-i spun acelei persoane ca iubirea nu a murit ci e in faza de liniste. Mediul public a reusit sa schimbe mult perceptiile, si oamenii au ajuns sa creada ca indragostirea egal iubirea, si daca trairea afectiva nu mai e la fel de intensa inseamna ca sentimentele “s-au terminat”. Apoi, exista persoane preponderent rationale, la care iubirea e de slaba intensitatea si indragostirea dureaza putin, si exista persoane preoponderent afective/emotionale, care sunt capabile de o iubire intensa si de lunga durata, si care inteleg cu dificultate articolul asta si faptul ca da, exista acest ciclu. Inevitabil, scriind un articol pe subiectul asta, faci pacatul generalizarii; oamenii sunt extrem de diferiti si cei care nu se regasesc in descriere vor sari imediat cu comentarii ca nu am dreptate. Din cauza asta am subliniat si voi mai sublinia ca tot ce scriu sunt opinii, ale mele sau opinii ale celor care m-au invatat si pe care le-am preluat si eu; nu voi afirma niciodata ca detin adevarul suprem, tocmai pentru ca exista o diveristate foarte mare de oameni si trairi.

      Mi-a placut ideea de evolutie impreuna, pe care am atins-o si eu in articolul recent cu “why I quit”. La fel si cea de oximoron aparent…

      Da, am folosit curiozitatea ca si motor al ciclului iubirii si poate ca am exagerat si am vorbit prin prisma mea proprie. Ai dreptate, pentru altii s-ar putea ca altceva sa fie motor/motivatie de restart (curaj, responsabilitate, etc.). Mi-a scapat aceasta eroare…

      Zi faina!


  2. M

    Imaginile sunt sugestiv si foarte bine alese, schema si explicatiile ciclului cu siguranta sunt aplicabile la foarte multe cupluri si foarte bine ca le-ai enuntat, sunt foarte importante si utile observatiile din practica, multumim mult. Si eu si tu avem opinii, mai mult sau mai putin subiective si desigur nici unul nu detinem adevarul suprem, asta e clar, de aceea din discutii se pot naste perspective noi, aspecte la care poate nu ne-am gandit…cum ar fi ca toata lumea sa fie de acord cu toata lumea, cu orice? :)) nu suntem de acord permanent nici cu noi insine, ca dialog interior, stii prea bine, d’apai cu ceilalti! si ce trist ar fi sa nu mai existe intrebari, sa nu mai intrebe nimeni “de ce? de ce trebuie sa trebuie (ceva, orice)?”:))
    Impresia mea e ca dintotdeauna a existat aceasta confuzie (mai mult sau mai putina voita/constienta) intre emotie (dictatura hormonala, temporara = indragostirea sexuala/dorinta sexuala innobilata) si sentiment (iubire), doar ca in contemporaneitate, mai pregnant…si din ce in ce mai pregnant…
    Foarte interesanta distinctia intre persoanele preponderent rationale, la care iubirea e de slaba intensitate, iar indragostirea dureaza putin, ca si cum ar fi un fel de handicap sufletesc, oamenii respectivi rationalizand pe pilot automat totul si ucigand implicit, in final, iubirea (daca a existat vreodata si nu a fost doar sex/delirul posesiei) sau ca si cum iubirea nu ar implica si mintea/ratiunea in egala masura, pe langa suflet….si oamenii preponderent afectivi/emotionali, care stau bine la capitolul iubire, insa mai prost cu intelegerea/ratiunea se pare, ca si cum ar fi niste imbecili iubitori :))) care se prind mai greu pana si de subtilitatea si rafinamentul unor concluzii rationale, izvorate din practica! :))) haios, insa cu siguranta exista si cazuri de acest gen! :))
    Legat de curiozitate, de fapt, nu cred ca e o eroare, poate nu m-am exprimat eu prea bine, astfel incat reformulez : eu ma gandeam doar ca ar putea exista mai multe “motoare”, de ex numai curiozitate la unii, la altii si curiozitate si altele, la altii numai altele, dupa caz :))
    Seara placuta in continuare!


    1. Fac distinctia dintre persoanele rationale si emotionale intr-un mod ce tine mai mult de atitudine sau preferinta. Oricine e capabil de iubire sau de rationamente, numai ca sunt favorizate, sunt valorizate, in mod diferit. Imi preiei cuvintele si le dai sensul pe care il doresti, dar nu este cel pe care l-am dat eu initial. Pentru un rational, indragostirea nu e un handicap sufletesc de care sa se rusineze sau sa il ascunda, ci pur si simplu dureaza mai putin, e inconstant, mai putin intens. Intelectualizezi o emotie, adica emiti judecati asupra ei. Indragostirea nu e un handicap, desi unii ar putea-o vedea in mod eronat ca fiind asa.

      Similar, iubirea nu e ucisa cu mintea. Una e sa discerni si alta e sa judeci. Pot sa fiu indragostit si totusi sa discern corect. Cele doua instante mentale nu interfereaza. Judecata insa poate ucide, adica certitudinile si concluziile mele eronate referitoare la indragostire, la ceea ce ar putea fi sau ceea ce nu este indragostirea, ajung sa aiba o pondere excesiva. Sau judecatile mele referitoare la persoana de care sunt indragostit inhiba happening-ul dintre noi.

      Am cunoscut si lucrat cu “imbecilii emotionali” despre care vorbesti, si te asigur ca un emotional este mult mai eficient decat un rational, si genereaza concluzii mult mai bune, desi se pierde uneori in reverii din prea multa dragoste…


  3. M

    Am preluat cuvintele tale tocmai in ideea de a verifica daca ceea ce mie imi pare a fi, intr-adevar este si mesajul corect pe care ai vrut sa-l transmiti, astfel incat mai grav mi s-ar fi parut sa nu verific intrebandu-te astfel indirect si sa consider supozitiile mele ca fiind adevarul suprem :)))
    Apoi, pentru rationali, desi analiza initiala pleaca de la departajarea dintre “iubire” si “indragostire”, la sectiunea intensitatii si la alte sectiuni imi par a fi similare (“…iubirea e de slaba intensitatea …” “Pentru un rational, indragostirea pur si simplu dureaza…mai putin intens”, “..iubirea nu e ucisa cu mintea. Pot sa fiu indragostit…” = deci, perceptia mea e de oarecare confuzie voita/nu, cel putin la nivel terminologic)


      1. M

        :)) as spune ca e doar o supozitie mai putin fericita in acest caz, deoarece pur si simplu a fost o simpla constatare (elementara), nu era un comentariu malitios sau ceva de genul …imi pare rau insa, poate ar fi trebuit sa reformulez altfel, mai diplomat..
        In rest, sunt de acord ca pot sa iubesc si sa discern corect (mai mult sau mai putin, dupa caz), neinsemnand automat ca “iubirea e oarba”, conform stereotipului clasic, popularizat peste tot…Iar atunci cand m-am referit la rationalizarea pe pilot automat a tot ce inseamna iubire m-am referit, de fapt (nu a fost o exprimare prea fericita, e adevarat, insa momentan, asta am identificat la nivel conceptual) la judecatile de valoare personale, la propriile noastre perceptii subiective, la proiectiile/filmele noastre mentale, astfel incat a fost binevenita distinctia ta, pentru o mai buna claritate si concizie. De altfel, si precizasem la un moment dat ca, dupa mine, iubirea e o alegere a sufletului si a mintii, un proces continuu, evolutiv de autocunoastere si cunoasterea celuilalt, de evolutie impreuna…
        In alta ordine de idei, legat de :
        a) al II-lea ciclu in care exista fluctuatii/e mai putin intensa – exista cu siguranta si astfel de cazuri, asa cum exista si situatii in care iubirea poate fi la fel de intensa, insa sa se manifeste sub alte forme, diferite de cele initiale si de aici poate si confuzia cu linistirea/fluctuatiile aparente de tipul “there is no more love”..
        b) ultimul ciclu in care iubirea s-a terminat – desi asta pare a fi regula, eu cred ca daca s-a terminat, de fapt, nu a existat niciodata, a fost doar emotia primara care s-a mentinut o perioada mai lunga sau mai scurta/indragosteala sexuala si atat! Iubirea e ca un izvor nesecat, noi suntem iubire, noi suntem creati (ca suflete) din iubire, astfel incat nu are cum sa se termine, decat daca nu a fost iubire, dupa cum spuneam mai sus. Si apoi, ipotetic vorbind, la ce bun sa iubesti daca preconizezi ca resursele tale/rezervorul tau de iubire se (vor)va epuiza la un moment dat? (vezi si precizarea ta legata de oamenii rationali pentru care iubirea dureaza mai putin – prin comparatie cu ce? comparativ cu “never eding story”?) sau poate, in cazurile nefericite, rezervorul nu a existat niciodata! (vezi multiplele cazuri de oameni care nu se iubesc pe ei insisi, deci rezervorul lor de iubire e gol de la inceput, astfel incat se auto-iluzioneaza ca iubesc pe altii). De altfel, ai spus si tu in articol ca exista, pentru unii, speranta revitalizarii iubirii, dar ca sa revitalizezi ceva, logic e ca inainte sa existe sentimentul primar, ca daca nu a existat niciodata, nu ai ce sa revitalizezi! :))
        Oricum, eu ma bazez intotdeauna pe constatarile proprii, independent de orice opinii/studii/experiente ale altora in domeniu, care sunt insa totusi utile la nivel informativ ( de ex. ca si in acest articol, poti identifica lucruri utile, perspective noi sau sa-ti clarifici anumite aspecte). Exceptional pot insa sa pun pret pe opiniile celor dragi, care conteaza pentru mine, dar decizia e personala, ca si asumarea consecintelor ulterioare.

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