Are You With The Right One? These 3 Books Help You Find Out
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is the hard part. This is because we’re overexposed to the beginnings of romantic love stories on television, in novels, and in our every day lives as our friends talk about their infatuation with their new love only to move on a year or two later. The emphasis everywhere is getting to that initial commitment to be exclusive and, eventually, to the marriage altar. As a result, we focus too much on falling in love with someone — to reach that point in a relationship where we become hopelessly infatuated and think of nothing except our significant other. We’re afraid of losing our object of infatuation so we decide that we, and our love, will no longer be on the market for anyone else.
But we know very little about what to do after we fall in love and make our commitments to each other. What do we do when the years begin to drag on and the intense feelings that accompany early stages of a relationship inevitably dissipate to just warm feelings of companionship? We panic and think something is horribly wrong with our relationship and then seek advice on maintaining or rebuilding our love from all the wrong places. We reach out to our friends who have never been married, our siblings who have been divorced, or try to find the answer in movies or television shows. Sources of guidance that know nothing about how to maintain a happy long term relationship that lasts decades. We quietly endure the growing madness of laying in bed at night next to our significant other wondering if we’ve made some terrible mistake and if we’re missing out on true love. We reach a breaking point and then make the decision to jump to another relationship and start it all over again.
Learning to love someone long term is a skill that comes with understanding what love really is. It takes effort and maturity. Anyone who has been with their significant other for 20 years or more will tell you that a happy relationship takes work. But what kind of work? What do they mean? It’s hard for many of these couples to articulate what changes in mindset and behavior led them to successfully loving one person for decades when pressed for answers.
We’ve done a lot of soul searching ourselves over the years and have gone through countless books trying to find the answers. Most of what’s written on the topic is rubbish but we’ve managed to find a few gems along the way that we’d recommend to anyone looking for the keys to building a happy long term relationship.
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Read this if you’re trying to understand feelings of distance, disconnect, or loneliness in a long term relationship.
Alain De Botton — writer, philosopher, and founder of the School of Life — takes us on an insightful and realistic journey through every stage of love in a long term relationship. He poignantly describes the feelings of angst and uncertainty when the butterflies have worn off and the reality of being together forever sets in. He also details the process of maturing in our understanding of love and learning what it takes to keep love alive through the years. The book is structured primarily as a novel telling the story of Kirsten and Rabih, two people that meet, fall in love, and then learn through trial and error how their love matures during the decades that follow saying, “I do.” The story is interspersed with philosophical musings and insights that poignantly help us understand how we’ve all felt when we’ve been with someone for more than a few months.
- “What we typically call love is only the start of love.”
- “Our understanding of love has been hijacked and beguiled by its first distractingly moving moments. We have allowed our love stories to end way too early. We seem to know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue.”
- “He loves Kirsten deeply, but he hates the idea of being on his own with almost equal force.”
The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
Read this if you feel like you’ll never find your true love or feel deeply in love.
Erich Fromm was a renowned practicing behavioral therapist and professor of psychology. In The Art of Loving, Fromm writes about how the anxiety we feel in our long term relationships comes from confusing our desires to not feel lonely and focusing our attentions on receiving love with learning to feel comfortable with ourselves and learning to give love. We are conditioned by society and our upbringing to want to have love. But we forget that love is not a thing to be possessed. In order to find love we need to understand what love truly is and learn how we can overcome our own self-limiting beliefs and behaviors to focus more on giving it. The Art of Loving was originally written in 1956 but its insights have fully held up through the test of time.
- “They take the intensity of this infatuation, this being crazy about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.”
- “The ability to love depends on one’s capacity to emerge from narcissism.”
- “Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not towards one ‘Object’ of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.”
Mating In Captivity by Esther Pearl
Read this if you feel like your relationship is no longer as passionate as it used to be.
Esther Pearl is a licensed therapist specializing in helping couples create, rebuild, or maintain sexual passion in their long term relationships. This book is a valuable compendium of all her experiences over decades of working with couples to rekindle their erotic intimacy. Each chapter contains a balanced mix of insights, practical advice, and detailed client experiences. A worthy read to understand why you get bored sleeping with the same person, why that opportunity to cheat with your sexy coworker is hard to resist, and why it can be so hard to see your spouse in a sexual light after spending years together.
- “The more you become attached, the more you have to lose. So you set out to make love more secure. You seek to fix it, to make it dependable. You make your first commitments, and happily give up a little bit of freedom in exchange for a little bit of stability. You create comfort through devices — habit, ritual, pet names — that bring reassurance. But the excitement was bound to a certain measure of insecurity. Your high resulted from the uncertainty, and now, by seeking to harness it, you wind up draining that vitality out of the relationship. You enjoy the comfort, but complain that you feel constrained. You miss the spontaneity. In your attempt to control the risks of passion, you have tamed it out of existence. Marital boredom is born.”