The second — or third — stages of romance are the ones no romance books talk about. Of course not: it’s the exhilarating first stage we prefer; the one that lifts us above life’s petty problems; the one that has us floating through blissful blue heavens; the one that has us believing we’re living out the perfect passion with the perfect mate in the perfect relationship. Not only that, the positive feelings we’ve been receiving from our lover give us the feeling we’re pretty well perfect too.

Of course the feelings of passionate love do lose their strength over time. Passionate love only lasts for two or three years because all the chemicals responsible for that sheer euphoric madness are no longer being produced in excess. Suddenly we begin to see that our lover isn’t perfect at all, and that those images of perfection we projected in the euphoric stage had very little to do with reality. Now there’s no haze of passion to hide the truth. Fantasy love is over. If a relationship is going to continue, to develop into true love, here’s where we begin.

With conflict: it’s a necessary part of learning about one another. And compromise. And acceptance of weaknesses, differences. Of course we’ll still idealize our lover, and the more we do, the stronger our relationship will be. And if we’re also willing to cherish and respect, we’ll have all pleasures of loyalty, unconditional love and acceptance. Not only that: we’ll also have romance and tenderness. It’s all up to us.

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