If you have a serial monogamous friend or like to watch YouTube videos from self-help gurus, then you probably have heard the saying “love is a journey, not a destination.” It feels like a simple thought that we can all agree with. In fact, it brings some comfort when love seems to be distant. But do we really believe it?
Love is not static. It changes, adapts, adjusts, ebbs and flows. It shifts from a stranger’s smile to a brilliant sunset. You can find it in an old photograph as easily as you can in sipping your morning coffee in your slippers.
Love is eternal, with the ability to teleport you from present to past and future in a moment. A simple text of “I love you” can transport your emotions back to the day you first felt real love, jump your thoughts ahead to your dream wedding and snap your senses back to you staring at your phone—all in an instant. Love is beyond butterflies in your stomach. It’s a spirit, an expression. Love is God.
Love can’t be bent, broken, or lost. It is everywhere and in everything. So viewing love as a destination oversimplifies the power and potential of love. It makes fixed something that is inherently fluid. Love is a river, not a vessel. It is the path, not a set place.
“Life is a journey and it’s about growing and changing and coming to terms with who and what you are and loving who and what you are.” ― Kelly McGillis
Can You Fall in Love?
If love flows, how can we fall into it? If love is a journey, how is there one spot to land? While the answer is simple, believing the answer is not. Love is NOT something we simply fall into.
We live in the era of the modern microwave mentality. We desire the instant gratification of our hamburger drive-thrus and our personalized Netflix queues. And perhaps because of this modern approach—many of us put a ring on it, walk an aisle, and tend to expect the benefits of love instantly, as well.
The number of divorces in the first 5 years of marriage don’t lie. We want the benefits of love in marriage, and we want them quickly. And this expectation of instant everything is only enhanced by the illusion of falling “in love” with our partner.
You can find this mistaken narrative in proposals and wedding reception speeches. No one is just ‘in’ love; they must fall in it in order for it to be real. The problem is that with this approach the wedding day is the beginning of the end for the relationship. Afterwards, the challenges of merging two lives into one inevitably come knocking. And because they think they’ve already “arrived” in love, challenges and disagreements make them question if they’ve somehow fallen out of love and need to look for it elsewhere.
The Hollywood View
Let me make this simple: You don’t just slip and fall into love. That sounds like an accident due to a missing “Wet Floor” sign. No, that’s not the instant brand of love that the Creator had in mind. Love is something that is discovered and rediscovered many times over.
Hollywood has a distinct view of ‘falling in love,’ it’s all about finding the right person that makes life easy. Unfortunately, this storyline skips the fact that we become different people. It oversimplifies the reality that we usually want different things out of life. It downplays that about 80 percent of us are going to marry almost our exact opposite. It assumes that we’re static individuals and we’re not.
Life changes. People get sick. Their parents die—that changes us. They get cancer—that changes us. They get fired— that changes us. They might succeed in their business far more than they imagined—that changes us. If we don’t pursue intimacy, we lose intimacy. I have to keep pursuing my partner or I’ll become a stranger to my partner.
It’s not a destination. Love is not about finding ‘the One’ and falling in love. Love isn’t something we feel while dating or simply fall into after a few special moments together. Love is a reality between two people that is cultivated by everyday choices to give to one another. And that kind of love is worth the investment it demands.
The Modern Love Journey
“Love is like a scavenger hunt; discovery is more meaningful than achievement.” ― Byron Jamal
The modern love journey is littered with achievements–relationship titles, new joint purchases, and career achievements. As we move forward―both socially and professionally―so, too, do these milestones. For example, one of my love coaching clients was frustrated because her connection with her fiance was not as strong after he proposed. That seems weird. But consider her words in our first session: “After four years, I just want him to propose.” His popping the question was her main goal, and she achieved it.
“Now what?” I asked her, bluntly.
Her response started like most people who set one main goal on their love journey: “I guess…” She was so confident she wanted him to propose but didn’t have the same certainty for what the next move was after that. After one achieved goal there is always another, lying just up ahead. These milestones become destinations. Once we achieve them it symbolizes the end of the road we’re travelling.
When we treat our ideals of love as points to reach, we run the risk of actually reaching them. Our relationships fall gently into a routine; our love is set up to repeat. The thirst is quenched, a craving satisfied, and the passion begins to subside. The relationship this woman had with her boyfriend, at the time, was fun and lighthearted. They went on trips and lived spontaneously. After she pressured him into a proposal, much of their passion dried up. The nervousness of buying the right ring and excitement of planning the perfect proposal surprise faded. While they achieved the goal, It just didn’t feel fun anymore.
Love must be nurtured in order to endure the destinations we set. In order to do that, we must first ensure that there’s room to grow, places to go, and exciting new territory to discover. The feeling cannot be placed on autopilot; it must remain conscious and active. We cannot assume that just because we advanced along the love journey secures the success of the new level. We must choose to fall in love again each morning — find new creases in the same brow, new freckles on the same face, a new passion for the same familiar smile. We must ensure that our love remains a healthy, active journey.