Valentine's Day for the Realistic RomanticAt the beginning of a new love relationship, we may find ourselves in a beautiful fantasyland. Finally, the struggle to find peace and happiness is over…

‘I am saved. I am safe. I am lovable. I am desirable. I am acceptable. I belong. I am overflowing with love to give and joy to share. I am so incredibly alive. We are a perfect match.’

And then reality sets in…

‘He leaves his wet towel on the bed.’

‘She is constantly texting.’

‘He is always late.’

‘She is always working.’

‘He drinks too much.’

You may wonder, ‘Who is this person I thought I knew?’ ‘She’s changed.’ ‘He’s different.’

‘You complete me’ spirals down into ‘You deplete me.’

Despite our hopes for perfection, romantic love relationships, like every aspect of life, are complicated, continually changing and confusing. While our fantasy is that the ‘right’ romantic relationship will relieve us of our pain, fear and longing, the truth is that our romantic relationships stretch us to the limits of our emotions — from intense pleasure to crushing despair.

One moment we can feel deeply connected to a partner and the next moment feel totally cut off and alone. Sometimes we think our partners are the absolute best, and other times we feel frustrated, annoyed, and seriously disappointed by them.

This is simply the nature of romantic love relationships. We cannot avoid the ride of emotions, and we cannot separate out the parts of a person we enjoy from the parts that drive us nuts. We are all human, and we trigger and disappoint one another, even when there is true love.

We can do our best to stand back and see the whole complex picture of the relationship, the ups the downs, the progress forward, and the stuck feeling that comes from repeating cycles.

We can do our best to decide, based on this whole picture — ‘overall, am I getting enough of what I honestly want and need in this relationship? Overall, are we moving forward and growing together?’

If we decide the answer is yes, that this relationship is worth our emotional investment, we need to learn to be strong enough to get through the cycles of joy and pain. We need to learn to make room for all of it — the magical pleasure, the drudgery of daily life, the fear and disappointment.

We need to let our hearts grieve for the loss of the fantasy of romantic love, and then show up as fully as we can within the evolving experience of our real relationship.

As we embrace the ride of romantic love, becoming ever more entangled in the messiness and challenges of life (in all of the stuff that we had wished our true love could have saved us from!), we may have times when we have doubts and fears about the point of it all. But then there are the moments when reality and fantasy are married into a feeling of real connection, and we remember why we keep trying, keep riding, and keep loving.