That perfect someone. Your soul mate. The one you've dreamed of all your life. Is it utter magic? The stuff of which dreams are made? Or is it all a myth, a cruel joke being played on us by the Hollywood marketing machine and sappy romance novels?Robert Epstein, editor of Psychology Today, recently caused quite a stir when he set out to vex the myth of romantic love. His goal is to enter into an agreement with someone for six months, during which time they put themselves through "various exercises . . . the goal being to fall deeply in love by the end of the contract period. "We teach our children, and especially our little girls, that a knight in a shining Porsche is going to drive up one day, awaken perfect passion with a magical kiss and then drive the blessed couple down the road to Happily Ever After, a special place where no one ever changes," says Epstein. "Hollywood tells us that the One is out there for everyone, so no one is willing to settle for Mr. or Ms. Two-Thirds. We want our relationships to be like our antidepressants -- perfect and effortless."The evidence backs his statement. According to Psychology Today, over 60 percent of world's marriages are arranged. These marriages have far lower divorce rates, and the couples often find themselves falling in love. In contrast, "romantic" marriages have a 57 percent failure rate, with even less promising statistics for second marriages.
Have we been sold a bill of goods, or is there hope for the hopeless romantic? Perhaps when Dr. Epstein finds his mate and they complete their agreement, he'll tell us more. In the meantime, there are a few things we can do to find the magic -- and the realism -- in romantic love.
Seek Good Role Models
Most movies end when the boy gets the girl, yet relationships are much deeper and more complex. Motivational speaker Anthony Robbins suggests finding people who already have the relationship you desire and modeling their approach. All of us probably have a friend or two (or three) with a great marriage. Use them as your role model for finding true love. Ask them their secrets for a happy relationship. How did they meet? How do they keep the spark alive? How do they work through their problems? Discover their strategy and then incorporate it into your own lifestyle as you seek out a partner.
Balance Reality With Fantasy
Your heart may flutter and your fantasies may run wild, but let's face it: We all have laundry to do, work deadlines to meet and dishes to wash. Try integrating these things into your romantic life. Cook a meal together from start to finish, and do the shopping, the cooking and, yes, even the cleaning as a twosome. Get started by planning a domestic project such as cleaning out the attic or re-arranging the family room. Or, do your laundry while you're watching Sunday football. Together, plant a garden, wash your cars, hang pictures, do your Christmas shopping. These day-to-day activities help you see different sides of one another, share your everyday lives and determine your compatibility level.
Talk About the Important ThingsRelationship expert Dr. Phil McGraw says that most people want to get married, but perhaps don't want to be married. He recommends that while you're gazing into one another's eyes, you take time out to discuss what's important: How do you handle money? Are you conservative or a spendthrift? Are you generous to a fault or very controlling with your wallet? How do you approach household responsibilities? Will they be shared? Divided? What are your career goals? Do they include travel, a move to another city, more time at the office? How do you plan to spend your retirement? Do you want to continue working? Would you like to travel? Find out what's important to your partner, what can be negotiated and what are the showstoppers. Take time to truly get to know this person, rather than the projection of whom you want him or her to be. Honesty is a vital part of intimacy.At this stage in life, do we believe in a "Happily Ever After"? Maybe not completely. But it doesn't mean that true romance isn't in your future. By creating a balance and being open and honest, you can build a foundation that may very well survive a long-term and very romantic relationship. GinaMaria Jerome is a writer, consultant and trainer. To find out more about meeting people, visit her Web site at www.thewriteparts.com.