Published on Philly.Com
February 13, 2015
By Ann Rosen Spector

If lovers insist on Love at First Sight, that implies that they must feel the chemistry immediately. But it also means that when the initial buzz fades, love is gone. If all that were true, most relationships would be history before all the Valentine's Day chocolate is eaten.Dr. Ann Rosen Spector

If lovers believe that the Other is perfect, and that the Other must see ME as perfect, they're in for a rude awakening and crippling disappointment.

If they believe that Love is All You Need, Love Conquers All, Marriage Solves Everything, and after the wedding you will truly live Happily Ever After ... well, I have a bridge or two I'd like to sell you. Plus some swampland in Louisiana.

Infatuation is quick and instant. There is a big crescendo and, all too often, an even more rapid decrescendo.

True love is slow to grow. In a good relationship, it grows more or less gradually over time. What it lacks in spanking new, glittering excitement, it compensates for with deep caring and regard, shared memories and histories, and common goals and values.

My husband told his parents that he fell in love with me as soon as he saw me. Blah, blah, blah. He probably said that about many others. I was the only one who stayed long enough for the line to ring true.

When my mother-in-law asked if I fell in love with him immediately, I said, "No. Your son is like mildew. He grew slowly and steadily, and I can't get rid of him." Or to put it another way, we've been more or less happily married for 35 years.

There are so many ways to find fault with another person. It's a lot easier than finding fault with oneself. Psychologists call this selective attention. We are inundated with stimuli all day, every day. Our brains have to develop and maintain some sort of filter to prioritize the data. Along with selective inattention, we see what we want; we don't see what we don't want.

In couples, that often translates to:

I don't see my mess, idiosyncrasies, or managed clutter, but I clearly see your slovenly habits and your weirdness.

No one is as neat as you are; no one is as anal as they are.

Is that really your version of cleaning the bathroom? It's clean enough for me.

Why are your shoes in the living room? Everything has to be somewhere.

Who squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle? Who has to get every gram out by folding the tube from the end?

What? The towels are on the floor? I'm going to put out new ones, so why bother hanging them up?

That's how you load a dishwasher? I know how to load a dishwasher better than anyone.

Why is your used glass on the side of the sink? Why not put it right in the dishwasher? Because I might use it again sometime.

You are a hoarder. I am a collector.

I'm willing to stick to a budget. What? Your budget is "I want it."

Who needs so many (shoes, earrings, tools, baseball cards, beer mugs)? Someday they'll be worth a lot of money. Plus, why do you need so many (shoes, earrings, tools, baseball cards, beer mugs)?

You drive too aggressively. I drive better than anyone; I never hit anything.

You drive like an elderly person. I'm a careful, respectful driver.

I've been practicing couples' therapy since 1978; the number of repetitive arguments about driving helped to send two children through school. One couple had a regular Monday morning appointment, at which every week they gave detailed reports about the other's insane driving habits.

Yet, as I pointed out, they were never in an accident, and they always arrived safely at their destinations.

"Perhaps you want to look closely at these facts," I said, "or you can repeat this every week for the foreseeable future. One of us is walking away with a Porsche. Could be me, could be you."

They finally saw the light; I miss them, I really do. Especially as I'm driving a 15-year-old car. But I hope they and everyone else have a happy Valentine's Day.

Ann Rosen Spector is a clinical psychologist. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.