“Love” is often another term for “infatuation,” which literally means, “to be in a state of unreasonable and short-lived passion.” The word “fatuous” means “deluded and self-deceiving.” We are, when we are in a state of infatuation, quite literally “out of our minds” and our brains are drenched in hormones and chemicals like endorphins and oxytocin that produce irresistible sensations, feelings and urges.
Fortunately, the experience of infatuation is temporary. The question has to do with how we deal with the inevitable let-down when that loving feeling is lost. One way is to look for someone else with whom you can recreate this experience. Some people are so in love with the feeling of falling in love (another term for infatuation) that they become serial lovers, sometimes in the hopes of finding that person with whom there will be no fading effect. (Not likely.) Some just decide that they are not the settling-down type. Then there is that small group that knows that infatuation is impermanent and that something even better than that awaits those who are willing to explore and investigate the deeper reaches of relationship: that which lies beyond sensory pleasure.
Unfortunately, there is no generic answer to the question “How do you know when to hang in there and when to cut your losses?” It is, however, a pretty safe bet that if you don’t feel that you’ve given things your very best shot, then it’s worth hanging in there a bit longer and making that extra effort. Athletes experience what they refer to as a “second wind,” which often occurs after the point at which they feel that they are on the edge of depletion. Being in relationship, as many of us know from our own experience, is not unlike being an endurance athlete or a marathon runner. It may require the willingness to hang in there and go past the point where you feel like quitting and giving up in order to find the hidden strength or energy needed to finish the race.
Of course, there can be a time when it may be necessary to call it quits. When you’ve given your best, kept your focus on doing your own work and learned the lessons that your relationships has provided you, it could be time to consider the alternative. To do so at this point is not a matter of quitting, but rather letting go and grieving the loss.
If we engage with others consciously and responsibly, then each relationship provides us with greater insights and wisdom that contribute to the compassion and love that we have to bring to all of our future relationships.
The gifts on this path are abundant and amazing. They include: courage, commitment, imagination and compassion, and oh yes, patience — lots of it — because it doesn’t happen overnight. And you get to benefit from them regardless of the outcome of your relationship. It’s a pretty good deal.