posttitle = 7 takes on falling sanely in love titleClass =title-long len =33

7 takes on falling sanely in love

I never write listicles but this does seem like a pretty good format for summarizing many of the ideas that I’m going to be talking about in my upcoming course The Mating Dance: finding your center in courtship. It starts on Tuesday and there are only a few tickets left so check it out and sign up if it resonates with you!

1. Falling in love is about answering a question: are we a fit?

This question is more important than making the relationship succeed in any particular way. If you try to make the relationship become something in particular, but it doesn’t want to be, you’re inviting a world of suffering.

Put another way, the question is: what does this relationship naturally want to be? It might be that you’re totally fit to be intellectual companions or business partners, or you’re fit to be hot late-night lovers, but not fit to be spouses. And if you’re looking for a monogamous marriage to raise kids in, then any sexual or romantic relationship that obviously isn’t going to become that is uhhh… kind of in the way. But the intellectual companionship could be wonderfully supportive of that.

The fit question therefore also requires that you’re clear enough on how you want to live and raise kids and so on, that you can connect with someone else who wants to live that way. Or you need to make sure that you and your mating dance partner think similarly enough and are very capable of resolving differences, so that you can navigate that stuff.

2. A healthy relationship means that both of you feel like enough, the whole time.

If you don’t feel like enough for the other person, or you feel like they’re not enough for you, then back up until you both feel like enough. It’s not that you can’t challenge each other, but you don’t want to be feeling like every day you’re failing to live up to who the other person already expects you to be.

Some “too close” warning signs:

  • 😠🫸 you feel default-annoyed by them and want them to be further away
  • 🍽️🗳️ you’re fighting over little things, and those fights feel like a referendum on the relationship
  • 🥰🫂 you don’t feel simple joy that they’re as close to you as they are

3. You’re not supposed to be sober.

It’s called “falling in love” because you’re not totally in control. But you don’t have to fall madly in love!

A friend asked me:

“How did you tell if the attraction at the beginning of your relationship was healthy? vs like infatuation. I’m in a new situation and it started off strong”.

I wouldn’t call the opposite of healthy “infatuation”. You’ll have infatuation in any case—that’s what falling in love is! The opposite of healthy is more like unwholesome—are there parts of either of you that are getting disowned or ignored by the seduction?

4. Everyone has a mating dance: respect yours & theirs

You can’t simply trust people; the trust emerges from a recognition that it makes sense to you to trust. This involves things happening that build that trust. I’ve written a ton of stuff on this on more abstract levels—read about the Non-Naive Trust Dance framework for that. It all applies. But we can get more specific in the context of dating.

By “someone’s mating dance” what I mean is the set of experiences they have to go through with someone in order to experience that other person feeling like a mate for them. I sometimes talk about it as steps, but they need to not only happen but go well. You probably have some guesses about what will advance the dance, but ultimately you have to try it and find out, and be willing to be surprised.

They have different orderings for different people and cultures. For some people, getting married is part of the dance that creates the possibility of sex. For others, the idea that they could choose to marry someone they’d never had sex with is ABSURD. This highlights that people’s mating dances can be fundamentally incompatible, but in less extreme cases many apparent incompatibilities will turn out to have some creative solution.

Non-exhaustive and non-authoritative list of example mating dance steps:

  • looking at someone and feeling attracted to them
  • a first kiss
  • going out for dinner
  • dancing together
  • living together
  • singing together
  • sleeping next to each other
  • having sex (or a particular kind of sex)
  • disclosing a particular secret or shameful story
  • having a fight and making up
  • meeting each others’ families
  • seeing each others’ finances
  • going to church together
  • talking about how to raise kids
  • agreeing not to sleep with other people (and what exactly that means)

I’ll expound on this more in a future post.

5. Let every concern step onto the scale.

Every concern is a potential dealbreaker, but this is fine because if it’s a fit then none of them are actual dealbreakers. But if you don’t let them have a say at all, you undermine your inner consensus process. I wrote about this in the context of choosing a new name for my business, and it applies even more strongly here. Do you want to endure thoughts of “I didn’t sign up for this” or “I told you so” for the rest of your life?

Concerns could be about some logistical complexity, such as one of you needing to move to be in a different city or country. Or they could be about some way in which your partner annoys or embarrasses you (which may or may not be something they can change). Or they could be about a value you have that you’re afraid they don’t share.

You might feel like you’re not supposed to care about something, whether that’s money or looks or status or smell or whatever else. Don’t let that distract you from the fact that you do care about it (if you do).

6. Committing while you’re worried if you’re settling is called… settling.

You don’t get to know everything in advance. You do get to know if you’ve resolved your worries to your satisfaction at the point when you commit, or if you’re pushing past them. I can’t tell you if that’s what you’re doing (I can guess) but you can feel it.

I talked to someone who was unsure if he was settling or if this relationship was the best he could do, and he realized that even if this relationship was actually a really good fit, if he didn’t go and try to find something better, he’d be left forever wondering if maybe he’d settled. My view simplifies this: I call that state of forever wondering “settling”.

As visionary artist Allyson Grey wrote in this post about sustaining a marriage:

The secret is to choose wisely and then STOP CHOOSING. 

Corollary: if you aren’t going to be able to stop choosing, then you’re not choosing wisely.

7. Confidently mating for life requires the possibility of heartbreak

Opening to the possibility that you’ll experience the powerless pain of having them reject you, or that you’ll have to make the gutwrenching decision to reject someone you love dearly. If you’re not a fit, and you’re not able to reject each other, then depending on your environment you’ll either get stuck indefinitely or walk inexorably into a commitment like a lobster into a trap, not able to turn around.

One thing to remember is that even if it does work out well, then unless you both die at the same time, eventually one of you will suffer a different kind of heartbreak, not from rejection but from death.

Love is not safe from heartbreak.


If you want to explore in a small group how to apply these principles and others to your relationships (past, present, or future), consider joining my Mating Dance course! It starts on Tuesday. Here’s a testimonial from a client I talked to about these ideas:

I’ve rarely had the opportunity to talk with someone with the combination of empathy, vulnerability, and insightfulness that Malcolm brings to his coaching sessions. Within a very small amount of time, Malcolm helped me to find a reframing of a situation in my life which has opened up a lot of space for contemplating, growth, and a feeling of new possibilities.

If you found this thought-provoking, I invite you to subscribe:    
About Malcolm

Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Intend, a system for improvisationally & creatively staying in touch with what's most important to you, and taking action towards it.



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