Peter (or Petra) Pan in Love: "Romance" is only Chapter One...
"We didn't move to San Francisco to grow up!"
- Anonymous Friend
Here in San Francisco Therapy, there are a lot of self-proclaimed “sensitive” people out there, myself included. With its mystical foggy days, colorful citizens, candy-colored Victorians, and lush greenery, San Francisco is a town that beckons not only the thrill-seekers and argonauts, but also the sensitive, artistic seekers & Peter Pans among us.
The man or woman with a sensitive temperament is drawn to beauty, nostalgia, and all things romantic, including the idea of a loving, committed partnership (and also to white knights, unicorns, mermaids, and dragons.) These sensitive souls are often open to all the self-growth activities the new age community in the Bay Area has to offer - from Ecstatic Dance to teahouses to meditation to Tantric Sex workshops and Ganja Yoga. They aren’t afraid to talk about their feelings, or philosophize about the Truth and what it means to be Authentic. They will fearlessly attend Burning Man or Landmark and turn down the idea of a real job for a labor of love--be it their art or music or yet another start-up.
Yet, all too often, I see these gentle folk serially skipping and slipping from one relationship to the next in a relationship pattern reminiscent of the theory of eternal return. These love-driven folk are so sensitive to the reality of the love that they are seeking, it seems they run from it--whether through a proclamation that they prefer polyamory, or that he/she isn’t “the one,” or that they’re confused, or just “not ready.” Essentially, no matter what the reason, it boils down to a basic unwillingness to commit to and accept the reality of the moment they are in. The reality of the relationship they are in feels different from the mermagic unicorn romantic love they KNOW they are seeking, and thus, they feel justified in the decision to leave what appears to be dissonant with their vision.
A common trajectory of relationships here in the Bay is for three weeks to three months of romance to suddenly fizzle into the ether for no apparent reason, and I believe the dynamic I describe here is why.
We Highly Sensitive People confuse Romance with real love. We think partnership is about romance, and when we get that romance and are still unsatisfied, we think it’s time to move on in search of what we really want. As a certified couples therapist, I believe that romance is only the beginning of opening our hearts to another. To truly achieve the real love that our souls want requires that we build a container that romance alone cannot provide. Commitment is that container--commitment first and foremost to ourselves, what we stand for and what we want. In the case of love relationships, commitment to another is a natural extension of that commitment to what is true for us. Commitment, and love itself, require some sacrifice and some adjustment. We must adjust ourselves to the commitment we have made. We must change or attune ourselves in some way and sacrifice some small part of our freedom, our lives, or our priorities. We may have to shift our habits or likes, our routines or our friendships. This small sacrifice we make creates the container that can become the foundation for mature love.
So, is the answer to give up our dreams of Romance and white knights and unicorns and mermaids and settle into reality? NO. The answer is to hold those feelings in a delicate balance--with our reason and logic. To create a solid structure and to build a foundation of relationship, the polarities of the reason and the love, the order and the imagination, are necessary. The answer is to grow up your ideas of what romance and love really are -- they are separate, and both are necessary. Realize that romance and freedom and good feelings exist at the same time as limitation and sacrifice and painful, difficult feelings. And realize that sometimes, everything feels all the more beautiful because of that. If True Love is what you want, the answer to the question of finding it is to commit to standing in all of it. The commitment won’t find you, but if you can find the commitment in yourself and stand in it, you will experience greater depths of your self and soul than you ever have before. And whatever happens after, in that commitment to yourself and your values and to that person before you, you will have found Love.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How can you show commitment to your partner?
A. Showing commitment in a relationship is one of the most important things that you can do. Here are some tips that you can use like be honest with your partner about everything, put in the effort when it comes to the relationship, learn how to compromise & make your partner feel special.
Q. What is a self-proclaimed sensitive person?
A. A self-proclaimed sensitive person is someone who is more likely to be more sensitive to other people's emotions and feelings than others. This person might be more emotionally reactive, more prone to anxiety and depression, or they might have a higher sensitivity to physical stimuli.
Q. Is romance everything in a relationship?
A. Romance is not everything in a relationship. It is just one of the many things that make up a relationship. Romance is important, but it should not be the only thing that matters. There are other aspects like mutual respect, trust and love to name a few that are just as important to have in a relationship.