Can love grow? Or does true love begin with an instant spark?

This piece was also published on The Huffington Post. CLICK HERE to check it out.

How we met

I’m a few months into a relationship that began in a most unusual way – at least for me. We met online (that’s not the unusual part) during my recent three-month stint in New York. (I’m planning to move from Sydney to NYC, and this trip was a reconnaissance mission – or ‘reccie’, as us Aussies say.) Although better late than never, the timing was a little unfortunate, as it was three weeks before I was due to leave. Weary from the notoriously arduous NYC dating scene, and running out of time to meet and get to know someone new, I responded to a Jersey boy who emailed me. He looked cute, seemed nice, and appreciated the Goonies quote (‘Goonies never say die!’) in my profile. ‘First you gotta do the Truffle Shuffle’, he opened with. This was a good start to things.

Within a few days, we were face to face having a drink at a speakeasy-style bar near Washington Square Park. Thankfully, he lived up to his profile – he looked cute, seemed nice, and we talked and laughed easily. Our first date led to a second date led to a third date led to no longer keeping count. He kept asking me out – and I kept saying yes. While we were enjoying each other’s company, we had a talk about not feeling as though this was necessarily going to go anywhere. But we liked each other enough to hang out until I left, and keep in touch thereafter. By the time I left, though, we’d become closer than I think either of us expected. Not ‘crazy in love’ Beyoncé-style close. But close.

How our relationship grew

I had another ten days in the country (San Francisco for four days and Portland for six days, where I was attending this conference), and we were in constant contact. I wasn’t used to being in such regular contact with someone, but it was really nice. Now a month into our relationship, and starting to talk about him coming out to Sydney for a visit, the subject of exclusivity came up naturally. During a phone conversation in the quietest spot of a noisy Portland bar I could find, the words ‘I’m feeling a little faithful’ effortlessly escaped my lips. He said he was glad I said that, as he was feeling the same way. Plus, there was no point in us planning a trip two months ahead if we were going to date other people in that time.

Pacing ourselves

So, now we’re in the midst of two months of communication and anticipation, which will be totally worth it for the ten days or so we’ll spend together – him seeing Australia for the first time, me sharing my homeland with him, and us hanging out and getting to know each other better. After that, we’ll reassess what’s happening with our relationette.

How mature of us, right? Perhaps. But, frankly, it scares me a little. I’m not usually the maturity kind of girl. I’m the wild abandon kind of girl. I tend to hit it off with someone big-time fairly early on – or not at all. When I fall (rarely, but when I do), I fall fast, I fall hard, and I will do absolutely anything for even a whisper of time with that person – such is the absolute certainty of my feelings. I’ve never fallen in love slowly. I’ve tried, but it’s never worked out. As a result, I tend to stay tuned for the unmistakable sting of cupid’s arrow in my butt as a sign someone might be ‘The One’. The only catch is I’m still single, so perhaps I’ve been going about it all wrong.

With a touch of envy, I recently watched a romance between two young, ridiculously good looking people play out online. A sweet and handsome contestant on one of the American seasons of The Bachelorette was contacted by a sweet and drop-dead gorgeous Australian girl from Perth as his season aired in Australia (about 6 months after it aired in the US). Long story short, she felt a connection with him, she reached out to him on Twitter after she saw he was rejected by the Bachelorette, he probably thought he was being catfished because she’s so mind-blowingly stunning, they jumped on Skype and started falling for each other, he hopped on a flight to Perth to see her, they fell in love, he hopped on a flight back to the US so he could get a proper visa, he got a proper visa, he hopped on another flight to Perth where they were reunited. Three months later, he’s still there. End of story, right? Well, I checked in with them recently and, to my surprise, there seemed to be trouble in paradise. Already. And in light of my new ‘slow but steady’ approach to love, I felt a little smug. I’ve experienced the handsome Bachelorette contestant / drop-dead gorgeous Perth girl relationship before (minus the TV-worthy good looks), and it’s intoxicating. There’s no better feeling. But, sadly, it’s often unsustainable. (Update, Sep 2017: They’ve been broken up for years and he’s back living in the US.)

Feeling ‘in love’ is only one cog in the relationship wheel

So, what gives? When it comes to relationships, can love grow? Or does true love begin with a relatively instant spark? Is an instant spark a sign it’s meant to be? Or merely a sign of strong chemistry and, perhaps, little more? If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my quest for lasting love, which has now spanned decades, it’s that successful relationships require a hell of a lot more than feelings. Feelings are important (of course you’ve gotta be reasonably hot for each other!), but they’re only one cog in the wheel. Qualities such as kindness, stability, wisdom, good communication skills, and willingness to actively show up in the relationship are equally as vital.

Since my blossoming romance has already well and truly exceeded expectations, I’m now open to the possibility that slow but steady progress could be my ticket to love and happiness. My Jersey boy and I are currently on the same page – sitting comfortably in the ‘getting to know each other exclusively’ stage, with zero expectations of what’s to come. So far, each day has brought a greater level of trust, respect and care for one another, so we’re living in the present and enjoying it for what it is. Where to from here? Your guess is as good as mine. Sky’s the limit.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi!

    I have loved reading some of your articles tonight. They are really resonating with where I’m at right now. Having gone from very long term relationships and thrown into the singles scene in recent years, I got to experience some of the ‘not-so-nice’ aspects of dating ie. the emotionally unavailable men (even disappearing/insincere men as you experienced), those who don’t know what they want and have very little to give. I am 32 now and coming into a stage that I call my ‘queendom.’

    I have learned a lot from these experiences (even though some really and truly hurt!) and I now take them on board as lessons. I learned through that contrast that I truly do want the ‘nice,’ and more stable men, much like those who I used to be in long term relationships with but ended up thinking they were boring. I now truly appreciate this kind of man who can offer me love and security and allow me to relax into my femininity. I have come far with my independence and know that I don’t need men…however I have also recognised the value of a quality relationship. I think that I am finally in balance and in a position to appreciate the more positive qualities of a strong masculine counterpart.

    I really resonated with your articles because they seemed to articulate exactly what I have been thinking and feeling and then this one made me think about a recent connection I have made with a man where we are getting to know each other slowly as friends-a style that does suit me best these days because I know that I can be overwhelmed by chemistry and led by my heart only which doesn’t always serve. I’m not sure yet if a lasting love can slowly grow, but I know that I notice my feelings slowly increase at this stage as he reveals some of his caring and loving qualities. I recall that I actually had a male friend at age 18 for about a year and a half who I started to fall for due to the same kinds of qualities that he showed me over time. At the start I didn’t even think I was physically attracted to him, but this came as I felt loved by him. On the other hand, I never completely fell in love with another man who I spent half a decade with; my feelings declined over time instead. So it’s hard to know.

    Love is always daring to cross into that unknown space and appreciating a connection with a person in the present moment. I loved your last paragraph in that vein. It is something that I think many of us come to with maturity. Those dating disasters can be painful, but when we find our Mr. Wonderfuls we I think we appreciate them all the more for how they treat us and step up.

    Lots of love,

    Ruth

    • Elly Klein

      Thanks for your great comment, Ruth! Sorry for the slow moderation – the email notification went into my spam folder.

      Good luck with your ‘queendom’ stage – love it! 🙂

  2. So the fact that I was googling a search about can love take time might say it all about the current relationship I have the potential to be in. I completely resonate with your “either I feel it or I don’t” and the falling hard and doing anything to spent just a bit of time with that person. But, I have never had a relationship for longer than three months because the guy has always left… and in the process, left me brokenhearted. This is why I’m willing to try it out a different way. I don’t feel over the moon about him, but I like him, both as a person and as a potential partner. So even though I know your relationship didn’t work out, I like the thought you put behind it.

    This guy I’m dating is so so kind, generous, and thoughtful. He genuinely wants to make me happy. And he does. But I don’t feel it inside my heart and soul yet. I’m hoping that comes with time. I think falling head over heels and being infatuated is overrated too, so why not try to make this work? But I also feel like I shouldn’t have to convince myself that it’s okay to be with him, even if I don’t feel the same way he does.

    Thankfully, we are open with each other and are communicating. And I do have a lot of walls up from a previous relationship where I was just devastated. I’m so hoping love will grow with this one because he’s really just so great.

    • Elly Klein

      Hi Becca,

      I don’t know how old you are or how long you’ve been dating this guy, but if he’s ‘kind, generous and thoughtful’ and ‘genuinely wants to make [you] happy’, it’s definitely worth giving the relationship a chance. Those are beautiful and important qualities to have in a partner.

      Having said that, spending your life with someone who doesn’t excite you will eventually make you miserable. As you said, you shouldn’t have to ‘convince yourself’ of him. The relationship should feel natural and ultimately make you happy. Are you happy?

      You don’t have to be head over heels / besotted / smitten / think he’s the best thing since sliced cheesecake… But you do have to respect him as a person, find him attractive and, most of all, enjoy his company.

      I’m sure it’ll all become clear over time.

      All the best,
      Elly xooo

      PS. You might be interested to know that as of June 2017, I’m currently living with my boyfriend of 18 months (NOT the one in the article) and we’re planning to get married within the next year or two. Even though we’re blissfully happy, words like ‘head over heels’, ‘besotted’, ‘smitten’ and the like aren’t really words we’d use to describe how we feel about each other (probably because the relationship is just too darn functional!). Words such as ‘warm’, ‘cozy’ and ‘content’ would be more like it. We’re best friends. We talk and laugh a lot. We never get sick of each other. We look after each other. We communicate and make decisions together effortlessly. And we’re very affectionate with each other. I think when you find ‘The One’, there’s essentially no angst – just peace.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] New York when I met him, so I was running out of time to meet and get to know someone new. You can read all about him here but, in a nutshell, what started out as ‘ho-hum, he’s a nice guy, let’s hang out’ turned […]

  2. […] as magazine article in The Atlantic (2008). His practical, down-to-earth advice helped me into my last relationship. And even though that relationship didn’t work out, I felt as though it was very much a step in […]

  3. […] flutter in two short months, as no one had made my heart flutter at all in the 10 months since my ex and I broke up. The past few months have been FUN. Distracting, frustrating, awesome, boring, romantic, […]

  4. […] So, we broke up. After eight months, two articles (here and here) and one large dollop of naïve optimism on my part, it’s over. And it took me […]

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