By Peggy Vaughan and James Vaughan, Ph.D.
(excerpted from the book: "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?")
Love has many stages, each wonderful and unique. The Full Monty, however, is loving on all levels - body, mind, and spirit. Why settle for less than the full love experience?
Maybe you think that "falling in love" is as good as it gets. What a wonderful feeling! It's intoxicating and all-consuming. You can't think of anything else - and you can't keep your hands off each other. Personally, we still refer to the beginning of our own relationship at age 16 as our period of "young, hot love" - but, of course, these feelings aren't restricted to young people; they're typical of any new love at any age.
You may wish these feelings would never end, and you may go to great lengths to sustain them or to rekindle them when you feel them changing, but it simply doesn't last - at least not in that form. While falling in love is a fantastic experience, much of the intensity of the feeling is inherent in its newness and novelty.
The Full Monty is much more than just the initial physical connection. It includes the more mature mental connection that comes from being friends and sharing life's responsibilities - as well as the spiritual connection that comes from developing deep trust and intimacy through full disclosure to each other.
This spiritual connection is possible only through responsible honesty - really knowing each other by sharing your deepest hopes, fears and dreams on an ongoing basis. This kind of honesty is much more than just "not lying;" it's "not withholding relevant information" from your partner, dropping all the barriers and allowing deep intimacy. (And this kind of honesty can be sexier than all the sex manuals you can buy.)
Frankly, this level of deep trust and true intimacy cannot be reached quickly. It's quite different from the kind of intimacy that develops when people disclose themselves to each other upon first meeting, with no shared history and no joint responsibilities at stake. That initial feeling of intimacy is what people often mistakenly refer to as finding a soul-mate.
We thought we were soul-mates when we connected as teenagers. We felt sure we had a special love that would hold us together - no matter what. But there's no such thing as finding your soul-mate. You become soul-mates only after establishing a full love based on connecting on all three levels - physical, mental, and spiritual. Unfortunately, it's quite rare for a couple to truly become soul-mates. That's because it takes time, commitment, and experience.
And even if you do become soul-mates, it doesn't mean your love is now fixed in place, never again to change. A vital love relationship is always changing and hopefully growing. While different aspects may be more dominant at one time than another, all are needed in some measure if a couple is to have the best of what love has to offer.
For instance, the strength of our initial physical love was enough to sustain us for quite awhile. Then when we married, we added a serious "grown-up" commitment to each other to make a life together. While we had great love and formed a great partnership, it wasn't until we'd been married for 18 years (and "in love" for at least 21 years) that we knew the spiritual aspect of love even existed. It was facing a real crisis in our marriage (James' extramarital affairs, about which we have extensively written) that led us to this level. At that point we committed to a kind of rock-bottom honesty that laid the foundation for an unshakable trust and a truly spiritual connection.
Once we really got that, we've never wavered in our all-out commitment to honesty, to really knowing each other, to being connected in the world together. This kind of connection goes beyond being lovers; it goes beyond being married or being parents and grandparents or being friends or partners. It's a much more powerful connection that cannot be broken, no matter what.
Being connected on this much deeper level gives meaning to life and provides a "firm place to stand" in the world, allowing you to go out and face the world on a completely different basis than would otherwise be possible. By integrating your love for other special things in life with the love you feel for your partner, you can develop a loving way of being in the world.
However, even when you finally reach this point, it does not remain a fixed situation. There's a natural fluctuation in all three levels of a love connection - body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes the passion is high, sometimes it's low - often impacted by the degree of stress related to differences in dealing with joint life responsibilities. Sometimes the partnership (in a practical sense) works well, sometimes you're at odds - often impacted by the degree of physical closeness you feel at the time. But once you make the deep spiritual connection, that's not likely to waver.
So love is far more complex than our simple notions of romance or friendship or partnership. In fact, essential to experiencing the full force of love in our lives is learning to respect love's significance and clearly understanding just what's at stake. Love is not some little fringe issue that exists in isolation; it's part of your total world, it's a central force that is integral to your life as a whole.
When all is said and done, having a long-term, loving relationship ranks near the top of the list of the best of what life has to offer. So why settle for less? Why not go for the Full Monty!
To read Peggy's Review of the book from which this essay is excerpted, see: