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Love Is a Roller Coaster

Freefalling into love first requires the climb.

Gravity, freefall, potential energy, and kinetic energy are all a part of the physics of roller coasters and, metaphorically, of romantic relationships.Here are 4 lessons about love's roller coaster ride:

  1. Recognize that the first climb in a relationship or roller coaster is the most difficult – winning the attention and heart of another is seldom as easy as we would like.
  2. Be aware that the first freefall is also the most exciting – the most potential energy is created during the first climb, so that first descent is the most breathtaking and heart racing.
  3. The freefall feeling is not going to last forever, be prepared to fuel the relationship if it loses its momentum.
  4. Lastly, if the twists and turns are not handled well, just as with a roller coaster, a relationship can quickly derail – be prepared for and responsive to potentially risky situations.

Perhaps too many metaphors actually surround romance, sexual attraction, and true love. Depending on where you are in a relationship, your mind may entertain images of Cupid’s bow and arrow; animal magnetism; a moth to the flame; carrying the torch for someone; or two halves of a whole. And most of us are overly aware of the “ups and downs” of life and the truth in the saying that “the course of true love never runs smooth.” Thus, the roller coaster metaphor may be among the more accurate.

In listening to clients reveal their romantic hopes and heartaches over the years in counseling sessions, it’s clear that reveling in the “freefall of romance” requires a “climb,” much like the physics involved in roller coaster rides. The first hill surmounted by a coaster is generally the highest – this can be likened to wooing or being wooed by your partner. It takes a lot of effort, just as Miley Cyrus sang in her pop hit, “The Climb.” From a full-on standstill to reaching the peak is the toughest part of the journey.

As the peak of a hill is reached, or a romantic flame is lit, the amount of potential energy is at its highest – this is that delightful period in which a couple feels that they are soulmates and can conquer anything together. Next, as the thrilling freefall begins, the potential energy is transformed kinetic energy – which is built as the coaster falls back towards earth. This is an exciting time, as you feel a powerful new source of energy in the relationship – freefalling is exciting as you tumble through space as if propelled by love.

However, once the riders or lovers land back on earth, the energy that was created during the fall will only take them so far. Either the ride and relationship peters out or further climbs and descents must happen to keep momentum moving them forward. On the flip side, sadly, the higher the climb, if the romance falls apart or "bottoms out," the harder the fall. Whether you are 16 or 61, a broken heart is just as painful!

Gravity keeps us in our seats and keeps us grounded, but the ups and downs of romance and life give us the thrills that keep us hoping the ride doesn’t end too soon. While objects in motion tend to stay in motion, as Sir Isaac Newton revealed, relationships require a push and a shove and a climb every now and then, as well, to keep it moving forward.

To get that freefall feeling back into your relationship, you may need to expend some energy first. Just because you’ve been around the track once or twice doesn’t necessarily mean the ride has lost its power to thrill. Be willing to invest the energy needed to keep the relationship energized and full of joy.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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