Love will save the day, love is all you need, love is the answer, love trumps hate…you’ve heard it all. But, will love really “save the day” when it comes down to having a healthy, happy relationship? Is love really all you need?
The short answer: No.
The long answer: Still no.
But wait, there’s more. I’m not a jaded disbeliever in the power of love. Absolutely not. Love is grand! Love is a powerful force that can change lives, stop wars, soothe babies and make you feel like you’ve just floated passed the ozone layer and back.
But when it comes to romantic and partner relationships, we have to be very careful. We tend to assign love all-powerful capabilities that it actually doesn’t have. For starters, love doesn’t have the power to make someone stay with you if they don’t want to. Love can’t convince an unavailable person to suddenly become available and loving. Love can’t make someone kind, respectful or thoughtful, even if they say they love you. Love sometimes, cannot stop abuse, neglect or violence. Love especially cannot create a relationship based on shared values and compatibility. And no, love can’t pay the bills.
Love can also do things we don’t exactly want it to do. Love can, indeed, blind us. It can steer us in a direction that might not be healthy for us. It can lead us to believe we are making the right decision to stay, when, clearly, we should go. It can help us make excuses for bad behavior, overlook abuse, and hold us back from knowing a truer, safer, deeper version of itself. A friend of mine, for example, is dating a guy who is chronically unavailable, has a history of alcohol abuse, and is still in a relationship with another woman who he won’t let go of. Why do you stay, I ask her. Because I love him. Sadly, love to her, is pain, frustration, suffering.
It doesn’t have to be.
Knowing that healthy love relationships have many components is key to breaking the spell. Healthy relationships need compatibility, chemistry, kindness, respect, friendship, determination, forgiveness, availability, discipline, communication, patience, not just love. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t get that memo. Romantic relationships have been so heavily defined by the Love factor that many of us are shocked when love fails us and our relationships end. I don’t understand? We we’re so in love. If anything our almost complete misunderstanding of love is simply a testament to our upbringing. I won’t rehash the Hollywood/Disney version of love we all grew up with it. But, for many, who didn’t have ideal childhood homes (and some who did), books, TV, and films were our only education on what love had the capability to do. It could bring a Princess back to life. It could break an evil spell. And it could “save the day.” Heck for me, I thought it could turn a truly unappealing character into the man of my dreams (I was way off). But, like many young women, my Disney version of love was more real than my reality version of love. All too often, I erroneously defined love as chemistry or attraction. Not to mention my ridiculous belief that sharing the same initials was a sign of true love. Whoopsie.
Love, while it can’t pay the bills and make unavailable partners suddenly available can work for us. But, in order for it to work for us, we have to give up our fantasy definition of love. We have to stop believing that love can do things it simply cannot. And we have to stop thinking it’s a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. It’s not.
For Love to be real, it can’t stand alone. It needs its tribe: Time, Self-Esteem, Compatibility, Compassion, Intimacy, Kindness, Respect, Friendship, Courage, Forgiveness, Availability, Communication, and Patience.
You can’t just say you love yourself. You also need to be kind to yourself. You need to respect yourself, forgive yourself, be patient with yourself. Healthy relationships are the same. They can’t live off Love alone. The stand-alone version of Love is an imposter. His name is Intensity. He usually shows up at a bar or a night club with Good Looking, Impulsivity, Fantasy, Sex and Drama. Don’t be fooled.
In order for love to work for us remember that it can save the day, with limits. It needs a heck of a lot of other things to do the saving for us.