Love is not enough. Or is it…

Photo by Andrew Small on Unsplash

Love is clearly not enough. We’ve lived this harsh truth, seen it around, and relationship gurus remind us of it all the time.

The very idea of romance these days (or perhaps since forever) doesn’t seem to lead us to a space of hope, joy and enthusiasm for a happy life. Quite the opposite.

It all seems little more than the fleeting and misleading consequence of a chemical storm, leading to words and gestures that are not to be trusted – only tested over time. And don’t forget about conducting a careful diagnostic assessment of yourself and that potential partner, while guarding your boundaries and holding the door half opened, in case you need to bolt, which is likely to happen.

Love at first sight? No, no, no, there’s no such thing. You’re delusional.

To be fair, it’s not surprising this is where we are in our extremely individualistic and selfish culture with a limited attention span and consistent focus on our needs being fully met at all times…or else. And also, because we live the reality of persistent dysfunction at home and at work, alongside outdated, limiting social constructs and expectations, lack of discipline, lack of emotional education and so on.

Yet if we delete “omnia vincit amor” from the record, what are we left with? Where is the magic, the mystery, the softness, the dreaming, the passion? Where is the room to learn and grow? And is ignorance leading to heartbreak the only alternative to this clinical space we increasingly find ourselves being led to?

The other day I came across a quote by our beloved Mr. Rogers: “I’m very concerned that our society is much more concerned with information than wonder….”

Yes, whatever happened to wonder.

I used to believe that love is enough, but only if it’s love. Which most of the time it isn’t. This love thing is being thrown around too lightly.

Because love is not just enchantment and enjoyment, butterflies and novelty and ease. Love is rough. It’s hard work. It’s a daily choice. It’s boring, silent and very difficult sometimes. It’s annoyance. It’s sacrifice and constant effort to change, to learn, to open.

Intimate relationships bring us in front of a mirror and totally outside our comfort zone. And there’s no way to love another and show up in an authentic way if we cover that mirror.

Intimate relationships are beautiful, but also disturbing and uncomfortable. Because they work when two people each have what the other one is missing or managed to bury. A great partnership is something that’s created by two people working on themselves and helping each other continually grow into the best version of themselves. Yet all that digging, learning and putting up with differences is not exactly a walk in the park.

My theory however, implies that only a select few manage to feel and give the “true love” that conquers all and is enough.

But who am I to know or judge someone else? Some people rarely say “I love you” or behave in ways that suggest all that much love, let alone romance. Yet they would take a bullet for their partner.

And then consider attachment styles, different love languages, personalities, patterns in childhood that get carried into adult life. Consider stages in development, cultural norms, economic and social status. Consider education, current social contexts, and history of relationships, both intimate and within families.

Things just got very complicated.

On top of that, most of us aren’t very clear on what we really want, even though we think we know. And we are also not aware of what is potentially involved in maintaining the connection we believe we want, if and when we find it.

How many times have I heard people declare how they want a smart, educated and successful partner who knows who they are, knows what they want and challenges them? The answer is about as many times as I witnessed the same people settle for the exact opposite. Because in reality, the person they think they want intimidates them and is too high maintenance in terms of their having to keep up.

And how many times have I heard others declare they want a sweet, attentive, loving partner, only to see them get bored to tears in no time. Or at the other extreme, people going for that romance god who turns out to be a narcissistic playboy with the emotional maturity of a toad.

It seems to me the reality is that we’re all endlessly debating the same question and looking for an answer that not only fits all, but serves to protect us from that dreaded heartbreak. If only we had that answer and certainty that we won’t be shattered by rejection or horrible behavior, that we won’t end up wasting years of our life on the wrong partner, that we won’t be abandoned or betrayed.

And of course there is no one answer. Or certainty. Anything can happen, even when there are no red flags, and whoever we’re looking to be with passes all the assessments we prepared at a certain time.

The perfect partner doesn’t exist. The perfect place doesn’t exist. Caution is always needed, but so is wonder. Without self love and respect, nothing will ever work. Compatibility is important, and so is compromise. Constant and open communication is a must. Working on ourselves and a willingness to experience discomfort are also a must.

Because ultimately, it’s unchallenged thoughts, feelings and habits, uncensored intrusions from outside, laziness and neglect that make up the tools of failure. Towards ourselves and towards another.

In the end, love isn’t enough. But it can also be enough if it’s both sustained and itself sustains a host of other elements that healthy, happy people show up with, work for, and allow.

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