It is a question faced by so many couples that start out with a love so strong, so consuming, so sure that it is unfathomable that they could ever not love each other. And yet, it happens all the time; sometimes they even turn into bitter enemies! But why? How could a love so right go so wrong??
The problem? The relationship is based on dependent love where both parties are treating their partner well as long as they are being treated well in return. When we find someone we like, we go far out of our way to give to our love interest – and we are happy to do it. Expressing our love is easy because we are getting something in return – love. And as long as both parties are shoveling out the love at a hefty rate, everything is fine.
There’s a huge flaw in that plan, however . . . we can’t keep up that level of giving for very long. As soon as one person slips and begins to give a little less, their partner withdraws, feels unappreciated and they respond by giving a little less, too. Now both parties are watching their lover very closely and responding in kind. Once a relationship goes off the rails, it feels impossible to get it back on and going in the right direction. Why? Because it is a relationship based on performance, not love.
Think of all the ways to give in a relationship – attention, affection, favors, tending to them when they are sick, household tasks, letting them sleep in, gifts, listening, inquiring, hearing their heart, knowing what matters to them, quality time, making them laugh, understanding them, missing them, greeting them when they come home, eye contact, caring about what they are going through. I could go on and on. There are so many ways to give – and so many ways to slip up.
We will ALL fail our partners at some point in our relationships. If I am in a relationship where I have to be on my game 100% of the time or my partner will withdraw his or her love, well – I am in big trouble! When I slip up and get moody or distracted or just busy with life, or have a negative reaction to something, I need my partner’s love and support more not less. The last thing I need at that moment is for them to turn their back on me!
This is why, if we want to have the true love that we’ve all dreamed of, we have absolutely GOT to change our definition of love! It is not the romantic, all-is-well-all-the-time image that Hollywood would have us believe. It is not the ‘gazing into each other’s eyes’ and ‘finishing each other’s sentences’ that poems and songs are written about.
Love is a verb. It is a conscious decision to love someone – the good and the bad. It is a choice to do what is in someone’s best interest even when they are not giving to you. Love is about learning how to set yourself aside and do what is best for the other person because you love them, not because of what you might get in return.
Love based on performance will never work. In order to have a love that will stand the test of time, each person must have a willingness to go “all in” and love and stay true to each other through the rough times.