In disco days, couples glommed onto each other for being good dancers. The ability to make change accurately, pay bills, hold jobs and tempers was not necessarily factored into establishing relationships. The inevitable results filled divorce courts, gossipy conversations and broken, confused hearts. The life lessons paid off for attentive people, but not for the rest of society.
The past few decades have been filled with self-actualization movements, affirmations and relationships of convenience, but still-high divorce rates and the too-common phenomenon of extended singlehood indicate that “love,” however it may be conveniently defined, is not enough to keep some relationships together. So what do couples need besides some hormones and hands dancing all over their tender parts? The answer is multi-faceted.
Love is a mindset, a dedication to the wellbeing of the other person. Forgiveness for being human is critical. So is reciprocal behavior. Each partner has to give and take, doing necessary tasks to benefit each other or just the other, and appreciating what their partner does for them.
Loving is an obligation that implies specific dynamics. Love is a duty to the other person, a responsibility for their well-being that you take upon yourself. Love implies reciprocity, doing things to promote each other’s happiness and wellbeing. It does not mean keeping score of who did what, but rather contributing to the relationship in constructive ways. Loving is a requirement to focus on your loved one’s virtues, to appreciate and to understand those virtues, that loved one, with insight. As your relationship develops, you can learn that a person’s characteristics are ‘givens,’ not a matter of good or bad, just ‘givens’ that can be dealt with in specific ways. That is not carte blanche permission to make personality, thought or mood disorders acceptable. They are exceptions to the rule. The rest of the dynamics in any given relationship become clearer over time. Values, responses, and other interaction can be re-evaluated as the relationship continues.
The answer to the teasing headline The Secret to a Good Sex Life Is …, by the way, happens to be genuine affection. It can be expressed in shared responsibilities, mutual respect and not rushing to condemn the other person when they do something that you don’t like. But what if your “loving” relationship is filled with emotional friction, distrust and unhappiness? Therapy might be necessary to help the relationship, and its members, into a state of happiness.
Love is not necessarily enough in a relationship. Some of us need to learn how to behave lovingly. Opening yourself to feedback and guidance from professionals trained to help you to get things right can prove helpful. If you need online or in-office counseling though your partner refuses to invest in the effort, do so. You might learn how to ease the tension. And you’ll have opened the possibility that your partner can eventually participate in the counseling effort.