IF you have ever found yourself stuck in the cycle of an unhealthy, destructive, codependent or abusive relationship, and the heartbreak that eventually occurs either as the cycle continues or when the relationship ends, it is likely that someone well-meaning in your life has told you that “love in itself is not enough”. If we’ve been through enough of these painful relationship experiences, sometimes we become so accustomed to hearing this phrase that we start to dismiss it as nothing more than an overused cliché. However, despite the often-irritating nature of clichés, they continue to exist because there is usually truth to them. The problem with the above phrase is that it is often stated as a platitude by well-meaning friends or family members- without any real explanation following it. When we are hurting from a damaging relationship or the aftermath of it, hearing this can feel dismissive. Therefore, it is easy for us to dismiss the idea in turn. Here, I will deconstruct what it really means for love in itself to not be enough.
In our society, we have been conditioned to believe from Hollywood, Disney movies and endless love songs that “love is all you need” (think, Beatles). But in the real world, compatibility of values, healthy compromise and mutual respect for one another’s personality, beliefs and perspectives (even if you don’t share them) matter more. While some of these key healthy relationship qualities will look different for each unique couple, I have listed some examples below.
Mutual respect sounds like this:
“I will accept and appreciate my partner for all the traits that make up the person that he is; just as I want to be accepted and appreciated for the person that I am.”
“It is important to me to share my beliefs with my partner. My partner may not share all of my beliefs, but I want him to listen (respectfully) without dismissing me.”
“I am intelligent and I value intelligence in a partner. I want my partner to remember to respect my intelligence just as I will respect his. I want us to both consider that there are various measures of intelligence rather than attempt to compare ourselves to one another in this respect”.
Healthy compromise sounds like this:
“I have great respect for education and will support and be proud of my partner as he pursues his. However, it is important that my partner be serious about investing time and attention into our relationship and not allow for it to be neglected during his schooling.”
“It is important that my partner and I each have friends of our own and that we encourage one another to spend time with them. I am sure there will be times when we will prefer to spend time with our friends rather than with one another. I will support this as long as our priority remains on our relationship.”
“I am a ‘cheesy romantic’. I am aware that Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark Holiday” but I still want to celebrate it. I also want to kiss my partner on New Year’s Eve. Although I know these holidays are less important to my partner, I want him to adopt an ‘It is important to me because it is important to you’ attitude regarding holidays such as these”.
Compatibility of values sounds like this:
“I know that my partner and I have the same beliefs regarding marriage, children, and/or spiritual practices.”
“My partner and I do not share the same beliefs regarding marriage, children and/or spiritual practices. However, we accept and respect these differences and have come to a compromise about what this means for our future. We feel secure that there are many other important values that we share. We both believe in long-term commitment, the importance of maintaining a relationship with one another’s family members, agree on how to manage finances and share the same passion for charity work.”
When I reflect back on my first real relationship, I wish I had listened to my friends when they told me that love alone was not enough. However, I believe that no unsuccessful relationship is “a waste of time” because it teaches us more about what we truly need in a relationship. Lacking these key healthy qualities in my own relationship taught me just how important they truly are. If you find that your current relationship or history of relationships lack these qualities and would like some support in breaking this cycle and finding a healthy, fulfilling relationship, please feel free contact me!