LOVE = KNOWLEDGE + EFFORT
Facing the fantasy
No one seems to prepare us for how challenging it is to live with and love another human being. Instead, we are offered a fantasy-version of love where relationships are effortless and fulfilling. In this fantasy-version, your passion for each other is limitless. You fulfil each other’s needs without needing to even identify your needs or ask for them to be fulfilled. Your relationship fixes everything that’s ever been wrong. You are each other’s person. Then, this fantasy comes crashing into your reality and you think something must be terribly wrong with you, with your partner, with your relationship. However, the problem is the fantasy: the idea of love as effortless and fulfilling is nothing like the reality of relationships.
Dealing with the loss of the fantasy
One of two things tends to happen in relationships once the fantasy has faded:
- Blame: you believe that someone is at fault because your relationship is not as easy as everyone else’s appears to be. At times, you blame yourself: questioning whether you got married too soon or if there is something incompatible about you. At other times, your partner gets the brunt of the blame. You think maybe you married the wrong person or if your partner would change, your relationship would get better. Suddenly your relationship is filled with disappointment, shame, anger and loss.
- Withdrawal: you slowly start investing your energy elsewhere. You can physically run away, where you spend more time at work/gym/with your friends. You can emotionally shut down, where you become more and more disconnected from your partner. It suddenly feels like you are alone in your relationship. This is also a time when affairs can happen. Another person comes along and it can feel like the fantasy is alive again. The emotions that accompany the beginning stages of attraction feel just like the fantasy-version of love.
Does everyone feel like this?
The fantasy always seems to have an expiry date. The reality of a relationship always sets in. I have yet to work with someone in counselling who hasn’t been deeply affected by the realisation that the fantasy-version of love is not their reality. At some point, we all face challenges in our relationships with communication, intimacy, trust and connection. Because no one else seems to be talking about the challenges they face in their relationships or how to fix them, we think our challenges mean it is time to end the relationship. It doesn’t mean the end – experiencing challenges actually means your relationship is normal, healthy, and alive. It is through experiencing and facing the challenges of real relationships that we are able to become more complete as ourselves.
Sustaining the real thing
No one seems to have taught us this very important fact about relationships: real relationship take effort and knowledge to last. Effort means I am committed to working on my relationship with you. I am committed to revealing myself to you. I will share my thoughts and feelings, my likes and dislikes, my daily activities and future dreams. I am committed to give you my attention with exclusivity. Knowledge means that I will seek to understand you. I am committed to learn about your thoughts and feelings, your likes and dislikes, your daily activities and future dreams. I am committed to becoming the expert at understanding your needs. Knowledge also means that I accept that we will change and I continually make the effort to stay in love with you.
Want lasting, fulfilling relationships?
Let go of the faded fantasy and commit to the hard work that real relationships require. In the real-version of love, you make the decision to give of yourself everyday– your joy, your interest, your understanding, your knowledge, your humour and your sadness. You fulfil each other’s needs because you’ve identified your needs and requested for them to be fulfilled. Your passion for each other is fuelled by making time for undivided attention. Let’s love and be loved through effort and knowledge.