I was thinking about a nice, witty introduction for this short article, but, in all honesty, I couldn’t come up with one. I think relationships – and I’m talking about romantic relationships here – are a very difficult topic, so putting out a witty, happy-go-lucky article about it, will simply be unfair. Consuming that article will be just like buying fast food: you stop being hungry for a while, but, in time, this hamburger will create more problems than it solves.
Despite the title, this is not your regular content-burger, bought in your regular drive-thru, and consumed in less than 2 minutes, on your way home.
You’ve been warned.
If you can’t express your feelings, needs and expectations in a way that your partner understands, from a space of acceptance and vulnerability, then you have work to do. First of all, on yourself. Because, see, you may have these feelings for someone, but your inability to express them will kill the potential of the relationship even before it has a chance to begin.
A romantic relationship starts with yourself, as strange as this may sound. It is the total opposite of what society sells through movies or cultural norms: that you have to search and find the perfect partner. No, you really don’t. What you have to do is to understand who you are first, what you want, what you expect, what you feel, and learn how to express that in a non-toxic way.
All love stories in mainstream movies or books are ending with “and they lived happily ever after”. But no movie or book tells you how they did it. How they survived the challenges after the falling in love faded. How they managed to maintain interest in each other for years, or how they overcame boredom. It all stops there, at the wedding moment, shortening the relationship to the size of the “fall in love” period. And that’s so wrong.
Because the real relationship, the long one, the actual one, starts after the hype of falling in love fades away. It starts once you’re not high on your own endorphins anymore and you actually see who’s the person in your bed. And the secret ingredient to make that relationship work out, after all the sparks are gone, is support. Just be there for your partner. Answer his or her questions. Comfort him or her. This is difficult and it doesn’t come with butterflies in your stomach, but it’s solid and useful: when one of you will stumble, support will be the safety net keeping him or her in the relationship.
Again, the deeper meaning of commitment in a romantic relationship may have been undermined or twisted by fast-food love movies. Commitment is mainly understood as monogamy: I will be committed to you and you will be committed to me. Don’t get me wrong, while commitment in this form is still a fundamental ingredient of a relationship, there is another, more subtle meaning of it, that it’s almost always overlooked.
And I’m talking about commitment to doing the required work. You may be committed to your partner, but if you’re not committed to doing the work on yourself, and on the relationship, then you will soon become a liability, rather than an asset. If you’re not committed to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep making the right stpes in your common dance, then you will slowly turn into a burden. Yes, you didn’t cheat on your partner, but, by not being committed to doing the work on yourself, you actually cheated on the relationship itself.
Another twisted concept, propagated by sugar-coated, incomplete, misleading love stories: trust doesn’t mean only not lying to your partner. To be honest, I find this fundamental, not even worth mentioning. What’s the point in having a relationship if we start telling lies to each other? There’s not enough time in this life for games, or drama. So, limiting the trust concept only to this, that’s just not enough.
Trust, at a deeper level, is the valid hope that things will work out as expected. The valid hope that there is always a brighter side of any outcome and that we should strive to find that part. There should be trust in your partner actions and choices, as well as trust in your own actions and choices. There should be trust that you’re both on the best path you could ever be on.
Of all the countless definitions of love that are floating around out there, this is the one that I choose over and over: love is the simple thing of wanting the other to be happy – just as much as (or more than) your own happiness.
If all four signs from the above are there, but love isn’t, then it won’t work out as expected. Even if you cross off communication, support, commitment and trust, you will just have a working partnership, probably a bit more than a friendship, still fulfilling, but not a real relationship.
Love makes it all alive. Love makes it all worth it. Love is the water that pervades every tiny open space between you two, that heals all the scars from past wounds, that makes you grow together, turning you both into one single tree, coming out of two different roots.