The idea of love for most of us is flawed. We imagine that true love is perfect; without strife. In order to experience love at its best, we must resist the notion that true love means conflict free love. The truth is true love is bumpy and rocky at the best of times. We all have our “baggage,” and in one way or another it’s unrealistic to expect that love between two people could have a perfect connection. Accepting this reality of love is the first step to succeeding in love.
Fairytales and Block Buster Romance
Most of the time, people want to believe in the ideal of love propagated in music, movies, and romantic novels because that kind of love is “perfect”. We don’t like to think that love is both a passionate and painful attempt by two struggling partners trying to meet one another in moments of misunderstanding and unknowns about who they are either together or apart – but that is the reality of true love. Please hear this, the beginning of any relationship, the feelings of ecstasy and excitement, are not the high points that romantic art or cinema reveals to us. Most of my own generation has become professionals at the beginning stages of love and amateurs at best at the survival of love in the long term. One of the most offensive things a person can tell another today is, “I want to change you.” However, within Greeks philosophy, love has no hidden agenda with another but is a process that involves partners living out the process of self-understanding, introspection, and understanding as a couple, intraspection, so that the process of change is natural and something you couldn’t do on your own. It’s a good thing. In attempting to teach another, one has to be cautious of their approach.
I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
Alaine de Botton, the founder and chairman of “The School of Life” says that “when humiliation is used in an attempt to teach and change your partner, they will not learn anything. Just like in children, your partner needs implausible sweetness, patience, and tenderness to learn”. Unfortunately, more often than not, we sometimes communicate legitimate concerns to our partners in a way that leaves them wounded and rejected. Eventually, this damages the relationship.
We all want to change various aspects of our partners but realistically you cannot change all aspects to suit your ideals. A certain degree of pessimism can be a friend of love once you accept that your lover will never change into what you think he/she should be. You don’t need a perfect lover, what you need is one that is able to explain their imperfections adequately.
How Are You Crazy?
Alain de Botton believes that when two people meet on a first date, instead of trying to impress each other and show off, they should start by saying, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this.” There should be a mutual acceptance that they are both damaged individuals trying to make a connection. Unfortunately, when we fall in love, we craft in our minds ideas of who the other person should be. We impose on them an idea of who we think they are and this is neither fair to them or ourselves. When their behavior fails to match our ideals, we sulk.
Sulking is reserved for people that we feel should understand us without having to speak out what is bothering us. In relationships, there is always the assumption that your partner should know what you’re thinking and be feeling, without you having to tell them. Of course, this is unrealistic but when your partner sulks, the best thing to do is treat them the way you would a child, without infantilizing them. For instance, when a child tells you they hate you or asks you leave them alone, you interpret their behavior as maybe they’re hungry or upset but of course, they don’t hate you. So when your lover sulks and retreats – don’t pull away. Try and understand where their behavior is stemming from. That’s true love. Go to the front of your lover’s depressing challenging behavior and trying to ask where it might have come from. If you manage that, then you’re on the road to understanding what love is really about.
Being “Good Enough”
Donald Winnicott, an English psychoanalyst, uses the term “good enough” in relation to parenting. You can read more about the in my previous post, “Will I be a “Good Enough” Mother.” This term applies to relationships too. Accepting that your partner will not always understand you will help you have a happier and more content relationship. There will be moments when you both have a great connection but they are rare. However, if it’s good enough then there is no point dwelling on the aspects that are not perfect.
Self-acceptance through Sex?
In love, we sometimes make the mistake of validating and seeking self-acceptance through the narrow gate of sex. We also often tend to think of sex as a force within us that thrust us into activity with one another, while in reality is it psychological. The true reason people get excited about sex is not so much because of the pleasurable nerve-ending business; ultimately, it is because it makes one feel accepted. We like it because of the meaning infused in it which is, “I accept you in a way that is exceptionally intimate and that would be quite revolting if I were to do it with someone else.”
Accepting the Flaws
Ultimately, love is something we learn and make progress in along the way. It’s not just an enthusiasm or skill. There is also nothing like the perfect match. True love is both messy and ambiguous at the best of times. The moment we acknowledge our flawed humanity; the better chance we’ll have of doing the truly hard work of love.