The adage is that love is a two-way street. Along the same lines are other fairy tales like relationships are 50-50 and “give and take.” It isn’t that I want to dispel all the warm fuzziness of the dreams woven in childhood bedtime stories or the glamour if Hollywood… Ok, I wouldn’t complain if a few of those hoary chestnuts were tossed onto the sacrificial pyre.
And… I am well aware that this intro just reeks of bitterness and forlorn dreams. Not so melodramatic, I assure you. I just have spent a good many hours and brain cells in the contemplation of what ratio of energy contribution defines a healthy (and happy) relationship. Not only the romantic variety, though. Friendships, partnerships, work “marriages,” roommates, and other categories also share some of the same traits, though perhaps not the fringe benefits of the love match.
The truth is that Disney, Hollywood, and a good many of the romantic writers of literary renown have done a great disservice to us all. They painted a picture of true love and love at first sight and love that conquers all challenges and… Yeah, I’m going into insulin shock with a touch of nausea. There are no relationships and no LOVE that can thrive without effort. Finding the “love of your life” is not the finish line. It’s the starting line. Oh, I know. We have all been exposed to the tales of great love and romance. The problem with those tales? They end when guy gets girl… Or vice versa. True story. We are drawn in by the drama and adventure while our protagonists struggle against monsters, societal norms, and odds. We cheer and feel the gladness I our hearts that true heart won fair lady… Or contrary wise that a prince can see beauty past the acceptable constructs of the day. So endeth the tale… Um, really? We never actually see what happens when Prince Charming and Princess Whatnot settle into connubial bliss. When life with its brilliantly mundane aspects comes to rest upon the weary adventurers, how does life and love without constant struggle, adrenaline, and pheromones work out for our protagonists? When Charming forgets to put his socks in the hamper, or he leaves the toilet seat up; and Whatnot is tired and cranky or possibly OTR (on the rag), what becomes of our young lovers in their quest for happiness?
There are too many people out there who have some very inaccurate beliefs about what relationships are about. It leads to some really unhealthy thinking and behaving, like adhering to the romance of hardship making bonds stronger and isolation from the rest of the world to be ensconced in the cocoon of love with your one and only… *hack* Sorry, hairball. A large percentage of divorces (and murders, I understand) are incited by financial issues. Working together through the tough times might develop a sense of partnership, but the stress of trying to make ends meet and meeting financial responsibilities has destroyed many a blissful love match.
As for the “all we need is love and each other” thing… no. How about no? Aw, hell no. Human beings are social creatures. The idea of being on a desert isle with only one person for companionship sounds like heaven to those who have been brainwashed by the mass media and romance novels, but that’s not how it works people. As social creatures, we need the interaction and experiences gained from our environments and peers to spark our creativity and original thinking. A relationship where there is no interaction outside the dyadic bubble gets old in a big hurry.
No relationship is equal all of the time; not a partnership, friendship, or marriage. People are different. Circumstances change. The needs of any individual shift with changing circumstances. So, while one partner may do the heavy lifting sometimes, the rest of the time, the other partner may need to step in and carry more of the load. The metaphor sounds very physical, but the truth is emotional heavy lifting can be a larger part of the job, and that job can get passed around like a hot potato… or one partner may end up carrying around that load for a longer time. Carrying the weight of responsibility or emotions requires energy. Doing it for too long, like literal physical weight bearing, can be exhausting. When all the energy is used up to carry the load, there isn’t anything left for the fun stuff. At some point, the person that has been bearing all the weight may have nothing left at all.
All these metaphors are really spinning into a negative scenario that isn’t really my intent. During our lives we will have opportunity to be both givers and takers. Healthy relationships are based on a balance of those behaviors. When things get out of balance, when the takers become perpetual users, and the givers become martyrs; the relationship suffers and can ultimately die. Every partner in any relationship can and should examine their role to see whether they are the imbalance that is sucking the life and energy out of their relationship. Take the opportunity to make a change and revitalize those relationships by bringing things back into balance. Repair some of those potholes and get traffic flowing both ways again.