Home / Articles

It takes more than love

It Takes More Than Love

 I think one of the more difficult concepts for people to grasp, especially younger people, is that love is one of the least important ingredients to the making of a successful and satisfying relationship.  I know this sounds amazingly unromantic, and, quite frankly, quite boring.  But nonetheless, if you want to be a person who chooses a mate wisely or, be a person who knows when it’s time to quit a relationship that is not working, then you must let go of the notion that LOVE CAN SUSTAIN A RELATIONSHIP.  If one believes and feels that simply because we love another and, they love us, that we can overcome anything and ride off into the sunset, you are in for a great disappointment.  The phrase “love is blind” certainly was born of the very concept I am speaking of.  I mean stop and think about this for a moment.  How many times have you met someone whom you have had great chemistry, love and passion with even though you could see some significant red flags?  It happens all the time. We will ignore or diminish in our minds these red flags because we have such strong feelings for this person and they seem to have the same strong feeling for us.  And even if they don’t have the same strong feeling for us, we may ignore a number of red flags because we feel strong emotions toward them.  Why would anyone act in such a fashion unless they had a fundamental belief that the pursuit of the emotions of love was all that really mattered? 

 If you are thinking that I am an unromantic, well think again.    I am extremely romantic and, spent a good portion of my life believing that the pursuit of love alone was the golden ring.  After many life experiences along with working with and observing thousands of individuals, I am here to tell you that a solid, successful and enriching relationship cannot be built upon an emotion.  Love, attraction and passion are essential emotions that tie and bring us together.  They are not, however the building blocks of a life with another.  Don’t get me wrong.  Love is a necessary ingredient.  Love brings us together.  Love can sustain us through difficult times.  Love can provide the strength to work through difficult issues.  Love can provide a direction and meaning in life and in our relationships.  Love is what defines our relationship as special and different from all others.  And yet, the success, strength and satisfaction we experience within our relationship will not be based upon the power of our love, but upon the expression of a multitude of behaviors.  Respectful negotiation, diplomacy, good problem-solving, choosing battles wisely, financial responsibility, paying attention, being flexible, sexual satisfaction, avoiding using anger as a weapon and consistent parenting styles all lead to success and satisfaction within a relationship.  Anybody can fall in love.  Feeling an emotion is easy.  Growing love and creating a powerful base with another requires conscious and mindful actions repeated over and over again.  The success and satisfaction you seek in your relationship can never be achieved without these actions done repeatedly.

 If you are planning to get engaged, married, move in with someone or simply pursue deepening a relationship with another, start by asking yourself, “why do I choose to be with this person?”  If the answer back is simply, “because I love them” or “they make me feel so happy” or some version of an expression of an emotion, you may want to think again.  If you cannot identify a host of behaviors and actions beyond the experience of your emotional state you will be entering a high-risk situation.   By high-risk I mean that you will be making a significant emotional investment without enough information.  You will be making an investment based upon your feeling state and I am here to tell you that your feeling state is the worst possible way to make a significant life decision.  Our feeling state is typically an ever changing array of emotions often governed by experiences we encountered in our childhoods and mostly living in our unconscious minds.  If we are willing to accept this undeniable truth, we can have our emotional state which is so important in a relationship but not be completely dominated by our feeling state.  And, as a consequence, we can place our focus where it is most useful and, towards that which can be created, altered and modified; namely, our actions.  From this point of view, we can see our relationships and ourselves as empowered entities; capable of modifying and creating our experiences.

So, you may ask yourself, if I accept that love is a critical ingredient but not the ultimate ingredient to a successful and fulfilling relationship, how can I use this information to choose the right spouse for myself?  Well, one of the ways is to understand that early in a relationship, when the endorphins are abundant and the sex is good, people have a tendency to make a common error of judgment.  That common error of judgment has to do with confusing That Which We Hope with That Which We Know.  Listen to people early in a relationship.  You will hear them say things like, “He is so attentive” She is so funny”  “He is a great listener” and so forth.  We tend to see as factual those things that make us feel good.  But the truth of the matter is, we know very little.  All we know for sure is how someone behaves in the early phase of a relationship.  Note the use of the word phase.  The early part of a relationship is most definitely a phase and like all phases, it will come to an end.  But it is often during this phase that we are falling in love and feeling like our feelings of love is all that matters.  We then combine the belief that love is all that matters with the mistaken belief that we know so much about this person, when in fact we know very little.  All we really know for sure is how they are acting in phase one.  What is actually happening is that “We hope they continue to act attentive”  “We hope they are responsible with their anger” We hope they can remain intimate after phase one,” and so forth. 

 There is a simple way to correct this common error of judgment. On a piece of paper separate out two columns.  On the left write out, What I Hope.  On the right column write out, What I know.  Now start to fill each column, remembering to not confuse hoping with knowing.  As you continue, the information in the left column should be much longer than the right one.  As you move deeper into a relationship, the hope column should be getting shorter while the know column gets longer.  While you are doing this exercise, and being in your relationship, follow a very simple mantra:

                                                Pursue What You Hope

                                                Invest in What You Know

 All the while you are doing this, try and remember that no matter how much you love this person, or them you, the satisfaction you will experience will not be based upon this love alone.  All successful things in life; successful business, successful careers have started out with a vision of success.  Once this vision is established, people enact certain actions repetitively over and over to create and maintain their vision.  Successful relationships are no different.  In subsequent articles, I will outline the common behaviors most people in satisfying relationships identify as the most important.  In the meantime, best of luck in your pursuits.

January 10 2005

Article Archives
Copyright 2004 Ask Dr. Mark
Privacy Policy