Love is a magical, mysterious thing. It fills your insides with glitter and butterflies. It makes you feel like life is worth living. And then the honeymoon period ends. And this isn't to say you don't love your partner anymore. You absolutely do. But the glitter fades into the warm, less sparkly light of reality, and that consuming love eventually needs to take a backseat to some other essential characteristics of a healthy relationship. And these essential characteristics are just as important, if not more important, than that chemical love-drunk feeling you get at the beginning of a relationship.
When I worked with struggling couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I often taught couples who wanted to stay together, that even when they were having trouble conjuring those loving feelings, they could always lean on the other things that love is really about, that have nothing (or much less) to do with feelings. Focusing on them and getting them in check often lead to the lovey feelings, because the relationship was much healthier.
You may feel like all you need is love, but I'm here to tell you that you need the following just as much, if not more, than love.
Sometimes love is not about being in love, in the chemical, butterflies sense. Sometimes it's about choosing your partner. Choosing to be with them when times are tough. Choosing to make a commitment and to honor it. Choosing to see the good in your partner. Choosing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Love is a feeling triggered by brain chemistry, and it's not something you're going to feel on a consistent basis. But choosing someone is a thing you can always do.
Commitment means you're in it for the long haul. It means you're going to do your best to stay together, and to support and love each other, even when you'd rather flee the country than listen to one more thing they have to say. Commitment is a pact, and you can honor it no matter what you're feeling, because you have trust that life is a collection of ups and downs. When you're in a healthy relationship, knowing you're both made a strong commitment to be together, regardless of any temporary feelings, gives you the freedom to try, to fail, and to be emotionally honest.
You're "Team Relationship" in good and bad. So even if you're mad at your partner, or you're in a rough patch, you can still be supportive. You can cheer them on, hope they succeed, defend them to critics, and help them reach their goals. Of course, this is easier to do when you're happy and in love, but it's something that helps make a relationship strong, no matter the current emotional climate.
To say trust has nothing to do with your feelings is inaccurate. To say you need trust, regardless of your feelings, is better. You need trust during the good times to make you feel secure, and to allow for deeper intimacy. You need to lean hard on that trust in bad times, to feel safe in the knowledge that your both working hard to get over the bad patches and that you're remaining honest and faithful. No matter how much you love someone, you'll never have a healthy relationship without trust.
Good relationships are based on the right amount of give and take. There has to be middle ground, a sense of fairness, and an underlying truth that states that you both get what you want sometimes and support each other even when you're not getting your way. It's part boundaries, part patience, part sacrifice, and none of it has anything to do with love. Sure, you may do it because of love, but you need to do it regardless of how you're feeling.
If they made those funny honest ads about relationships, one of them would totally be like, "Do you enjoy communicating about everything, always, including communicating about communicating and occasionally communicating about how you're communicating about communicating? Then a relationship might be just the thing you need!" Communication is a fact of life. It's the difference between sinking and swimming. You need it no matter how you feel or why you feel it.
If you have no patience, you will struggle in any relationship, regardless of your feels. You have to let others have their say, wait while your partner talks to some random friend in the mall for an hour, pretend you're interested while they're telling you the most boring work story ever, and give the time and space to be themselves. You can't do any of that without patience.
You don't want to be with someone who isn't kind to you, and who can't be kind, regardless of feels. In fact, a true test of a person's kindness is how they treat people in tense times, and if they're able to be kind when they're not feeling particularly lovey toward you, for whatever reason. Kindness, however you define it in your relationship, is something that matters a whole lot more than the occasional flood of oxytocin. It's a kind of respect you can rely on, even when anger or jealousy, or even boredom overshadow your love.
Nothing is more romantic than a solid financial plan, or a day at the grocery store, or going over your health insurance forms, am I right? But these kinds of things are critical to people in long-term relationships. They're just the bricks that make up everyday life, and even though they're not really lovey or romantic, they make your relationship stronger. They have nothing to do with feels, but they can make you feel like you have your sh*t together, which is a great way to live.
If you can master these things, then you've created something that can stand the test of time, no matter where you're at on life's roller coaster of feels.
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