Yeah, I know there are millions of love songs and romantic films and stories about the greatest love that ever existed. And I know that when you're in love, you think it will last forever.
I know, too, how it feels to believe that your love is so strong, it can survive anything, will withstand anything, and that no matter how much you or your partner might change you will overcome any obstacle that is thrown at you.
I know - all too well - about making a promise to love each other "for better or worse" and most of the time, people really mean it when they say it.
But I also know - all too well - that sometimes love is simply not enough.
There are a couple of very important factors that contribute to this harsh reality. One is the emotional baggage that we carry with us. Another is change.
First, the emotional baggage. My goodness, the damage it can do...bad enough when we know what it is, but when we don't - when we haven't spent any real time discovering what makes us tick, and overcoming past wounds - we will unwittingly contaminate relationships, despite our best intentions.
This gets us in trouble with the "for better or worse" part of marriage. People seem to take this to mean, "I'll love you even if you abuse me. I'll love you if you betray me. I'll love you if you disrespect me, cheat on me, lie to me, violate me, do things behind my back that you know you shouldn't do."
Frankly, none of that kind of behaviour has anything to do with love. I think "for worse" means when we lose jobs, or there are financial troubles or someone wants to change careers and it means a lot of upheaval for the family. Or perhaps there's the offer of a transfer to another city - or country - and one person doesn't want to go. Nobody's right or wrong; there are just obstacles to be overcome.
To my mind, "For worse" refers to the curveballs in life. It should not mean intolerable, unacceptable, unloving behaviour that undermines the whole point and purpose of marriage. Even without the legal tie, or that specific promise, those behaviours are still unacceptable. They are not about love. They have nothing to do with how we should be treating the person we say we love above all others on the planet.
We like to think that loving someone and trying to make a relationship work in such circumstances will bring about positive change. But, when the other person repeatedly refuses to seek help or make an honest attempt to change his or her ways, you're wasting your time.
I've been in too many relationships that were like that, each of us with our own issues that contributed to an unhealthy situation, one of mine often being that I did not respect or value myself enough to stop accepting unacceptable behaviour.
Change is another potential serial killer of relationships. It slaughters couples, silently, over a long period of time, divergence gradually poisoning their happiness until it exists only in their memories. When there is nothing much to talk about, virtually no common ground, a shared dream, a meeting of the minds - and more importantly, no desire to find a way to make it work in spite of the differences - it is time to move on.
And what about a couple that starts out in the same, but then one person changes and grows away from it and into something different, perhaps even something contradictory and then the whole foundation for the relationship is threatened? Should that person be forced to pretend and carry on living a lie, feeling suffocated and unhappy? Or should the other person be forced to change, too, even if it doesn't fit or feel good? I'm sure many people have found a way to make this work. But what about the ones who haven't?
No matter how much people love one another, we are not put on this planet to compromise and suffocate ourselves, or to tolerate disrespect. We are meant to thrive and to be happy, not to stay tied to toxic situations because of love.
What about loving yourself enough to leave a relationship that is destructive? To my mind, that's about the only kind of love that can "conquer all." Self-love automatically means self-respect. Combined, these help us to find our power and inner strength. This is what allows us to become truly happy and fulfilled. It is in this fulfillment that we will find deep and rewarding happiness and accomplishment. And it's from this place that we can offer the most love.
It would be wonderful if love could be as easy as the songs and poems say it is, and if that's all it took to glue two people together and make them happy. But it's not and I've seen it up close and personal more times than I care to remember. I know how it feels to walk away from someone I loved very much because to do anything else would be self-destructive.
I had always believed that as long as I loved someone, I figured I was obliged to keep trying to make it work. Even through abusive and dysfunctional behaviour, I kept hoping, trusting and believing that somehow, love would be enough to make it better.
And then I had a profound realisation that changed everything. Loving someone is one thing. But that doesn't mean you have to stay with that person and keep trying to make things right. You do not have to continue to beat your head against a wall, attempting to resuscitate something that cannot (and should not) survive.
You're wasting your time. Because sadly, love does not conquer all.
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