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Is Love Enough?

Updated: Jan 24

What's love got to do with it?

So sang the great Tina Turner, who arguably knew a thing or two about the flawed nature of love.

Is it true that, when it comes to relationships, Love itself is not really that important?

Does love have anything to do with the success of relationships? This is something I have been thinking about lately. What importance should we give love, the emotion, rather than the verb, when it comes to making decisions about who we partner with and who we build a life with?

Some people, who have been happily married for many years, say that the love was there from the start. It was the ignition, and continues to be the fuel, that has kept the relationship running for, say, the fifty-odd years they have been together.

Other couples have a different report and say, yes there is something like love that exists, but other things provide the glue that hold people together through the ravages of time, changes, and ups and downs of spending that many years together. They mention things like family and community or shared goals or, sadly but commonly (in my opinion), finances and lifestyle.

It's hard to assess the importance of love to the longevity of a relationship because we haven't figured out a way to define love, let alone measure love.

Would it be true if we could, for example, measure it in the way we can measure density or weight, that we would figure out that those who don't succeed in making love last just don't have enough of it? Do couples who get divorced do so because they had it and then it ran out or faded away? In that case, where did it go? Did it even exist?

If we could devise a science that could help us understand love as a chemical force, as something we can grasp and measure and quantify then perhaps we can understand how to work with it better, to keep it, and maybe to grow it, but we don't know that.

We just feel it as a sort of emotional intensity, an affection for someone that is more than what we feel for someone else, or sometimes a longing unfulfilled or unrequited, which is why some of the greatest loves are those that are unrealised. Almost as though, if we don't touch love or contaminate it in any way by actually partaking in it, it will last forever.

But the difference between love in abstract, love in a fairy tale, and love in a living, breathing functioning relationship in the 3d, is that we do have to contaminate it and share in it and muddy it up with boring, mundane things like grocery shopping and morning breath and snoring and in-laws.

And so it loses day by day its abstract perfection and becomes a different sort of love. And sometimes that different sort of love is not love at all but compatibility and affection.

So to answer Tina's question what's love got to do with it? The answer is: probably something, probably something important, but perhaps not nearly as much as we assume for true and lasting happiness.

Perhaps it's because I have not experienced love that lasts 50 years, that exists in the same rough energy, if not exactly the same shape and form, as it did when it emerged at, say, 25 as at 75. If I had that experience I would have a different opinion.

Instead, I have a grown a little cynic in me that has to ask, how can 50 years in love even be possible when you are a fundamentally changed human, and so is your partner? Are you still together because you have just mutually decided to engage in an endless series of negotiations and settlements and compromises and accommodations or is this love stuff actually real?

Or perhaps it is the love that has, at the end of it all, enabled you to engage in all of these accommodations ... your love for this one special person that somehow you value above all else, and everyone else you have ever met, that has allowed this miracle of longevity to happen.

I am open to learning and experiencing this, although now that I am already at midlife, I doubt I will experience 50 years with someone, so I will never know what it really feels like and whether love was something to do with it or not.

But what I do know at this point already is that love is not nearly enough without compatibility - and compatibility is comprised of many things, from the way in which you socialise, the way in which you spend and save money, the way in which you communicate and the way in which you are skilled in 'doing' love as a verb, actually being a lover, not just feeling an emotion

Being a lover, someone skilled in the act of loving, is in showing the other person they are loved actively everyday in a way that makes sense to them and in a way that they can recognise and say 'oh yes, I see that action and I understand that this action means they love me'.

Note: it is not the action that makes you feel loved (which is where so many people go wrong) but figuring out what makes the other person feel loved, and this involves communication.

It involves simply asking the other person what makes them feel good, what makes them happy, how can you make them happier and feel more loved? And asking these questions frequently and diligently.

But asking such questions involves completely humbling yourself, accepting your ignorance of another person and being willing to learn. And for some people, the tragedy is that they just can't make themselves that vulnerable.

I really think it's as simple as that but the problem is that not enough people take the time to become skilled lovers and they rely instead on the fickle, ungraspable, sometimes impractical, maddening emotion of love and expect it to carry them through. It doesn't.

So maybe it's not love that is the thing, but the doing of the loving that is the thing that makes a relationship last a lifetime. And that is much more believable, and actually surprisingly reassuring, to a love cynic like me.

Your thoughts?

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