John Lennon lied.
So did Paul, George and Ringo.
Love is NOT all you need.
I should know. I’ve been there, experienced the great highs and lows of love’s giddy roller coaster and I’m here to say that love is not all you need.
You DEFINITELY need more.
Love is a great place to start. Don’t get me wrong. To have it as part of the foundation on which the relationship is built is necessary. But it’s not glue. It won’t hold on its own when the going gets tough.
Love, often, fails and falls apart.
Because love needs the additional building materials of respect, humility, friendship, deep listening, consideration, compassion and joy, and I’m sure there are other qualities I haven’t listed.
“When we believe that “all we need is love,” then like Lennon, we’re more likely to ignore the fundamental values such as respect, humility and commitment towards the people we care about. After all, if love solves everything, then why bother with all the other stuff — all of the hard stuff?” (1)
The hard stuff, h-mmm. Hindsight is 20/20, although I’m not sure where I went wrong, where my relationship went wrong. Perhaps it didn’t go wrong, perhaps there wasn’t enough right to sustain it.
I loved. I laughed. I lived. And now I’m alone.
Maybe we didn’t have enough in common. I know one thing, though. We weren’t best friends, or even good friends, really. We were lovers, great lovers, but that doesn’t make people friends. “Okay, that felt incredible, now what?”
We didn’t share our hopes and dreams with one another. We weren’t intimate on a deep soul level and that’s needed for longevity. If we didn’t share our dreams, how could we possibly help one another to reach them? How could we respect each other’s journey if we were only vaguely aware of it?
“Love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other person, sometimes literally. To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control the other person or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not.” (2)
I think we had that understanding, or at least the willingness to be open to understanding and learning about one another in the beginning of the relationship. Then over time, understanding, which according to Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh “…is the very foundation of love”, slowly gave way to rote answers, presumptions and projections. We each crystallized in our own little worlds of assumed realities, when in fact, it turned out to be much different. We needed to commit to actually wanting to understand each other – to understand “why” one did what one did, and said what one said. We disintegrated into an alternate universe, called the idealistic, rather than dealing and living with right here right now, the realistic. And then reality did bite.
Mark Manson in his article entitled “Love is Not Enough” notices that “in our culture, many of us idealize love. We see it as some lofty cure-all for all of life’s problems. Our movies and our stories and our history all celebrate it as life’s ultimate goal, the final solution for all of our pain and struggle. And because we idealize love, we overestimate it. As a result, our relationships pay a price.” (3)
Mine paid a price, a big one…divorce. The tapestry he and I wove together, of our life, is unraveling as I write this. It’s sad. How could I have prevented this from happening? Could I have prevented this from happening? Maybe I did idealize love, although I didn’t see it as a solution to my pain and struggle, but perhaps as a lovely distraction which added another level of joy and happiness to my life. Was that my fault, though? Wasn’t I simply following what Western society professes—falling in love is the ultimate intention of life? Connecting with one’s soul mate, twin flame, true love?
Ahh yes, all you need is love?
Do love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage?
Pepper Swartz, in her article entitled, “What Makes Relationships Work?” writes, “We are a love culture. Unlike some societies that think of passionate love as a nuisance that can undermine sound reasoning about whom and when to marry, we think passion is our truest guide.” (4)
I remember listening to an older woman; she is a friend of mine who is originally from India. Her marriage, many years ago, was arranged by the respective parents. She met her husband a few times before marrying, always with an escort. My first question to her was: “Did you love him?”
She smiled and replied, “I learned to love him over time.” This was incredulous to me, I mean, how could someone marry without passion, the spark, what we in the West perceive as love?
Pepper goes on to say, “We shouldn’t be misled by fleeting moments of bliss. Love is not all you need, and you will not know—across a crowded room or even on a first date—that this person absolutely is the One. While some hunches work out (and, of course, those are the Cinderella stories), most do not. There is a real danger when you think that fate has delivered the One: You may stop looking for disconfirming evidence…” (5)
As I’ve gotten older, I am beginning to understand what my friend meant. Perhaps we, who believe in love as a cure- all, are seeking the high of passion complete with the requisite heart flutters, when perhaps, we should open our hearts to the possibility of a profound life shared with another in respect, honor, and consideration. And yes, love, but a love based on acceptance of self and other as opposed to momentary hormonal excitement.
Relationship is hard at times, and our intention is lofty. To quote Claire and Charlie Bloom, “… to deeply love another adult human being with our whole being, seeing their every aspect as being divine and perfect, with complete vulnerability, open-heartedness and absolute and mutual adoration… it’s a great theory but have you noticed that it’s not all that eeeeasy.” (6)
Is love all you need?
Sorry, John, I’m not sure where your head was when you wrote this song, but love is not easy.
The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke agrees, “For one human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” (7)
Love is energy, it flows through everything and everyone. It is divine. It can be said that it is the energy of God, so indeed, a very strong and intoxicating spiritual energy.
Gray Miller cautions us about the energy of love “…love will be a powerful force, and like all powerful forces requires a great deal of practice to keep it from destroying the things in your life you hold dear. There are times when the best thing to do about love is to resist it, to weather the storms of emotion and hold fast to your principles. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and for some of us it’s a matter of unlearning the things we’ve been told all our lives. You need love, yes, in some form in your life.” (8)
We do need love…
I find his last line Interesting: that you need love in some form in your life. Perhaps we are too myopic in our perception of love? With our search for Mr. and / or Mrs. Right , maybe we have overlooked other areas where we could have love in our lives without destroying all that we hold dear. I feel love should be about balance, about giving and receiving. I know that the words compromise and sacrifice are often used in describing relationship, however, I think that if all is in balance, then there would not be a compromise or a sacrifice, there would be a flow of the love energy between the people involved and at some point, a still-point of balance would occur.
Mr Miller continues to admonish us, “… before you go sacrificing everything for some tsunami of emotion, whether it’s a person, place or thing, try and remember: love is NOT all you need. “
I’ll keep that in mind next time…
… and hope my heart will follow…
© Brooke Becker, 2015
1. Mark Manson, author, Love is Not Enough, July, 2014, markmanson.net
3. Mark Manson, author, Love is not enough, July 2014, markmanson.net
4. Pepper Schwartz, Psychology Today, May 1, 2003, reviewed on March 3, 2014
5. Pepper Schwartz, Psychology Today, May 1, 2003, reviewed on March 3, 2014
6. Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW,relationship therapists, psychcentral.com
7.Ranier Maria Rilke, German poet, 1875-1926
8. Gray Miller, personal development coach, “Love is Not All You Need”,April 26, 2013, lovelivepractice.com