love is not the only answer

Love is all you need…

With all due respect to Mr. Lennon, it’s not true.
And there are times that I think we forget this. That there are times when love is not all you need, when, in fact, you have all love you can stomach but you still need something else.

So, with apologies for what may seem like a dark post, I’d like to simply posit a few things, in no particular order, that I’ve found one needs along with love.

  • Compassion
  • Truth
  • Perspective
  • Fortitude
  • Communication
  • Courage
  • Rationality

Without these things, I think that love can be pretty destructive. Or it falls into something along these lines:

“Ever optimistic, heady with love’s utopianism, most of us eventually pledge ourselves to unions that will, if successful, far outlast the desire that impelled them into being. The prevailing cultural wisdom is that even if sexual desire tends to be a short-lived phenomenon, nevertheless, that wonderful elixir “mature love” will kick in just in time to save the day, once desire flags. The question remaining unaddressed is whether cutting off other possibilities of romance and sexual attraction while there’s still some dim chance of attaining them in favor of the more muted pleasures of “mature love” isn’t similar to voluntarily amputating a healthy limb: a lot of anesthesia is required and the phantom pain never entirely abates. But if it behooves a society to convince its citizenry that wanting change means personal failure, starting over is shameful, or wanting more satisfaction than you have is illegitimate, clearly grisly acts of self-mutilation will be required.”
Laura Kipnis, Against Love

It Gets Better

Now, admittedly I think that Ms. Kipnis is being a bit harsh in that particular passage (though, to be honest, it’s one of the more gentle ones in the book). I do think that there is the possibility of healthy, loving relationships, of long-lasting mutual growth and more.

But it’s not enough simply to “love.” If you don’t have some measure of those other qualities – that is, not “just a bit”, but “enough” – then that same love that can be so nourishing and wonderful can turn into the very thing that holds you back from being happy.

You really only have to worry about this if you choose to. Part of the beauty of the human experience is that we are usually too busy working together to overcome the challenges in front of us to really worry about abstract ideas like “romantic vs. mature love.” It’s a truly first-world problem. In the thick of it, most people recognize that those other ingredients – trust, rationality, etc – are survival traits anyway, so they don’t so much have to be worried about.

It’s when you reach the point where you are manufacturing crises to bring out those traits that you might need to take a second look. Sometimes love nourishes you…but sometimes, love is an invisible monster eating you both alive.

That’s ok. We learn from the Love Monster as much as any other teacher (and please don’t think that I’m saying the Love Monster is a person. It’s much more amorphous than that, more like “the Mist” a la Stephen King). I think it just takes some of us longer to learn the lessons…and that’s good, because how else would we feed the romance industry?

Writers gotta eat, after all.

Speaking of which, nothing brings a smile to the face as a tip now and then!

There is always a bigger lesson behind every big pain, heartbreak, and disappointment. Always. -Mandy Hale

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