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Love is never enough, except when you are in love

Love is perhaps one of the most liberally used words in the English language. It adorns greeting cards, punctuates conversations, and fills the lyrics of countless songs. Yet, despite its ubiquity, the true depth of what it means to love is not always experienced by those who claim to feel it.

This paradox invites us to explore the duality of love: it is an overwhelming and fulfilling emotion, yet on its own, it might not be sufficient for sustaining lasting relationships. As we peel back the layers of what love is—and isn’t—we begin to understand that while love can be intoxicating, it also demands a realism that goes beyond mere feelings to endure through time.

The misuse of “Love”

The word “love” is frequently used in daily conversations, often stripped of its deep significance. From casual sign-offs in emails to offhand comments among friends, its prevalence can dilute its meaning, reducing the impact of what should be a profound declaration. This casual usage stands in sharp contrast to the depth of connection, empathy, and commitment that true love entails.

Cultural references and media often compound this issue by portraying love as an all-conquering force, setting unrealistic expectations for relationships. Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving emphasizes that love is not merely a relationship to a specific person but an attitude that defines one’s relatedness to the world.

Reflecting on how we use and perceive the word “love” can help us ensure it retains its significance, urging us to express and understand love with the sincerity and depth it deserves.

This awareness also prompts us to question and redefine what it means to truly love someone beyond the confines of idealized images and fleeting emotions.

Beyond love in relationships

While the initial rush of love can be exhilarating, it’s the deeper, more substantial elements of a relationship that sustain it over time. Lasting relationships require more than just romantic feelings; they are built on the foundations of commitment, shared goals, and the mutual ability to navigate life’s inevitable challenges.

Love is the spark that may ignite the flame, but commitment, teamwork, and shared objectives are the fuel that keeps the flame burning brightly and steadily. Such relationships are not just about staying together but thriving together, demonstrating the profound truth that while love initiates, it is the daily choices and shared visions that truly sustain a partnership.

From personal experience, I’ve learned that sometimes, the hardest but most necessary decision is to end a relationship with someone you love. This realization often comes when the intoxicating “in love” phase dims and you start seeing the relationship more clearly. During these moments, it becomes apparent when the person you love isn’t truly the partner you need for the journey ahead.

In one of my relationships, despite the deep affection and love we shared, it became evident that our paths and ambitions were diverging significantly. We had different visions of the future, and our ways of handling life’s challenges were incompatible. It was a painful acknowledgment, but necessary for both of us. Love, no matter how strong, couldn’t bridge the fundamental gaps in our partnership. Breaking up allowed us both to pursue paths that were more aligned with our individual needs and aspirations.

This experience underscored a crucial lesson: love itself is not always enough for a lasting relationship. It takes a genuine partnership, where both individuals are committed to not only loving each other but also growing together and supporting each other through life’s ups and downs. When that partnership isn’t present, love alone may not be sufficient to sustain a fulfilling and healthy relationship.

The Intoxication of Being ‘In Love’

Being “in love” is an exhilarating experience, often described as feeling like a high. It’s a state that is as intoxicating as it is unsustainable, akin to the euphoria one might feel under the influence of a drug. During this phase, the brain releases a cocktail of chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, which enhance emotional and physical attractions and lead to feelings of elation and intense connection. However, this neurochemical surge can cloud judgment and skew perceptions, making it difficult to see potential issues clearly.

The “in love” phase, while thrilling, is naturally temporary. Relationships based solely on this experience often face challenges as the initial euphoria wanes. It’s essential for couples to transition to a more stable, enduring love—a love that’s based on deep understanding, mutual respect, and shared life goals. This mature love might lack the constant thrill of being “in love,” but it provides a more consistent, reliable source of comfort and support.

However, bringing back a little of that “in love” excitement can be beneficial for maintaining a vibrant relationship. Couples can reignite this spark by:

  • Trying new activities together: Shared experiences, especially novel ones, can stimulate the brain’s reward system, similar to the early days of falling in love.
  • Prioritizing intimacy: Small gestures of affection, like holding hands or leaving love notes, can boost oxytocin levels and strengthen emotional bonds.
  • Creating rituals: Having special traditions, whether it’s a weekly date night or an annual getaway, can create anticipation and joy similar to early relationship stages.

By asking questions like “What made us fall in love in the first place?” and “How can we recreate those feelings now?” couples can reintroduce some of the magic of the initial “in love” phase, while still appreciating the deeper connection that they have built over time. This balance between stability and excitement is key to sustaining both the health and happiness of a long-term partnership.

From my own journey, I’ve learned that nurturing a relationship demands energy, time, and genuine involvement. It’s similar to investing: the effort you put into your relationship can yield incredible returns over time, enriching both partners’ lives. Yet, another intriguing paradox emerges here: even though maintaining a relationship requires substantial input, when you’re deeply committed, this effort doesn’t feel burdensome. Instead, it feels like a fulfilling part of the process.

For instance, spending time to plan a surprise date night, engaging in a new hobby together, or even navigating through a difficult conversation—these acts require dedication and energy. However, the joy and the strength gained from these actions often make the effort seem almost effortless. It’s like making regular deposits into a bank account; you might not notice the impact immediately, but over time, the compound interest of your efforts can turn into a substantial emotional and relational wealth.

This dynamic highlights the importance of continual investment in relationships. The efforts you make, even though they might be challenging or demanding at times, are crucial for cultivating a deeper, more resilient bond. The beauty of this investment is that, unlike financial endeavors, the rewards of a loving, committed relationship are often immediately apparent and profoundly satisfying, enriching the lives of both partners in ways that money cannot measure.

Understanding the Depths of Love

Being in love, while undeniably magical, is not the sole ingredient for a lasting partnership. Relationships that stand the test of time require more than initial enchantment; they are grounded in mutual understanding, respect, and shared goals. Recognizing the strengths and limitations of love can pave the way for healthier, more realistic expectations of partnerships.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski introduced the concept of fish love, humorously explaining that sometimes when people say I love you, what they really mean is I love the feeling I get when I’m with you. He likened this to someone saying they love fish because they enjoy eating it, highlighting a love that consumes rather than contributes.

Twerski’s insights remind us that true love involves more than enjoying how someone makes us feel; it’s about appreciating and investing in the person themselves. This aligns with the idea that “you cannot really love someone until you love yourself.” Self-love sets the foundation for genuine connection, enabling us to invest authentically in others without losing ourselves in the process.

By embracing this understanding of love—valuing not just the euphoria it brings but also the growth it fosters—we cultivate relationships that are not only fulfilling but also enduring. Love, therefore, evolves from being a simple emotion to becoming a constructive act that enhances the lives of all involved. This shift encourages ongoing investment in our partnerships, celebrating both the joys and the deliberate efforts that forge a shared and sustainable future.

Emanuel Udrea
Emanuel Udreahttps://www.eudrea.com
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