Love can be a wonderful thing. It can bring new meaning to your life and make you happy in ways you never thought possible.
But love – or at least the idea of love – can also be a burden. Feeling like we’re not getting enough of it can make us feel isolated and alone. And feeling like the love we do have isn’t right – not strong enough, not passionate enough, not enough like the love we’ve seen in books and movies – can make us wonder if we’re somehow doing something wrong.
A lot of this comes from our shared ideas about what love should be like. Many of us have grown up with a very specific impression, often gained from family upbringings or from stuff like rom coms and love songs, that can clash with real life.
A lot of the issues that couples bring to the counselling room ultimately lead back to this disconnect, and these ideas sometimes need unpacking before the couple is able to move forward and begin to enjoy their relationship again. Here are some of the most common ones.
Everybody has a ‘one’
The idea that we all have a ‘soulmate’ – someone who is truly right for us – isn’t only unrealistic, it’s unhealthy. Putting your partner on a pedestal and acting as if they’re just meant to fulfil a list of expectations on a checklist can make it difficult to form a meaningful connection – and much harder to deal with the complications and challenges that are a part of any relationship. You’re much more likely to be able to adapt to life’s curveballs if you accept there’s always going to be a little (or sometimes more than a little) give and take.
That person should be a mirror of you
A lot of people get bogged down by the idea of ‘compatibility’. Compatibility, as many see it, is something that comes from having a similar set of interests or qualities. Online dating profiles are often just shopping lists of what the person is after in a partner: the right sense of humour, similar interests in film and TV, the same kinds of hobbies or education. But true compatibility rarely comes from surface qualities. It’s something based in having complementing values – and something that develops through shared experiences. It can take time before you’re truly able to figure out how compatible you are with someone – time you risk never investing if you’re always focussed on the other stuff.
You’ll always feel fireworks
In Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de BerniÃƒÂ¨res writes: 'Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement ”¦ it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day”¦ That is just being "in love," which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.' You can’t expect to feel like you did when you first met your partner after you’ve been together for three years. But what replaces that sense of passion and excitement is often something longer term and more meaningful – it’s the sense of companionship that only comes when you truly know someone. Expecting love to be a perpetual explosion of emotion can leave you disappointed and frustrated when those kinds of feelings inevitably subside.
Relationships aren’t hard work
The plain truth about relationships is that sometimes they will be challenging and stressful. Your relationship will change as you go through different life stages – moving in together, getting married, having kids – and you and your partner will need to adapt to these changes if you want your relationship to stay strong. The good news is: the feelings of love and connection you gain by doing this make the effort more than worth it. If you’re struggling, Relationship Counselling can be a great way of figuring out how to keep working as a team.
Big arguments are just a part of being in love
Some people think having semi-regular vicious arguments with their partner is just a part of being in a passionate relationship – that fighting just means you care. And while some disagreement is an inevitable part of being in a relationship, this is also very much dependent on the kinds of arguments you’re having. If you’re getting into lots of shouting matches and getting nowhere, that’s no good. Relationships are about passion, but they’re also about compromise and learning to communicate. It’s much better to learn to disagree amicably and constructively. If you need help, try our three communication tips for couples.