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Love is Not Enough?

Love is Not Enough...
The Making of a Relationship

by Bill Malone, MSW, LISW

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new…, all the time, made new…”
Amy E. Dean

We think that the hardest thing in a relationship is finding the right person. After that, we fall in love and live happily ever after, right? Those in a relationship know all too well that fairy tales are only true in the movies. The truth of the matter is that having and maintaining a relationship is not easy. The rate of divorce tells us that love is not enough; other factors are needed to keep a relationship going.

As a therapist, I am privileged to work with many couples who come for help with their relationship problems. Looking back, it would be safe to say that the major problem that brings a couple in for counseling is because one or both of the parties are at their wits end and are seriously wanting out of the relationship unless some major change occurs. In working with couples, I don’t see that any one is at fault. Rather, the problems are usually caused by faulty interactions that have gone on for so long that the root cause for the problems are unknown to the couple. It is interesting to note that women tend to call for assistance more frequently than men do, but I believe this has to do with the fact that males have been socialized to be tough and handle all problems. Women on the other hand are reared to ask for assistance. Men need to learn to ask for help.

Communication problems are a major source for relationship problems. People in most cases just do not know how to talk to each other. Usually, the couple has spent years arguing, fighting or even avoiding problems, but the inevitable occurs, someone reaches the end of their rope. Loss of trust, confusion over whether we still love each other, fights all the time and the inability to agree on anything are some of the cues to recognize that a relationship is having serious communication problems. Many times a child’s misbehavior and conduct problems at home or school are directly related to a couple’s inability to communicate.

The goal of the counseling process is to teach the couple specific skills that are essential in keeping a relationship alive and growing. Many times the couples that I have seen had a deficit in one or more of the essential ingredients needed to cook up a great relationship. I don’t want to mislead anyone, love is important to a relationship. It is the catalyst that gets the whole thing going, but the following are ingredients that keep the love alive and the relationship healthy.

TWO MATURE INDIVIDUALS

A mature individual is defind as a person who has a sense of self. He/she is able to recognize that both members in the relationship are different. They are able to see that each has a different heritage, a different way of thinking, feeling and possibly different beliefs. The mature person is able to recognize the I, Me and the Us in the relationship. With all the differences in personalities, thoughts and feelings, it’s a wonder that we got together in the first place.

Without the element of maturity, a couple can get all messed up just because they lose themselves in a relationship. They can become jealous, dependent, resentful and distant. All of which can erode the reason the couple became a couple in the first place.

GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS

The ability to tell each other thoughts, feelings and wants is so important to a relationship. Good, open, and honest communication is like oil to a car. Without oil in the car, internal parts will burn up and the car will be ready for the scrap pile. Communication is important!

There are no mind readers. For a relationship to grow and prosper, likes, dislikes, desires, hopes, dreams and problems need to be said. If a couple’s communication is restricted, the relationship is destined for major problems down the road. We take cars for oil changes to keep them going strong, why not seek a professional’s assistance to change our communication patterns in order to keep the relationship in tip top shape just like our automobiles?

THE ABILITY TO CHANGE

Relationships are not static. They are ever changing. If they become static for too long, they can become extinct like the dinosaurs. Relationships go through a life cycle: the honeymoon, with children, mid-life crisis, the empty nest and the reacquainting period and then death of a spouse and the end of the relationship. All of these stages require change, learning and exploration of new territory. If one or both members in the relationship becomes rigid and resistant to needed changes the relationship could end in divorce. In my opinion, one of the major reasons that couples end in divorce is because they were unable to change to meet the new needs and demands of the relationship. One or both were unable or unwilling to make the needed changes to keep the relationship growing; as a result, the relationship died. Change we must, it is part of the human condition. If it was not, we would all still be infants in diapers.

ABILITY TO COMPROMISE

The ability to compromise refers to an individual’s willingness and proficiency at finding the middle ground. Being able to compromise is a sign of maturity. It is also needed in any relationship. If one person always gets his/her way, the other person is bound to feel dominated, and resentful. These negative feelings can rip the heart right out of any relationship. Finding the happy middle can provide the best of both worlds… giving and receiving. Sharing the last dish of ice cream with a friend is always better than eating it all alone, isn’t it?

A WILLINGNESS TO WORK TOGETHER

A relationship is like a business partnership; it has common goals, assets and liabilities. Like in a business, if members don’t work together, the business will become ineffective and possibly not exist for too long. The ability to work together means recognizing each person’s strengths and helping them come out at the same time recognizing each member’s weaknesses and learning to turn weaknesses into assets. Two heads are better than one and if couples follow this rule, they will see that the deep depressing valleys that lie ahead may be nothing more than pot holes once they approach them.

KNOWING WHEN TO BACK OFF

Every one needs room to breath, room to sort out their own thoughts, feelings and problems. If someone is always hanging on you, there is a tendency to want to push them off to reduce the burden of carrying them all the time. Providing individual spaces gives any individual the ability to see things more clearly.

SUPPORT AND TRUST

One of the benefits of a relationship is that we will have someone in our corner to support us and to affirm our existence. This support adds to the trust that is needed in any relationship. Without mutual support, a trusting relationship will not develop. Each member must have its emotional needs met in order to continue to invest in the relationship. The continued support and the being there for the other person emotionally is the way in which trust is developed. If a trusting relationship is cultivated and maintained, the ability to try new adventures and take new risks are enhanced. A supportive trusting relationship outside of the bedroom always increases the activity in the bedroom.

LOVE, HUGS, KISSES AND LOVEMAKING

The open expression of feeling in any relationship is vital to the continued growth of the relationship. Lovemaking should not be overlooked in a relationship, but it need not be the only ingredient that exists in a relationship either. Lovemaking is the icing on the cake and it gets there by mixing all of the above mentioned ingredients.

Good lovemaking starts outside of the bedroom. If you want to increase the frequency and intensity of your lovemaking, try to increase the frequency and intensity of your communication, willingness to work as a team, sharing of self, being kind and supportive, give space and freedom to explore individual interests. All of these ingredients will add to the makings of a fine, wonderfully iced cake.

A WORD ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

If you are in a relationship and are experiencing some problems and don’t know what to do, a trained professional can provide you with:

  • Support
  • A listening ear
  • Directions
  • Guidance
  • Communication Training

You owe it to yourself and your mate to find answers to your struggles. Remember, no one is trained on how to have a great relationship, so we are bound to run into problems.

“A man is wise and strong who recognizes he has a problem and seeks out a solution rather than see the problem and stick his head in the sand.”
Bill Malone, MSW, LISW

Copyright 1991 by Bill Malone. All rights reserved.

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