I have found myself telling clients on more than one occasion that to have a healthy, nurturing, affirming relationship with an intimate partner, love is not enough. It is essential, it is foundational, but it is not enough.
When we fall in love with someone, we make sacrifices and compromises. To whatever degree we do that, it must be, or it should be because there is a greater goal, a better you, and a more complete being. But when does it become too much? Or even too little? When does the compromise and sacrifice go against who you are at your core or what you know to be true about your world?
In order to be able to answer those questions, you have to know yourself. You have to know what your values are, what holds up what you know and what is, for you, a non-negotiable. We all have these, somewhere in us. Many times, we assume they are the same for everyone. And when we are faced with a situation where that is obviously not true of someone you love, that their limits or boundaries do not respect the same space that yours do, you may begin to think it is you that is out of whack, not them.
What we look for is some objective truth as it relates to love. We want to think that if you love someone, it looks basically like this or that. But I encourage my clients to find out what their truth is as it relates to love and intimacy. Discover and fine tune your limits, your foundation, your non-negotiable posture on ways of being and communicating. This is not to say that we can’t hope to improve all of ourselves as we can be inspired by one that we love. That is, often, a by-product of love– mutual growth. But “who are you?” is not a question that is answered well enough before we entangle ourselves in love. “Who are you?”, “what do you hope one day is said about you by your family and friends?” “what do you want to have accomplished in your lifetime?” Ask yourself these questions and deliberately and intentionally learn who you are and what the path looks like to being who you hope to be. Set that goal and move through the world with that in mind. There are already things about you that are settled, there are already things about you that you have established and decided on– you just may not know it consciously. Bypassing serious consideration of who you are and who you hope to be limits your ability to be loved authentically and to give love honestly.