“True love is everlasting”, “True love is effortless” and “There is only one true love” are phrases we hear all the time.
We’re taught them from the day we can first read a single word, maybe even before. It’s inbred into our culture, with stories of the beautiful princess and the dashing handsome prince charming.
It’s almost everywhere we look … Hollywood, movies, magazines, TV, media and social media make sure of that. Even children’s stories, nursery rhymes beam this message at us. So let’s break them down:
1. “True love is effortless”
I can’t help thinking this is just not true.
If you live in a LONG TERM relationship that is “effortless”, it’s “easy”, ALWAYS, every day, for years and years and years, then you are very very lucky. Good for you 😊 (I’m slightly jealous! 😛… We have to work hard at our relationship – but I’m also proud that we do that. 😇 )
This is a very big ‘blanket statement’ that covers everybody in the world in For most people, it’s not ‘effortless’. Hence why we also hear phrases such as “You need to WORK at your relationship” and “A successful marriage is based on hard work”… But what does that actually mean? How do you actually “WORK HARD” at your relationship?
It doesn’t matter if you are in a monogamous heterosexual relationship, an open bi-sexual relationship, or a polysexual polyamorous relationship, you’re probably gonna need to ‘work at your relationship’ at some point, probably regularly.
So I thought it would help you guys out there if i broke it down…
- Committed listening
- Letting go of control
- Practicing vulnerability
- Overcoming your resistance to change
- Being honest (that means 100% honest)
- Changing YOUR mental routines.
- Learning to express your love in the way your partner FEELS love
- Being mindful of your partners needs
This ^^^ is the ‘hard work’ we hear so much about. And below, here come the gory details …
It takes practice to really listen if you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you may have started to believe that you know your partner really well. But you don’t know how they feel TODAY, right now, and you don’t know if they are trying to tell you something new that they have discovered about themselves. And you don’t know if they have changed, grown and developed (especially if you have been in a really long relationship with them.)
Letting go of control and practicing vulnerability.
Despite being afraid to let go of control in your relationship, it’s essential. If you alone are in control, then you are not letting your partner share the relationship, you’re not letting them ‘be’, and you’re not investing in it fully.
This means being open and exposing your real feelings deep down, your own self-doubts and your own self-talk or inner dialogue. This is difficult, and as your relationship develops, you may realise that you have never told them this before, or never opened up 100% to them yet. You’ll need to learn to do that if you really want to make it in the long term.
Discovering what your partners’ needs are.
This means actually sitting down and having a meaningful discussion with them (yeah, sorry guys, this means actually having a conversation about your emotions), asking them what they need emotionally, sexually, and asking how you can help provide that for them. (Many couples do this, but also many do not, they assume it ‘comes naturally’.)
Overcoming your resistance to change.
People want change, but nobody wants TO change. Change is difficult, we are comfortable with what we have, it’s inside our comfort zone. But relationships often evolve and change over time, slowly, very slowly. If you don’t change as your partner does, then you’ll grow apart. Regular communication about the deeper issues help us to grow together, not apart.
This is quite a simple one, you need to be honest with your partner, it’s fairly obvious why it’s gonna cause distance if you don’t. People aren’t stupid, they can feel dishonesty or ‘holding back the truth’, especially if you two are close partners. You’re only creating chaos and conflict, both between you and your partner, and inside yourself. Yes, it’s scary to be totally honest sometimes. You need to do it anyway.
Learning to express your love in the way that your partner FEELS love
This means actually reading a book, taking the test, discussing in which ways they feel love. It means changing YOUR mental routines, for the benefit of your partner – instead of trying to change your partner.
Being mindful of your partners needs.
This means remembering to show your love in the way that your partner understands, on a daily basis, to maintain the connection and desire between you both (or risk the relationship becoming cold, distant and ‘friends living together’ situation.)
The alternative to this ‘hard work’, is subversity; undermining the relationship, destroying the desire between you, and gradually erasing the connection you once had.
I’d like to challenge the idea that it’s ‘hard work’! … because if you love your partner and you are an empathetic individual, is it really ‘hard work’ to discover and then remember to do things that makes your partner feel loved? Is having relationship empathy really that much hard work? …. this is subject for another article coming to a blog near you soon.
The good news is that like any new skill, it’s hard work in the beginning (after the ‘in-love’ phase), but as you practice, it becomes easier, eventually becoming automatic and natural. But this only happens if you practice. Just like riding a bike, it was difficult to learn, but after a while you learned it, and now you don’t even think about it, you just hope on and ride. Eventually, what was previously felt as ‘work’ becomes moments of joy, moments of opportunity to GIVE love to your partner. We look forward to them.
The bottom line is that of course it shouldn’t be like ‘working the coal mines 24/7’, and it’s not going to be ‘hearts and flowers with butterflies in your stomach’ forever either. As with most things… it’s about balance. Some work is going to be required if you are going to keep the spark alive. Now you know what ‘the work’ really means … When’s the last time you had a deep discussion about your relationship with your partner?
2. “True love is everlasting”
There are many evolutionary advantages to staying together for a long time, some might say the biggest one is child rearing, and there are several chemicals in the human body that promote this feeling, not least Oxytocin – the evolutionary chemical that makes us want to stay together. (And that’s without even mentioning the church telling us for the last few thousand years; “… till death do us part.”)
However, the challenge is getting more and more difficult as society develops in the direction it is …. in the modern western world we have overcome many limitations of nature:
The length of our lives (we now live to 80+ years old, whereas as cavemen – when oxytocin appeared – we lived to about 35 years old – i.e. just past child rearing age). Years ago, when we said “forever”, that meant 20, 30 or 40 years. Now, when we say ‘forever’ at 25 years old, that can mean, in some people’s cases, 60 or 70+ years of the same person. And guess what, you are gonna change in that 70 years, SIGNIFICANTLY, and so is your partner. It doesn’t mean giving up on ‘forever’, it just means you have to change, communicate and adapt to those echanges. That’s why working on your relationship, and getting help when necessary, is at least as important, if not MORE important than many years ago.
Another difference is the availability of viable partners. Imagine, if you will, ‘hunter-gatherers’ 70,000 years ago… about 500 in each tribe; some were your family, half were the opposite gender, and some were ‘taken’, some were old, some were children, so on ‘friday night date night‘ you had about 10 – 25 to choose form… every friday. The same 25 possibilities. For the whole for your life.
Whereas today, on any single Friday night, you have maybe 25 friends/colleagues etc, 5000+ possibilities in your dating app, your network is maybe 2000 on facebook, and you live in a city of 500,000+, right? So the possibilities, and temptations are massive, and at your fingertips. When you and your partner have a bad period, or things get difficult, or you feel like you are both growing apart as the years roll on, then it’s all too easy to look at that app, and think too much….
The last challenge I’ll mention is the ‘sex for fun’ threat/temptation (as opposed to sex for the purpose of reproduction). The work christmas dinner (A Danish and UK classic, or so i’ve heard), dating apps, sex-workers and even dating websites especially designed for ‘cheating partners’ to find other ‘cheating partners’ without being discovered …. I don’t endorse it, but it does exist. It’s a big threat to “love everlasting’ in the long term.
So with these factors, it makes the “True love is everlasting” phrase a far far FAR bigger challenge that it once was when it originally grew to be “the rule” many couples live by. Hence the 50% divorce rate (and that doesn’t include other long term relationships where they never got married, but that it ended also.) From a completely scientific objective point of view, isn’t “… everlasting” a perfect example of unrealistic goal-setting? I don’t know the answer to this, and I think it is for each individual (or couple) to decide.
As long as they have made an informed choice, I’m happy. Those people that have made that big commitment to go for it, I respect massively and I wanna help. For the sake of their happiness, satisfaction, (and their kids happiness?) I encourage them to ‘work hard’ at their relationship using the tips and advice I’ve mentioned above, or book a free discovery call with me.
3. “There is only one true love”
The thing that bothers me with this statement, is that it assumes every single person on the planet is the same as regards how they feel and express romantic love. And that because you (and your peers) choose to love only one person, or can only love one person, that means that all 7,500,000,000 people on the planet are exactly the same as you, with the same depth, emotions, thoughts, feelings, upbringing, influences, strengths, weaknesses and issues. Purely logically, we can’t all be the same in any single regard.
With the advent globalisation, comes greater diversity. The popularisation of greater sexual freedom, open relationships, polyamouristic relationships, burgeoning awareness of different sexualities, and among others the ‘sex positive*’ movement, the world is becoming generally more tolerant of diverse relationship types. (yes, the radical right shout loudly on social media – a platform that rewards hype hysteria and fear – maybe, but if you ask the average person on the street, their attitude is quite often: “Live and let live”. 😍 (which, by the way, i think is a good thing).
*What is the ‘Sex positive movement’: The sex-positive movement is a social and philosophical movement that seeks to change cultural attitudes and norms around sexuality, promoting the recognition of sexuality (in the countless forms of expression) as a natural and healthy part of the human experience and emphasizing the importance of personal sovereignty, safer sex practices, and consensual sex (free from violence or coercion). It covers every aspect of sexual identity including gender expression, orientation, relationship to the body (body-positivity, nudity, choice), relationship-style choice, reproductive rights, and anything else society has lumped under the umbrella. – Sexual shame and guilt are being targeted, in many directions, and on many platforms and forums, as unhealthy, and people are getting help. Look out for the results and discussion of the upcoming research paper Irina Patiño and myself are writing, publishing this Autumn – or be part of it! Take the quiz here.
As people begin, in growing numbers, to define their own relationships, life-styles and decide precisely how they want to live their lives, instead of letting other people dictate ‘the rules’, isn’t this going to make longer lasting relationships more ‘do-able’ in the modern world? Of course, you’re still gonna need to ‘work at it’, there will be hard days and easy days, but it might just take the edge off how hard it is to remain in a stable loving relationship for many people. … instead of forcing yourself to be someone you’re not, and be in a relationship that doesn’t fit. .. or quickly exiting via the ‘divorce’ route.
So, what I would say is; Love is special, love is rare, love should be cherished, nurtured and worked on as the years roll by. Get help and support then you need it and fight for it when it’s good and a positive influence on your life, or even if it CAN be again, in the future.
Whatever kind of relationship you have decided on, it’s not always ‘Effortless, Everlasting, or Unique’. But hopefully it is, or can be, satisfying, life-affirming, passionate and fun. (or whatever YOU have decided you want out of YOUR life) 😊 … if not, give me a call (free) … or drop me a line (also free)
Let’s love better, ❤️
Sex & Relationship Coach