Thursday, June 22, 2006

Want vs. Need vs. Love

Just about everyone's listened to a dear friend cry on their shoulder, mourning the loss of that "perfect" relationship. They'd tried everything, given it their all, sometimes more than they should have. Still, it slipped from their grasp.

The issue isn't necessarily that their partner didn't care for them, as you might be inclined to believe. In most cases the loss can be blamed on the initial "thrill of the chase" that inevitably dwindles away as both parties become more and more comfortable with each other.

While both might want long-term security from a relationship, it may be their individual levels of trust that are to blame for the downfall. Both may have been very deeply hurt in past endeavors of the heart, but one partner might be more willing to open themselves to love than the other.

Most people sincerely want to share themselves and their lives with another. Living lonely isn't easy. When a connection is made it's exciting: you suddenly feel important to someone, finally wanted by another human being. The initial elation envelopes every aspect of your life.

Gradually, as reality seeps into the corners of your relationship, you begin to realize that you are in somewhat responsible for the feelings of this other person. That your own personality and actions (which are so ingrained into your personality they are completely taken for granted) might effect your partner either positively or negatively. Suddenly, this soaring feeling of being cared for takes on the weight of responsibility to the other partner.

Simple things like favorite television shows or musical tastes, societal opinions and cultural differences (or, in the case of children, disciplinary styles) can begin to create a riff between you. Arguments ensue and reality finally and solidly firms it's grasp on your once carefree and daydreaming alliance.

Choices that are made when this happens are not always the best ones:

One partner may begin to feel trapped or obligated. To regain his sense of freedom he might begin to explore his options - both within and outside this relationship. He might begin to pull away emotionally, closely guarding his feelings and locking them away inside himself. While not actually physically cheating, he might even pursue some furtive flirting or keeping a mental tally of "outside options", should this affair dissolve. In essence, keeping that "thrill of the chase" feeling alive within himself.

Intuitively sensing this distraction in the one she loves, the other partner instinctively feels a need to pour even more of herself into a last-ditch rescue effort. She might buy him little gifts or wait on him, catering to his every whim. She starts putting his needs ahead of her own, and she loses more and more of herself in the process of trying to hold onto what she wants so much. Consequently, she is also showing him less and less of the part of her he was attracted to in the first place.

This push-me-pull-you effect inevitably drives the wedge between them even more deeply. He begins to feel smothered and she feels unwanted. Their methods of dealing with their problems can only exacerbate them further.

So what's the solution? Can this joint venture be saved? It ultimately depends upon each individual's desire to that end. Are each of them willing to look beyond the present circumstances and strive for a reconciliation? More directly, is this relationship worth saving?

The first thing to consider is that every situation is temporary. These complications aren't likely to last for an extended period of time. Most problems eventually work themselves out. Knowing this, is it worth the possible near-future regret of throwing away your romantic alliance? Or should you wait out the dilemma, working together to resolve the issues at hand? And, perhaps most importantly, would your partnership have persevered if these conflicts had never arisen?

Secondly, think about what might have attracted you to your counterpart in the first place. True chemistry between you might indicate more than enough reason to preserve this seemingly debilitated cooperative. Some of these characteristics might not be so easily found in the next person in line. The grass is not always greener.

Finally, how much of the weight of responsibility are you really placing on your partner? You might think you are looking at all sides of the issue, when in reality you are only seeing a small part of the problem. Is it possible that the problems could be approached in a different way? Sometimes a different viewpoint can reveal an entirely new pathway to a solution.

All relationships - even those romantic mergers we see as "perfect" - go through a period of adjustment. There will always be problems which arise and tumultuous times, even for the most diplomatic of couples. The test of strength in any alliance is your ability to compromise and accommodate each other to create harmony in your partnership. Successful outcomes constitute real work - even in the context of relationships.


andrena said...

hey stranger...nice to see you pop up on blog explosion!

Dirty Butter said...

Successful outcomes constitue real work.

We've been married 42 years, and I can agree with that 100%! Marriage isn't 50/50, it's 100%/100%.

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