As I sat in the corner of a café sipping cappuccino with my friends, something caught my attention. It was a poster of The Beatles’ song All you need is love. It was a nostalgic moment and at the same time, it got me thinking if love alone was enough.
This train of thought took me to my teenage years when I spent days reading romantic novels by Nicholas Sparks. As I recalled some of those soft, lovelorn, leaving-you-weak-in-the-knees stories, one particular quote from The Notebook that hit home. “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough…” As a young woman, I was so inspired by this thought that I truly started believing love could move mountains. It was the magic potion for all of life’s problems. Love was all you needed. It was in history books, in the movies and in the songs. Love was everywhere. Reminiscing about it brought a smile to my face like a rainbow on a cloudy day.
Until recently, when my friend Ria broke up with her partner of 10 years. Childhood sweethearts, they fit like two pieces of a puzzle–the ‘ideal couple’ I looked up to. They loved each other madly, yet it all came crashing down like a house of cards.
So, I asked Ria, “Why do couples break up when there is so much love between them? “It is a wonderful feeling to be in love, but it is a part of a whole, not the whole itself. We overestimate the power of love and set unrealistic expectations. This, obviously sabotages the relationship we hold so dear,” said my pragmatic friend, leading me to a thought trail different than what I had followed all these years.
Sitting in front of me was my other friend Ana–a newlywed fiddling with her wedding band, with a puzzled look on her face. Without wanting to let go of the golden opportunity I knew I had, I asked Ana how she felt living her new life. With an exasperated expression, she complained, “My husband leaves the towel on the floor and never ever makes his bed. It is so annoying.” From the looks of it, it seemed to me that there might be compatibility issues there.
There are many factors which contribute to the success of a relationship. Love cannot fill in for self-respect, commitment or humility–values integral to a strong relationship. Love forms its basis, sure. But is there more to a relationship? Indeed, there is. It takes more than emotions and passion for a relationship to last. Here are aspects you could ponder over if you are in a relationship and wondering what else is needed other than love when in love. Stay with me as I explore the ingredients necessary to keep the flame of a relationship bright:
Communication: The basic question in any relationship–are we able to communicate with our partner about anything and everything? When it comes to communication, I remember this friend from college who would spend hours on the phone with her boyfriend. I often wondered what they spoke about. And one day, I asked her what they spoke about all the time, half expecting to get some ultra-romantic answer. I was taken aback by her response. They spoke about politics, science, sports, movies, music; hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations, ambitions and life in general. Communicating with a partner about difficult things is critical to a successful relationship, even if it is lined by fear, I was told. There will be times when discussions will become arguments and spiral out of control. But a little empathy and some patience will see us through.
Compatibility: Love is an emotion and we can fall in love with anyone. We may fall in love with someone whose ambitions, perspective and philosophy in life are nothing like ours. And yet we could be compatible. We could be in love with an overtly possessive person and still make it work because of being agreeable on different levels. Compatibility is a practical thing, whereas love is purely emotional. Practical problems can seldom be solved with emotions.
Emotions and expression: People express emotions differently. Perhaps, some express through hugs and kisses while others make their partners feel special by surprising them with a much-needed vacation. It is the same with negative emotions. Few people like to sort it out through discussions while others might resort to silence. The key is in being ok with who they are.
Mental wavelength: Two people in love are not supposed to be mirror images of each other. You might be a hopeless romantic while your partner is averse to anything mushy. And yet, if you dig deeper, you might share similar interests. For instance, he might be a Liverpool fan and you too like sports. Or maybe, you both love travelling. Shared interests and similar mental wavelength contribute to a relationship just as much as love does.
Appreciation: Appreciating the little things our partner does makes a relationship stronger. When we have been with someone long enough, taking them for granted is almost like an involuntary action. Making them feel special, letting them know how important they are to you, are keys to the deadlock of a monotonous relationship.
“Find things that matter in a relationship as much as love does. Don’t let love consume you. Love is a wonderful feeling; it makes life beautiful, but it is just not enough,” said Ria wistfully as I nodded in consent.
As I was leaving the cafe, Patty Smyth’s voice came alive on the radio: Baby, sometimes, love just ain’t enough.