We’ve all heard the phrase “love conquers all.” It comes from the widely-held belief that only love is necessary for a healthy, happy relationship. Of course, the quote is partially correct. Individuals surrounded by love often lead better and happier lives, and love is important in relationships, especially romantic ones.
Is love all you need, though? The answer to that question would be no.
Love is great, but in many cases, it isn’t enough. Think of the domestic violence victim who excuses their abusive partner’s actions with “but I love him” or “I know he loves me.” Think of how people respond to survivors of child abuse: “He is still your father, and I’m sure he loves you.” In my case, my rapist told me he loved and adored me right after the assault.
Love is certainly not all you need. It might serve as a strong foundation and give you more incentive to work on things, but love alone will not make a relationship work.
The definition of love is also very abstract and varies from person to person. What love is to you might not be the same for another person. So, your “I love you” and their “I love you” could mean completely different things. In English, we truly only have one word for love: Love. In Greek, for example, there are six words for love! Each has their own niche meaning. Eros for sexual passion, philia for a deep friendship, ludus for playful love, agape used for a love of everyone, and pragma for long-standing love, like that of a long term relationship.
In the case of narcissistic abuse, “I love you” can be a form of manipulation, a way to strengthen the trauma bond and keep that narcissistic supply flowing.
Telling people that love is all they need makes it hard to establish healthy relationships and perpetuations a very dangerous myth. It’s a very vague standard that can encourage people to stay with the wrong person…or even a very toxic one.
To help people establish happy and healthy relationships, we need to give better, clearer directions. Here are some qualities you should always look for in a relationship, perhaps even before love:
The definition of respect is having admiration and due regard for a person’s feelings, wishes, rights, and abilities. It is vital in any healthy relationship and has to go both ways. Both partners should respect each other at all times. Even if there is a disagreement or argument, there should always be a base level of respect.
If partners don’t respect each other, there are often frequent disagreements. It can also lead to insecurities and resentment within the relationship.
Another essential quality to look for in a relationship is support. This doesn’t mean blindly giving your approval to everything.
What it means is accepting, understanding, and loving your partner for who they are. It’s also encouraging your partner with whatever they decide to do and holding their hand through hard times if they require it.
Without mutual support, it’s easy for one or all parties in the relationship to feel emotionally unfulfilled.
Trust is built when words and action match consistently over time. It comes with a history of honesty and open communication. It means feeling safe with another person and having confidence that they will not purposefully hurt you. It’s one of the hardest things to give and often the weak spot of many relationships.
It’s necessary, though, because without it, you can’t freely speak to your partner or share vulnerable parts of yourself. Trust is a much stronger foundation than love. Remember, though, that once it’s broken, trust is very difficult, if not impossible, to get back.
Boundaries are another thing that any relationship needs. Partners need to know and communicate what they aren’t comfortable doing—and they also need to watch for signs that their partner feels unsafe expressing such boundaries. Partners and/or friends must respect these and make sure not to cross any boundaries.
If your partner blows a boundary, take note of how they respond to that. Are they angry? Do they minimize their transgression? Do they gaslight/blame you? Or do they own their behavior and apologize? Unless it’s the latter, do what you need to get out (as fast as possible)!
Know this: If your boundaries are never respected, you and the other party in the relationship are most likely incompatible. Or worse, you’re in an abusive, toxic relationship. Again: get out!
Yes, this whole article might’ve been about love not being all you need, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need it at all. Mutual love and admiration are vital for any relationship to flourish and thrive. It’s also not enough to just say; it also needs to be shown in a way that the other receives love. Take time to learn their love language and talk about what helps them feel loved.
Your partner should do things that they know you’ll appreciate, too. This can be giving you compliments, buying gifts, or helping you with stressful tasks. You should also do the same for them.
A healthy relationship requires many different parts to function. Love is one of them, but many other things like respect work alongside it. Love, in fact, is the easy part. Without these other things, a relationship cannot be fulfilling and beneficial.
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