‘My partner is always talking about leaving me. When we have even a slight disagreement, he says: I’m leaving. I don’t think I am in love with you anymore.’ I don’t want to get hurt. I think I have to hold back for my own preservation. But this is wearing me down. What can I do?’
Sometimes, unfortunately, we tend to think dissolution is the only answer to relationship problems or hitches. We underestimate our ability to stay in the battle, to face inevitable challenges and change, to build stability and continuity into our lives with our partners. We continue to live in the fantasy that love relationships, unlike everything else in our lives, require hard, continuous work to maintain stability.
We don’t know that in order for a love relationship to last, we need to ‘fall out of love’ as quickly as possible to get down to the nitty gritty hard work of ‘loving’.
Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the western psyche. It has supplanted religious beliefs as the arena in which humans seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness and ecstasy. Our whole culture – art, music, literature, poetry, films are firmly set in this dream world.
The ideal of romantic love burst into western society during The Middle Ages: it was called ‘courtly love’. We have infused ‘courtly love’ into our sexual relationships. When we ‘fall in love’, we project onto the other our image as to what constitutes perfection and hold the medieval belief that ‘true love’ has to be the ecstatic adoration of someone who holds this image.
We float on to a pool of delusion. Why? Because we are human. We are not Gods. And when our projected God fails to live up to our expectations, we fall ‘out of love’. Our ideal of perfection shatters. We drown in the pool.
What can you do? Do what all us humans need to do when faced with difficulty. Accept our humanity, our fragility; accept that change is inevitable and talk about it.
Instead of believing that the only thing to do is hold back – which you admit is wearing you down – perhaps confront your partner, open up to him, share with him your vulnerability, take the risk to face inescapable change. ‘I can see that you are frustrated and disappointed about some aspects of our relationship. And I am also feeling frustrated and confused because I am not sure why you feel this way. I would like us to have a good talk and face these changes. Our relationship is important to me.’
And be thankful that you are both now out of the Romantic Love stage because it is not really love of another person: it is the love of self, of a projected image. And we cannot live as another’s image; we can only live as self.
‘I am going through a horrible time of confusion and guilt. I have been living with my girlfriend now for about 18 months. I still love her but things seem to have gone off track somewhat. I don’t know what the hell is happening – we seem to be drifting apart. But I do love her and I’m sure she still loves me. What’s happening?’
Congratulations! You are one of the lucky ones – even better than winning Lotto! Yes, now I know you are really bewildered!
Nothing in life is static, including human love and its accompanying relationships. Things are born, they come into existence, they grow, they transform, they grow again, change, evolve – a continual process. Like the phases of the moon, each phase is somewhat different. Love also goes through stages – and the fortunate ones among us welcome those stages, accept them and embrace them.
It could be said there are four stages in love and each has a definitive purpose and task. Stage One is the merging of two lives, a mutual giving and receiving; its task is to enable the establishment of a couple bond, to assist in the necessary shift in emotional connections in other relationships. As we grow, as we evolve, we enter Stage Two in which differences emerge, recognition of each other’s flaws, and the subsequent brief of this stage is to acknowledge and accept and express difference. From there, the lucky ones move onto Stage Three in which we finally acknowledge that no one person can meet all our needs, that any expectation of my partner to do so is unfair to my her; this stage’s task is to re-discover individual self, fine tune communication skills. As the moon reaches its zenith, so too does Stage Four in which celebration of true harmony can occur, an appreciation that a healthy relationship is made up of three separate segments: You, Me and Us.
And the moon wanes to rise yet again – and again – and again. And life changes and grows.
Again, congratulations! You are indeed one of the lucky ones – you have recognized a change, you are not in denial. Face each stage, each new re-birth with the knowledge of your mutual love and respect for each other and the willingness to move with change. Share and listen to each other’s confusions and bewilderments – be open, be trusting, take the inevitable risks required to grow closer to each other.
Embrace this opportunity with open arms – you will then fly to the moon.
Relationships Australia is a non-profit organisation offering education, counselling and other services to people of all backgrounds and sexual orientation. RA has lesbian and gay counsellors with many years experience working in our community. The website www.wa.relationships.com.au gives information on all services. Elizabeth has over 30 years experience in relationship education and counselling.