1. You shouldn’t have to work at it.
Whoever coined the phrase ‘with the right person, it’s easy,’ was probably about three days into their seventh-grade relationship.
Real love is work – it always has been and it always will be. It’s work to figure out what makes someone tick. It’s work to figure out how to compromise. It’s work to plan a future with somebody else and it’s work to resolve every argument you hit along the way.
With some people it will be harder and more consistent work than it will be with others – there’s definitely something to be said for finding a partner whose values are aligned with yours. But it’s never going to be easy 100% of the time. Love has to be worked at, if we want to make it last.
2. The right person will intuitively know how to love you.
No, no, no, no, no. Also, no.
People are complicated and varied and we have all been brought up with slightly different ideas about what it means to give and receive love. We need to talk explicitly about those things in order to make love work – even when it seems unsexy.
If you are too caught up with the romantic idea of someone showing up with a bouquet of flowers and the exact words that you need to hear when you’re upset to actually put work into communicating what you need to your partner, then you aren’t ready to be in love. Plain and simple.
Because real, adult love isn’t about the flowers and romance. It’s about being open and honest and making it work, even when it’s tough and unglamorous. If you want a fantasy romance, pick up a Nicholas Sparks book. If you want a real, long-lasting relationship, start voicing what you need from your partner, and listening to what they need back.
3. Love is all you need to make a relationship work.
Love is a great starting place for a relationship. But what takes it the distance is deliberate, conscious action on behalf of both parties.
In reality, you need a lot more than love to make a relationship thrive. You need stability. Understanding. Compromise. The willingness to grow, both individually and alongside one another. If any of these components are missing, the only thing love will do is keep you trapped inside of a toxic relationship.
4. We can hold other people responsible for how we’re feeling.
Though I love much of what Louis C.K. has to say, there is a particular phrase of his that drives me up the wall and it is, “When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”
This is an incredible misconception we have about love – that it is in no way subjective.
Yes, we have to listen to what our partners are saying and be aware of how our actions are affecting their emotions. But there are also a great deal of unhealthy, manipulative and toxic people out there who are more than willing to exploit this idea. If you are constantly being told that you are the root of someone’s problems – and yet they continue to be with you, chances are you’re dealing with an emotionally unhealthy person.
At the end of the day, all emotions are subjective. If the person you’re dating has a fundamentally different idea of what is hurtful in a relationship – and what isn’t – than you do, it’s your own choice to either stay with them and continue to feel offended, or to leave and find someone whose subjective experience of love is more closely aligned with yours. Unless your partner is specifically and deliberately intending to do you emotional harm, it’s unfair to place endless blame for your own discontentment on their shoulders.
5. It is other peoples’ responsibility to break down your walls.
Almost everybody out there has been wounded by love, in some way or another.
Most of us have been heartbroken. Most of us have been betrayed. Many of us have even been in toxic or abusive relationships, which made us hesitant to pursue love for an indefinite period of time afterwards.
And all of that is horribly unfortunate. But the responsibility to heal from these pains falls on nobody’s shoulders but our own. If your walls are up and your heart is guarded because someone else hurt you in the past, then you need to be alone until you can figure out how to bring your guard back down.
It is nobody else’s responsibility to heal the wounds and make you trust in love again – if you aren’t ready to give and receive love openly, you aren’t ready to be back in a relationship. Period.
6. We can save each other through love.
Love is an incredible force – there’s no denying that. It can inspire us, guide us and invigorate us. But what it absolutely cannot do is save us from ourselves.
When someone is not ready to help themselves, no amount of love is going to change that. If someone is mentally or physically ill, no amount of love is going to restore them to health. Love is a wonderful thing but what it’s not is a substitute for professional help. Love won’t fix all of your problems and giving love away won’t fix someone else’s.
Sometimes the biggest, bravest thing we can do in love is to admit that it’s not enough. That somebody else needs so much more than we can give them. And that all we can do is love them on the path to recovery, as they learn to fight for themselves.