The Unedited Truth About When Love Really Isn’t Enough

When I was young, relationships seemed like a feat only conquerable by love. Love was the cure-all, its mere presence was enough to defy any number of odds. Family disapproval, distance, even incompatibility could seem small if love shared the same space as it. But as I got older and dated, and more importantly fell in love, I struggled to uphold the same perspective.

Family disapproval wasn’t the sexy high school vision of me dating the misunderstood skater who was somehow really good at math and wanted to go to Harvard. Family disapproval was my family seeing me date someone with a completely different world view than me. Family disapproval was my family watching me try to reconcile our differences and instead becoming frustrated and heartbroken. They weren’t disapproving for what they didn’t know. They understood that my relationship relied on a compromise that neither I, nor my partner was willing to make.

They saw that I was in love without a future.

Their disapproval wasn’t a superficial scorn because my partner wore cargo shorts and too much hair gel. Their disapproval was because they actually saw my partner and me together, understood our differences, and knew we had a short shelf life. Their disapproval was an acknowledgement of the love me and my partner shared, but a greater acknowledgement of the fact that I would be devastated trying to fix a relationship doomed to fail.

Love didn’t dissolve our differences and make everything okay. In the end, the love didn’t leave the relationship, but I did.

No one wants to hear that love isn’t enough. Me in a long distance relationship sure as hell didn’t want to. A world away, my partner and I maintained the better part of our relationship online. We were constantly texting, Facebook chatting, and managing Skype dates between each visit in person. We were both still in school, so juggling our relationship with whatever semblance of academic achievement we had and a social life was even more challenging. We managed to stay afloat for two years, but with no way to close the distance any time soon, we started to sink. We were still in love, but having to compromise so much of our lives made even the once a month visits awkward. We couldn’t enjoy our time together anymore knowing the reality of what we faced: a lifetime of shrinking away from our responsibilities, our friends and family, even our dreams. There are some couples that can make it work. We weren’t one of them.

In the end, the love didn’t leave the relationship, but I did.

Family disapproval and distance are one thing, but straight up incompatibility is another. I once fell in love with someone who I found undeniably funny, intelligent, and sexy. Problem was, we were always butting heads. Our world views seemed to align, we came from similar backgrounds, and we had the same goals, but I can’t tell you how much we fought for all of it. At first, I thought it was a matter of learning my partner. We romanticize so much about finding a perfect fit that we sometimes forget that fit is molded into being. So I tried to adjust myself. My partner did the same. For all our understanding and our endless communication (I don’t think I’ve explained myself so much to someone in my entire life), we still struggled. It wasn’t a matter of a little friction; our tensions could flame Forrest fires. We just never matched up. For whatever reason, the love that we felt for each other almost immediately held up. It didn’t care about the fighting or the tiredness we felt from it. But we did. We were inescapably incompatible and staying together, if even for the love, was bound to drive us to madness.

In the end, the love didn’t leave the relationship, but I did.

One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to admit in life is that you love someone but that it’s not enough. Years of being sucked into rom-com plots and our own pride stops us. If Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler can make it work, why can’t I? Am I really going to give up someone I love because we have no future? The answer is that they didn’t, and if you’re citing fictional characters to justify the survival of your relationship, neither can you. And yeah, having a future with the person you’re in love with is kind of important. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that a bad situation will reward your love and effort. Sometimes a bad situation, a bad relationship, is just that.

And leaving, not love, is the cure. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Pardis Alia is a poetess and artist.

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