If you’ve truly been in love before then you know that nothing comes as close as fantastic as love in the world. It can be so powerful and alluring that it feels hard imagining living without love. Yet, we need not be blind to the fact that love is not enough!
Nonetheless, and without doubt, love is one of the most difficult things to handle in the world. And though many desire to bask in all its fullness, they however lack a clear understanding of what true love actually is to begin with.
Most of the feelings a lot of people express about love are largely influences coming from movies, novels, and magazines. In large part, these ideologies about love has set us up to believe that the feeling of “being in love” and being loved are all we need.
For the most part, love paints this rosy “love conquers all” picture in the minds of most of its “captives”. This rosy picturesque sets up most individuals to actually believe that they can navigate any and every relationship obstacle, no matter how difficult.
Love is not the be-all and end-all solution to all problems like most people have idealized it to be. It is not and will never be the answer to everything – as it simply isn’t.
And even while love may make you stay in a relationship, it sure isn’t enough on its own to create that truly healthy, sustainable, long-term loving relationship you long for.
Thus, the idealization and overestimation of the power of love can cause a lot of suffering in both our lives and those of the people we care about.
A Primer on Why Love is Not Enough
The simplest way to put it is that love is not enough because love is conditional! It is as simple as that – it’s conditional like every other thing in life. The only that is constant is change itself.
Its sustainability has an inherent link to other conditions that exist within the construct of love in a relationship.
Why is it that despite feeling so much in love with your partner you often worry if the love you share is actually enough to keep the relationship going?That’s partly because love can put you on the road to a healthy marriage. And it is true that it can keep you in the game of marriage and on the road to true matrimonial happiness. Yet, in and of itself, love does not make for a healthy marriage.
To have a healthy relationship with someone entails more than the heart-stopping joy of being with someone you have euphoric feelings of love for. There’s so much more involved than meets the eye.
Relationships are actually a challenge that require a lot of hard work. And I guess that is the part a lot of people don’t want to hear. It feels a lot easier to believe that love can conquer the world – talk less of just a relationship.
Well, the decision of what to believe is clearly in your hands. My hope is that you’ll come to terms with the reality that love is not enough. And that a successful long-term relationship encompasses many other factors than just love.
The goal of this post is thus to help you realize clearly why love is not enough. So, while you need the fundamental component of love in your relationship, there are other necessary factors that it needs to create the relationship you desire.
Fundamentals of Loving Relationships
Wise home builders recognize the importance of and therefore lay solid foundations for their building projects. In like manner, it is necessary for couples to lay a solid foundation for being together.
Thus, it’s of great importance that each party is clear about what exactly they expect from the relationship. This should be both in the short- and long-term.
This clarification is important because in its truest form, a marriage is a “union of two independent individuals coming together to build an interdependent alliance“.
Maintaining this alliance will require a continuous concerted effort from both parties. This, to a great extent, will involve a lot of sacrifice, compromise, commitment, and real hard work.
Just imagine if you got a goldfish, though small it may be, it simply changes you to a certain extent. Because to keep it alive, there are several things you must do. Think of love that way, it’s a beautiful goldfish that you need to nurture every day! How would you go about it?
But in the real world we live in, enduring love between couples depend strongly on reciprocity – both in words and in deeds. True sustainable love never flows in just one direction. The regular servicing and maintenance of this interdependency is what keeps a marriage together and thriving.
What Kind of Love do You Have?
This line of thought is important in determining whether love alone can truly sustain a loving relationship. The idea is that the type of love that predominates in a given relationship depends on the stage (e.g., dating vs. married) and/or the actual duration of the relationship.
Good relationships don’t just happen. They take time, patience and two people who truly want to be together.
Hitherto, the description of love has mostly tilted towards the passionate or romantic type of love. But understanding the distinctions between the two basic kinds of love can help to drive home some of the various reasons why love is not enough to sustain a healthy relationship.
Here we are essentially talking about romantic love and companionate love. Understanding them holds the key to unlocking exactly how love works in a relationship and how to make it work long-term.
Understanding the Two Kinds of Love
Relationship scientists continue to disagree about the exact number of love types that occur and what to call them. However, all agree that at a minimum two distinct varieties exist.
This distinction is mostly based on the initial postulation made by Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Hatfield. Both argued that love is not a single entity. Their idea was to conceptualize love in terms of two basic kinds: romantic love and companionate love.
The romantic experience of being in love with another person usually has a number of characteristic, and even distinguishable features. These include a swift and fairly sudden onset, a relatively brief lifespan, and idealization or mental preoccupation with the beloved. Other features are intense and often fluctuating extreme emotions, physiological arousal and its associated bodily sensations.
In contrast, companionate love was defined as “affection and tenderness we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply entwined”. It’s a sturdy, durable type of love based on feelings of trust, honesty, respect, and caring.
Companionate love has several characteristic basic features including a relatively slow onset and durability or permanence. Others features are interdependence, and feelings of affection, intimacy, and commitment.
There is a general belief that over time the fire of passionate attraction morphs into the quiet satisfaction of companionate love. This however depends on the relationship surviving the initial stage of romantic love.
There is also evidence suggesting that people are capable of having both kinds of love at the same time. This is termed “consummate love” in triangular theory terminology where there’s a combination of all three components of love. However, as Robert Sternberg – theorizer of the triangular theory of love – pointed out, this is often difficult to maintain.
The Basic Components of Love
Several researchers have studied the sixty-eight attributes that people have consistently associated with love across various studies. Of particular note would be the work of Beverly Fehr[1,2]. Results revealing the features of both romantic and companionate love shows that companionate love rates as the most typical meaning of love.
The features used in consistently defining true love include caring, trust, respect, honesty, and friendship. Further analysis of these love features showed that all love comprises of three basic components:
However, there were interesting results from the research analysis. The features that defined intimacy had higher rating in terms of being central to the meaning of love in comparison to features that defined passion and commitment.
From the standpoint of most love researchers, intimacy is intrinsically more important than passion when defining love in a relationship. These studies also show that companionate love is the most general type of love.
Importance of Intimacy
There is so much to say about why love is not enough considering the several little but mightily implicative issues that can undercut the survival of love itself. In this regard, the issue of intimacy becomes very important.
The component of intimacy evidently underlies both romantic and companionate love experiences. It would thus be safe to conclude that its development is extremely important in sustaining a long-term relationship.
Romantic Intimacy vs. Companionate Intimacy
Overall, the elements of intimacy and commitment present in companionate love may be more important than the combination of intimacy and passion in romantic love for sustaining a long-term loving relationship.
To grasp this connection, you first need to understand the various qualities involved in the development of close intimate relationships. This include but not limited to things like:
- communicating inner feelings
- sharing one’s possessions, time, and self
- expressing empathy for the other
- offering emotional and material support to the other
- promoting the other’s well-being
When you effectively engage in most of these activities together with a good dose of commitment to a relationship, you know you’ve got something great.
Of course you can combine the intimacy components with passion as in romantic love, but the level of commitment in companionate love simply outweighs it when you talk about relationship sustainability.
In fact, when you’re talking about love surviving, you are essentially talking about “going the distance” in your relationship. Thus, it goes far beyond the effect of variability inherent in passion. What you actually need is a high dose of commitment.
Obviously, this is why companionate love is often said to outlast romantic love. The commitment factor helps love to withstand a lot of the difficulties it might face on its journey to “happily-ever-after.”
What Does Science Say?
Relationship experts claim that companionate love may even grow stronger over time because it incorporates a lot of intimacy processes. These processes include caring, understanding, and attachment – all processes that require time to develop fully.
In fact, there are study reports showing evidence that companionate love is durable and “relatively” impervious to the passage of time.
For instance, in one study, passionate love scores for both male and female participants were negatively correlated with the age of their relationship. Essentially, the longer the time the couples had spent together, the less they were in love with each other.
However, their companionate love scores were unrelated to the length of their relationship. In particular, the passionate love scores for women were more strongly negatively correlated with relationship length than was companionate love.
Evidently, while romantic and companionate love are relationally satisfying, the relationship tends to be stronger for companionate love.
Despite the assumptions about the endurance of companionate love, it is necessary to note that it isn’t resistant to the effect of change. This is because the causal conditions conducive to liking and friendship in companionate love are not impervious to changes in the partners. And the partners themselves are not totally invulnerable to changes in their social and physical environments.
Above all, it’s important to remember that at the heart of both romantic love and companionate love lies the delicate component of intimacy. Intimacy is virtually at the core of literally all relationship issues.
Intimacy is the central reason why some relationships endure a lifetime, and others seem to last only a brief season. This is probably why emotional vulnerability is such a touchy issue for most people. No wonder people that embrace emotional vulnerability generally have the best of happy relationships.
Essential Elements of Love
Love is not enough because love is not a single element. It is more of a composite element of various other things.
In fact, if you dissect the three components of love as defined in Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, you will easily understand why love is not enough to sustain any love relationship for the long-term.
Usually, the three components of love exist in both romantic and companionate love. However, they exist in varying degrees over the course of most relationships. Thus, the elements of intimacy, commitment, and passion require conducive environments to thrive in. When they are in a state of good overall health, then love can truly flourish.
The fact is, love is not enough. All those fairytales, all those stories and movies you’ve heard and watched growing up, lied to you. Love is never enough because love is irrational.
As most of the earlier points have somewhat indicated, the element of commitment in a companionate relationship seems to play a pivotal role.
There are actually many integral elements that make the three components of love to work. But let’s just take a look at a few of the critical ones.
Love Requires Compatibility
Compatibility involves getting along with another in a congenial, harmonious fashion, and it’s easy to predict how certain behaviors will affect compatibility. For example, being attentive to what another person says should increase or at least maintain compatibility.
There are tons of amazing people in the world but the reality is that not every awesome person may be suitable for you. And this is regardless of how much you might love them.
Thus, you might really love someone but not be compatible with that person – and it is important to understand this. The reason is because the success of any long-term relationship strongly depends on the similarity the partners share. This includes similarity in general background, attitudes toward life, and toward the relationship.
The bitter truth about some relationships is that the partners are simply and irrevocably incompatible with each other. In fact, experts say that in some cases:
Some people are simply and irrevocably incompatible with each other, and there is no human remedy that will allow the closeness of the relationship to be maintained while, at the same time, permitting compatibility to be achieved.
At the same time, there are relationships where the couple might share compatibility but be in an unhealthy relationship. So, even when couples share compatibility to a certain degree, the relationship may not necessarily be close. In fact, it might even not endure.
Thus, without the element of compatibility in a relationship, it becomes all the more difficult for the couple to maintain the relationship. The way out is to have both great compatibility and high chemistry between partners in a relationship.
So, while you may want to have those butterflies in your stomach, also use your head to evaluate your partner’s personality compatibility, intelligence, and social background.
Love Needs Communication
Effective communication is arguably the maker and keeper of loving relationships. Having free and honest communication is a great way for partners to reassure themselves of their commitment to the relationship.
Mostly, when a couple is compatible, they will exhibit a high degree of quality communication meant to increase satisfaction and decrease dissatisfaction. It is such communication that makes partners less hesitant to commit to relationships.
Generally, clear communication starts degrading when partners start becoming emotionally reactive. Thus, they stop speaking clearly, and even stop speaking altogether. And meanwhile, love is left hanging out to dry.
Most of us know that communication is more than words and that it involves body language and the broader behavior sets we routinely engage in. However, we often fail to take the time to develop the skills of interpretation.
So, while our words can give one message, our tone of voice, posture, or body tension can give the opposite. All putting love in a state of tension and confusion.
…studies of marital communication and intimacy have shown that nonverbal expressions of affect, both hostile and affection, provide the most diagnostic and influential information about couple well-being.
Also, while arguments are unavoidable, they’re actually normal in relationships. Yet, too much arguments and fighting can cause weariness to the soul and strain on the love between partners.
Equally, couples need to realize that nobody is a mind reader. So, partners should learn to properly communicate their needs in respectful ways. Couples also need to regularly express their feelings – good or bad – and should avoid sweeping things under the rug.
Love is not enough if there’s no companionate idea for conjugality, one where both partners can freely express their love through (among other things) communication, sharing, and emotional closeness.
Love Needs Trust
Trust implies that individuals are confident that they can rely on their partner to be caring and responsive, to take their interests into account. It’s a feeling of security that permits one to depend on the other and to make one’s self vulnerable. In fact, trust is what binds any relationship together.
The chances of a betrayal of trust seriously hurting a relationship are always very high. A betrayal of trust usually make people feel like they can no longer trust the person they once loved and were devoted to.
We all want someone we can trust wholeheartedly. We want to trust our partner’s character and be able to count on them to behave in a certain way most times.
If you want to build a relationship. Take trust as your bricks. And patience as your cement. Just love is not enough…
The satisfaction we crave in loving relationships and the trust/security we have for our partner, are the most important predictors of commitment to a relationship.
But while trusting, it’s good to not only trust with your heart. You need to also be open and alert to any element of distrust that rears its ugly head. The earlier your curb such, the better.
Can you actually trust your partner in times of need or not? If there was a hesitation in answering this question, then it’s doubtful if everything is okay with your relationship. If you cannot trust your partner, how can you truly love them?
Sustaining a long-term loving relationship goes way beyond idealizing love the way we do today. We need to involve our head when dating and courting in order to make the best possible decisions. Trusting our hearts alone can often be greatly misleading.
Love Needs Commitment
In a relationship, you can define commitment as an individual’s feeling of attachment to a relationship and his or her intentions to remain in that relationship.
Thus, greater satisfaction with a relationship often creates greater commitment to that relationship. A lack of commitment in love may thus lead to a pervasive feeling of isolation, depression, and insignificance rather than any form of self-actualization in the relationship.
High commitment to a relationship often results in either passively tolerating a relationship problem, which is often termed loyalty, or to actively confront the problem. Low commitment often promotes either neglect of a troubling matter, or active threats to quite the relationship.
Unlike the intimacy and passion component of love, commitment is more of a conscious effort. This involves fully understanding and learning what it takes for a relationship to thrive. Thus, commitment to maintain a love relationship needs concerted and intentional effort to develop.
One very effective way to invest in a relationship that will strengthen the commitment is to increase shared intimacy. In fact, couples stand to benefit immensely the more vulnerable they become with one another especially through mutual self-disclosure.
This way, they’ll be able to share deeper connections and have greater commitment to the relationship. The more commitment they have for the relationship, the greater the intimacy the couple tends to enjoy.
Love is not enough because a loving relationship involves the joining of two people by two different things: their love and “conscious” commitment. The partnership or marriage is a reflection of their choice and commitment, and not of the love itself.
A Restatement of Why Love is Not Enough…
Undoubtedly, the passage of time will have a corrosive effect on love in general but its effect will be to varying degrees.
Thus, over time, all relationships are inherently vulnerable to the different changes in their social and physical environments. These changes can have either a direct or an indirect effect on the relationship.
Such changes include the biological changes related to aging which causes the individuals themselves to change. The partners change, their perceptions and interactions change, and love as a product of these interactions, also changes.
Due to how complicated and tricky it can become, love is not enough to weather the storms most relationships go through. This is mostly due to the variability that can occur in the three components of love. Changes in these three components invariably affect the two kinds of love.
Most research evidence indicates that time has a more destructive effect on romantic love than on companionate love. This is because the passion component is arguably the most variable of the three components of love. It’s equally the hardest to control.
Thus, it’s possible for one to experience a soaring desire for another and then watch it evaporate very rapidly due to several changes that they cannot consciously control.
And romantic love is what most people fantasize about and dream of experiencing. It’s also the love experience they base their marriage decisions on.
With the foregone, it’s hard to believe most people believe their romantic love can truly stand the test of time. Likewise, they actually believe that such “puppy love” will solve all their relationship problems.
However, companionate love stands a better chance of weathering the storms life may bring. Yet, it’s vulnerable to changes in the three components of love.
Considering the above points, if you’re to be honest with yourself, and going by your experiences of love hitherto, you know that love is not enough. Deep down, we all know that love isn’t always the answer and doesn’t always conquer.
The reality is that love is a complex thing and not just the euphoria most people think it to be. Love is so deep and what it encompasses is what makes it to last. Having the right ingredients in their right proportions is what makes a dish tasty and satisfying.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves and accept the reality that love, in and of itself, is a challenge. So, stop thinking that being in a loving relationship should be easy because you both “love” yourselves.
It takes way more than just “loving yourselves” to run this marathon to “happily ever after.” Love is not enough… you need to make sure you’re up for it.
Previously Published on lovingrelationships.com