“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~Stephen Chbosky
Have you ever thought that you could love someone enough to make everything work?
Have you been in a relationship where you knew you weren’t really happy, but you kept saying, “But I love him/her. Isn’t that enough?”
I know how it feels to believe this. I have felt this more times than I care to admit. The worst was when I fell in love with my ex-husband. He was twelve years my junior, from another country (Greece), and barely spoke English.
Our souls connected immediately, and I fell in love with him. What was I thinking? We had nothing in common. He was not ready financially or emotionally. We could not communicate. Our cultures were different. But I was in love, and shouldn’t that have been enough?
It wasn’t only my ex-husband that I had this problem with. Every relationship I’ve had was fatally flawed. They weren’t flawed because I chose bad, evil men. They were flawed because I fell in love with character and not with our compatibility or their ability to contribute to my happiness.
I fell in love with these men because of who they were, not how they made me feel. Yes, they were kind. Yes, they were ethical. Yes, they were attractive. But not one of them really listened to me. Not one of them treated me like I was the best thing since sliced bread.
Still, I stayed. I kept trying and trying. I kept thinking that if I were enough they would care more. I kept thinking if I gave more they would understand I was doing everything to make them happy, and in return they would want to make me happy.
I stayed hoping some miracle of all miracles would happen, because I loved them and shouldn’t love be enough?
Unfortunately, it isn’t. It never will be. Just loving someone isn’t enough.
So, whether you are in a relationship that you are unsure of right now or if you are just venturing into the dating world, ask yourself these things before you settle down.
1. How do you feel about yourself when you’re around them?
When you’re around them do you feel content and accepted, or do you feel anxious and misunderstood? Sometimes our relationships can be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, so be careful not to push your judgment of yourself onto your partner.
Determine whether these feelings arise out of their treatment of you, or whether they are insecurities you have no matter who you are with.
Some people are just a better match for us than others. I’m someone who likes to talk and connect on a deep, emotional level. Unfortunately, I have a habit of choosing partners who don’t like to talk and don’t like to connect, so I always end up feeling alone and misunderstood. There was nothing wrong with them; we just weren’t a good match.
2. Are my needs equal in importance to their own?
When you tell your partner something is important to you, how do they react? If you tell your partner, “I really need to spend quality time with you because it makes me feel special,” and they don’t understand what that means and don’t want to know, then perhaps you are not right for each other.
Relationships take two equal parts. If you make your partner’s needs important, then your partner has to do the same or you are in a lopsided relationship and you will never be fulfilled.
I remember one time I came home from an extremely stressful week/month at work, and I really needed to vent. I started talking to my then husband. To this day I remember him saying to me, “Carrie. Carrie. I am not your girlfriend. If you want to talk, call Tracy.”
What could I do with that? If my own husband doesn’t want to talk to me and doesn’t care about my day or that I’m stressed, where can we go? Yes, you can guess where we went. We went to divorce court.
3. Are their core values in line with mine?
We all have core principles and values that we live by. These are different for each of us. However, if your partner does not have the same values you have, then there is likely to be trouble in paradise as time marches on. Core values are things you must have in a partner.
Core values include:
- The desire to have children
- How you deal with money
For example, I’m insanely ethical. I was born this way. I can’t explain it. No one wants a cheater or a liar, but many times people cheat and lie and explain it away or justify it. This is completely incompatible with my sense of self, and something I could never accept in a partner. I was drawn to my last boyfriend because of his ethical principles. He was highly actuated in this area and it made me extremely attracted to him because of it.
Some of these things change over time, and sometimes not. Some people can become more religious or decide they want children. It is possible to change the way you view and handle money.
Deeply ingrained core values are not likely to change. If the person you are with is not family-oriented and doesn’t want to be, and you have a huge conflict, you are setting yourself up for trouble. If you want children and s/he doesn’t and never will, then stop trying to make it something it isn’t just because you love him.
4. Do they want to know me? The real me?
I believe everyone has different comfort levels in regard to vulnerability. Some people crave intense emotional intimacy, and some do not.
My parents were married for thirty-four years, and I often wonder how much they really knew each other. They were happy and content, but at times it seemed like a surface relationship because neither was willing to show the other their true self. I don’t judge them because that is what they were capable of. For me though, I want and need more.
Are you capable of showing your partner who you really are on your darkest days? Do they want to know? Do you feel accepted and understood for all your quirkiness and irrationality or whatever your personality traits are?
If not, then you may be left perpetually dissatisfied, and over time the relationship will probably erode itself away, or you will be drawn to someone else you think does want to know you and does accept you. Honestly, this is probably where most affairs start.
5. Is my life better with them in it?
Is your partner an asset or a hindrance? Do they support you or suck the life out of you? Do they want you to reach your goals and your dreams, or do they put you down and make you feel like you can’t or won’t accomplish anything?
A partner should be your biggest supporter and cheerleader, and if they aren’t put them on the bench and find a new player. Life is too short to be with someone who doesn’t believe in you. Don’t take this to mean you should be able to do whatever you want and they should accept it. What it means is you should feel content and supported and loved with this person in your life.
Days should not be filled with angst, fights, conflict, or division. If your days are not happy the majority of the time, then ask yourself why. What are you contributing to the unhappiness? Fix your side of the street and see if anything changes. If not, you may need to rethink why you are with them.
What Do I Want?
Don’t ask these questions just once. Ask them over and over. Ask them in one month. Ask them in six months. Ask them in six years. As much as you love them, and as much as you think they may love you, if they can’t meet your needs, and don’t want to meet them, then you are wasting your time and wasting precious moments of your life.
There are many wonderful, kind people out there, but that doesn’t make them right for you. Just because you love them doesn’t mean you can be happy with them.
Don’t waste years on someone because “you love them.” Every day is a choice. Choose your own happiness, and in doing so you will choose love rather than it choosing you.
About Carrie L. Burns
Carrie L. Burns is a blogger on a mission of self-discovery. As a sexual abuse survivor that struggled for years with depression anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of self-love, and relationship issues, she found her purpose through writing and sharing her story with others. Check out her other writing at www.acinglife.com.