People are prone to relationship upsets. Sometimes they find themselves in quite a fix and feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and just plain unhappy. Clearly, there are legitimate times for concern, however, many times the problem is more related to state of mind, unfinished business from another time, or phase of life. Let’s look at what happens to love and how it loses its practicality.I love the practical side of love. Practical is the sharing of chores, resources, and dozens of feelings about a myriad of things. We share with our loved one about our day, the political debate, the state of the economy, and the news story about yet another school shooting. We listen to his day and he listens to the tales of ours. We both listen to the stories of aging bodies and changing physiology.
In the longer term committed relationship passion is bound to wane and people sometimes question the integrity of the relationship. Relationships take work and relationships are supposed to change over time. Core values and beliefs may remain over many years, but life events have a way of changing us and through this change we allow for new ways of being and new viewpoints.
In my clinical practice I see relationships that have become sad. The individuals who make up the couple unit want something more. They want more passion or more excitement. Sometimes they want more time with one another or one person wants more time and the other feels complete. Most long-term couples don’t want to rock the boat of marriage. I understand why.
Relationships are not about things always being OK or about our needs always being met. Relationships are about learning about the other and supporting them. It is also about learning about yourself in relation to this other person. Disappointments are bound to happen and missteps are common where judgment is concerned.
When people make a commitment to be together they are agreeing to ride through hard times as well as good times. Everyone has a line they draw in the sand. This is the place where things are no longer tolerated or no longer negotiable. Lines in the sand include things such as physical, sexual, or other forms of abuse. It also includes harm to others such as by way of abusing, murdering, or causing grave harm to someone else. There are lines in the sand that have to do with finances. To empty a bank account out and spend it recklessly without the others approval may be a line in the sand for many people. There are always reasons why things cannot be repaired and couples simply cannot move on.
There are many more situations where the reasons for despair or unhappiness are not so concrete as the examples I noted. Loss of that loving feeling, boredom, and relational sadness are all difficult situations, but are they reason enough to break a commitment or are they opportunities to learn just how much you can do for yourself, your partner, and the relationship? I encourage clients to not give up without a big fight.
When we push past our limit we come to understand ourselves better. We come to understand just how much we are made of. We see we are more than our limitations, our judgments, our fears, our disappointments, and most of all we see the vanity of pride. Pride gets in the way of most things. People in counseling often note their feelings were hurt by the other. I understand. Our feelings, however, are simply our feelings. Feelings don’t define reality; feelings inform about our position on a reality.
If you think about the practical aspects of your relationship, what do you see? Do you have a friend and companion? Do you have someone who helps you replace the screens or hold the board so the hammer and nail do their dance more easily? Does someone make you a snack or bring you a chilled iced tea when you are working in the garden? We do so many things for one another and nothing is wasted or unimportant.
Relationships have a solid practical side. This is the most beautiful part. Just having someone listen some of the time or giving a hug when sadness is around is worth gold. Being gentle with one another is a gift. Loving someone is easy. It begins with kindness. Life is not about some explosive fireworks display of romance and passion. Life is about the day-to-day sharing, helping, caring, and experiencing with another.
Some Reasons Love Loses Its Practical Value
- A significant loss of another loved one shifts focus from the practical.
- A major health scare or illness produces fear and the practical joys move into the background.
- A major mental health problem including drug and alcohol dependence and abuse.
- All losses that result from life events.
- Losses that turned to grief and the grief was not negotiated well.
- Complicated or traumatic grief.
- Betrayals and Comprised Lines in the Sand.
Pay attention to the beauty in the practical aspects of your relationship. Identify your losses and try to prevent the losses from blinding your practical joys in your relationship.
Be well and take care,
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD