We get the message as we grow up that we’ll find the perfect partner, we’ll instantly fall in love, the birds will be chirping, and everything will end in a blissful, fairy tale ending. The fairy tales we were raised on never go past the moment the happy couple gets married. You know, the part where they go into bankruptcy, or someone has an affair, or someone is depressed for years on end. They never showed the real side of life that challenges even the best of relationships.
The idea that love is really all we need is just a childhood dream, not an adult’s reality.
Yes, love is a necessity, and truly a foundation for a healthy relationship, but it is only one of many ingredients needed in the recipe for a successful relationship. Many people have this idyllic fantasy of meeting the perfect mate and falling in love; that everything will flow smoothly because they just love each other so very much. But, that’s rarely the case—if ever.
Love needs love to survive…and then some.
When we first fall in love, our brains flood us with hormones and chemicals that make us idealize a partner, often to the point of looking past unhealthy qualities or characteristics that may not be a good fit for us down the road. It can put a sense of blind faith in a relationship that might need a lot more than faith and love to survive.
So, if love isn’t all you need, what are the other ingredients you need to make a relationship healthy?
Finding a partner who can communicate is key. Two partners who can communicate is a match made in heaven. Good communication should essentially be clear, calm, and direct. A partner who can openly discuss their feelings, hopes, and fears—and who can handle disagreements without a huge conflict—is a keeper.
If there is defensiveness, criticism, or an unwillingness to listen to each other, it becomes impossible to navigate the struggles of life that will inevitably arise over time. Big and small stressors can lead to conflict, resentment, and anger. Love is easily suffocated when there is poor communication.
Trust is essential. If you don’t have trust, it becomes impossible to grow into a committed relationship.
How do you know if someone is trustworthy? Dependability and consistency are characteristics of a trustworthy person. Actions should also match words. If someone talks a good talk, but doesn’t walk the walk, it is a sign that they are not worth trusting. Do they share their life with you, and want to know more about your life? Trust comes from taking a risk with someone and then learning that it was safe to take that risk.
If your differences are so great that you can’t spend time together or share mutual interests and passions, your future together will be tested over time. You don’t have to be exactly the same (in fact, some differences are important and healthy); but consider this…You like to hike every weekend and he likes to relax on the couch. You like an adventurous trip across the globe, but she’d rather spend a weekend with family at home. You have aspirations for career and financial success, but your partner is just fine with the current status quo. These are the things that initially may seem acceptable when you’re “in love” with someone, but once the initial excitement wears off, and you’re trying to maintain a relationship for the long haul, these differences can create disconnection.
Do you really like your partner? Do you think highly of them? Respect is critical in the foundation of a healthy relationship. You may get annoyed with little things here and there, but a love killer is disrespecting and devaluing a partner. Overall, it’s important to be with someone who you admire and feel a sense of positive regard for. If you start off with someone you don’t respect, love won’t be enough to sustain your relationship over time.
Without some essential ingredients, the flames of love will die out. Start with love, but make sure it’s a relationship filled with everything it needs to survive and thrive.
Article originally published on MeetMindful.com by Chelli Pumphrey.