Relationships can be, and in many cases are, difficult. Struggle stems from people attempting to get their needs met in ways that are inconsistent with meeting the needs of others. This dynamic is as true for business and personal relationships.
I had a client whose wife told him she wanted a divorce. This is not rare since it seems that no one enters my office without a very compelling reason, and his spouse wanting a divorce was pretty compelling. This particular gentleman came to me and expressing his desperate desires to save his marriage. It seemed that he and his wife had spent years creating a dual, collaborative, dysfunctional relationship. Often these dual dysfunctional relationships are referred to as love/hate relationships.
My client explained that he really loved his wife and wanted their marriage to work and yet, he spent the greatest portion of our sessions elucidating exactly why it was impossible to love and accept her.
“She is impossible,” he would repeat over and over again. Occasionally and quite reluctantly he would share with me a story where he recognized his behavior had been impossible as well, but for the most part, he excused his behavior as justified reactions to her difficult behavior.
After listening carefully and patiently, I finally asked why he stayed in the relationship if he believed it to be so impossible?
He answered, “Because I love her.”
I asked him why his wife wanted a divorce. He told me that she said she did not feel loved anymore. She told him that she didn’t feel safe. She didn’t feel close and connected to him. She didn’t trust him. She didn’t feel listened to. She didn’t feel appreciated. She didn’t feel valued, and the list went on. “But,” he would quickly insist, “Neither do I.”
Any of this sound familiar?
Most of us have either felt these same frustrations, or we’re close to someone who has. So what is the answer?
You Can’t Do Both!
You can’t love someone AND be convinced that they are impossible to love simultaneously. The belief that they are impossible to love cancels your ability to actually love them.
You can tell yourself that you feel the love for them, but without action, without the behaviors that are consistent with love that prove the feeling, love is simply not love.
There are two basic ways to love. The first is to love because of the benefits it brings to you. The second is to love for the benefit of another. Most of us find that if we are honest, we love for our benefit. There is nothing innately bad about loving someone for the way it makes us feel unless we are attempting to convince the other person that our love is really for their benefit. Believe me, they know the difference.
Authentic love expresses itself as a verb, an action, not simply a feeling. Love tells us that if we commit to loving someone, we need to love them in a way that they experience as being loved.
In order to love someone in a way that strengthens and benefits the relationship we must be willing to erase all that stands in the way of love. This is never easy for it requires that we empty from our relationship jar of everything that does not support, nurture and strengthen love.
Only when we are willing to live for love, be love, give love and receive love can love be at its best in our lives.
It is impossible to truly love someone, and show love in ways they can see it and feel it, while you are convinced there are rational and justifiable reasons that prove they are impossible to love.
You must choose what you are going to be committed to—loving someone, the best of who and what they are, or loving “being right” about them being impossible to love—you simply can’t do both.