Whereas love is necessary and awesome, unfortunately it is not sufficient by itself to make for a healthy-enough relationship where two people can be happy enough.
Beyond love, another thing that a relationship needs in order to work, is trust. When trust is betrayed, as it sometimes is in relationships, it needs to be repaired and rebuilt. If there is no hope for rebuilt trust, all the love in the world isn’t going to make up for the essential trust that is needed.
Being able to communicate effectively is another thing that a relationship needs. To be able to listen, understand, validate, empathize, and apologize are very helpful skills in a relationship, as are being able to express oneself calmly without blame.
Sometimes people find themselves chronically extremely unhappy in an unhealthy relationship but feel compelled to stay in it because “we love each other”. As well as the love, there needs to be some realistic hope that things can get better with working on it. Unfortunately, two people can love each other a lot and yet both be miserable together.
There is no relationship, from very dysfunctional to very healthy, that is all good or all bad. There is always some good, and there is always some bad. Therefore, being able to identify some good is not a good reason to stay in a relationship that is mostly bad, a relationship where there is no realistic hope of things becoming “good enough”. Everybody deserves “more than crumbs”.
Because ending a relationship is a big decision, it should not be made impulsively from a place of anger. Rather, from a calm place, one needs to reflect on the relationship from a distance and with objectivity, to determine if there is realistic hope for things to improve enough, what is needed, and if one has energy to invest on working on it. This process needs to be repeated over some time; in other words one needs to “sleep on it”.
Some people have trouble ending a relationship because of fear of being on their own. They often equate being single with being unloveable/unloved. This is completely untrue. You are loveable, loved, and good enough whether you are in a romantic relationship or not. You are whole and complete whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.
Sometimes people stay in a relationship even though they don’t want to stay in it. It may be because of feeling guilty to leave, or fear of hurting the other person. These, too, are not good reasons for staying in a relationship. Staying for the wrong reasons can result in more hurt down the road. You wouldn’t leave a relationship in order to hurt someone. You would only be going separate ways because you don’t believe you can be happy in that relationship. Feeling that way does not make you a bad person. You can communicate in a kind and loving way. The involvement of pain and sadness does not make a decision a wrong one. Sometimes, a person doesn’t want to end a relationship unless the partner agrees with him/her. The partner may be in a different place. It is OK to agree to disagree. Again, you are not a bad person to feel the way you do. It is OK for it to be a unilateral decision.
Long term relationships are always challenging at some time. One needs a sense of commitment to work through the challenges and difficulties that come along. As long as there is hope for improvement, it is great to keep working on improving a relationship. It is an ongoing journey.
Trouble in relationships is a frequent contributor to people’s unhappiness. Also, trouble in a marriage often negatively affects kids’ wellbeing. Because your happiness is important, it is worth working on your relationships rather than just letting problems remain unresolved.
Not attending to your relationship on a regular basis is like never doing any maintenance on your car. It’s not surprising to find either the car or the relationship no longer working down the road. Real relationships are not like those portrayed in Hollywood or fairy tales, where love is enough and they live happily ever after. Real relationships are challenging and need ongoing work. There is a Sufi blessing at weddings that goes: “May your troubles begin”. This is not a curse, but rather an acknowledgement of reality, with an understanding that with overcoming those troubles, the newlyweds will grow, as will their relationship.
Here are some ways of working on your relationship: Work on giving your partner what you are needing. Chances are that your partner is also needing the same things. And you’ll find yourself getting those things yourself. Try to be generous of spirit, and do or say loving things. Express appreciation, even for little things. Try your best to live by the Golden Rule: treat your partner the way you would like to be treated. It is very helpful to communicate your feelings, needs, and requests calmly.
These recommendations are applicable to other kind of relationships as well. Obviously help from a professional is also available. Professionals are all people and none is the same as another. So if one wasn’t a good fit for you, another one could be.
Contrary to what one might wish, problems do not tend to spontaneously disappear. Instead, a gulf between two people can grow as unaddressed problems accumulate. You don’t want to let that happen to you and your relationships. Fortunately there is a great deal you can do to make things much better for you, the other person, and the space between the two of you.