"All you need is love."
"Love means never having to say you're sorry."
"Good girls love bad boys."
Add in princesses, mega weddings, the pressure to be coupled and of course you'll believe that the answer is love.
But love is never The Answer, especially when things aren't good or are downright bad. The issue of love must be factored out of the hard questions you ask yourself. Questions like:
"Should I stay?"
"Why don't they ever______?"
"When will they stop thinking only of themselves?"
"What do I need to do to make this work?"
If you're asking any of these questions, chances are your gut has already told you love isn't enough. But it's hard to let go of the idea of love being the answer or at least a good enough reason to stay.
Sometimes it helps to remind you of what's behind your questions. Are you feeing loss, loneliness or pain? Is there a lack of trust or an inability to honor a boundary? Do you feel resentful, tired, frustrated or anger? If any of this rings true, here's what I know to be true:
If they control you with money, threats, intimidation, "the silent treatment" or isolation, it doesn't matter if you love them. Their focus on using power to control you means your relationship is no longer equal.
If they drink when you've asked them not to, brush off your concerns, or have all the answers, it doesn't matter if you love them. Disrespecting your "no" means you both no longer share values.
If their mental heath issue is "the reason" for a lack of communication/sex/emotional support/ co-parenting, it doesn't matter if you love them. They aren't able to keep their word and honor their commitments.
If your choices, interests, career or job don't matter as much as theirs, it doesn't matter if you love them. They aren't able to support your personal growth, only theirs.
If they minimize situations, deny your feelings or manipulate you into doing what they wants, it doesn't matter if you love them. They don't respect you as a person, let alone a partner.
It also doesn't matter if they say that they love you. Because saying the words and showing them with acts of kindness, respect and a willingness to communicate are different things.
People change. Your partner may be doing something now that they never did before. People change. The disappointment, shock and eventual fatigue can feel devastating. It was for me. But what I learned and know now is that no amount of effort on your end or mine can reverse those changes. What matters in a relationship is if both people are able and want to change together.
Here's a question for you: how often do you hear "I'm sorry," or something similar from your partner?
In a healthy relationship, you hear "I'm sorry,"...from both people. An apology is a vulnerability exchange and a willingness to talk about what went wrong. That's an answer where loves does live, the space where things are being worked on together.
You deserve more than love. You deserve respect, attention, honesty, kindness and commitment. Love isn't enough. It never was. And it never will be.
But you are enough.
On your own.
Or with a partner.
You're enough. Love isn't.