Is love enough?
November 1, 2005 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Is love enough? In a relationship, that is...

My boyfriend and I (same-sex, not that it really matters) are very much in love. However, we've got some big differences/problems that keep rearing their ugly heads. Things like life goals, cleanliness (household), income, age/experiences, depression, etc.

After way too many arguments, we've broken up as of last night. He said that love was enough for him to keep going on. I said I wanted to actually see some changes/improvement in him/us and that love was important, but not enough to keep a relationship going.

My question: Am I jaded/cynical/missing the big picture about love? Is he too romantic/naive/??? about love and relationships? Is love really enough? Not expecting a crystal clear answer, but maybe some similar experiences...
posted by mercurysm2 to Human Relations (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I said I wanted to actually see some changes/improvement in him/us

what about changes in you? Changes in you can also contribute to the persistence of a relationship.

To directly answer your question - love is an active process. Love is action as well as emotion. The act of changing and building a life together can be a part of love.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:40 PM on November 1, 2005

Is he at all romantic/naive or just lazy and blame-avoiding? From what you describe, he gets to 1) not put any work into the relationship 2) not change 3) cast himself as romantic, as opposed to his jaded, cynical boyfriend, when said boyfriend inevitably breaks up with him.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:40 PM on November 1, 2005

I recently heard myself to say to someone (big serious break-up conversation, hetero but the principles are the same as far as I'm concerned) something along the lines of, "loving someone sometimes isn't reason enough to get married." (He thought I was crazy and cold.) We had some major emotional compatibility issues that I know would have been (at least for me) a constant source of frustration, unhappiness, and even loneliness (within the relationship) for me over the long haul. He didn't need to try to change a fundamental part of his personality (a "John Wayne" kind of masculinity that wasn't necessarily "wrong" and that another woman might be fine with)--and I didn't need to try to change my basic emotional needs (which hadn't been a problem in my relationships with other men). We just needed to not get married.

If love were enough, the divorce rate wouldn't be so high. I understand how you feel, though--it doesn't make you feel like any less of a cynical, jaded monster for saying it to someone in the "why isn't our love/friendship enough for you" camp. Best of luck with dealing with this!
posted by availablelight at 3:48 PM on November 1, 2005

Love is necessary to a successful relationship, but it is not the ONLY thing necessary to a successful relationship. In order to have long-term success, I'm with you--there needs to be compatibility. And if you both agree that "all you need is love"--bam, that's where you're compatible. If, in your case, one professes to believe it and the other wants more shared ground, I'd pick up the pieces and move on.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 3:49 PM on November 1, 2005

If you have someone you truly, truly love, they're not worth giving up without alot of failed attempts to work stuff out.

I mean obviously if you're a lawyer and he wants to mooch off of you the rest of your life, thats a bad situation. If you've graduated and you're making money, and hes in college or something not making money, you need to understand his position. Obviously he should clean up the house if hes not working at the moment and you are.

Unless you've tried to foster changes in a positive and supportive manner, I don't think you've done a very good job. If you were just like:

*silently resentful, silently resentful, store negative emotions, EXPLODE*

then you're being quite unreasonable.

So as to your question, yes, I think that love is all that you need, and if your partner is truly in love with you they should be willing to make positive life changes, just like you should be willing to have patience and understanding and be there to offer support.
posted by mhuckaba at 3:52 PM on November 1, 2005

One of the best definitions of love I've seen comes from M. Scott Peck: "love is the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."

Take it from there...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Not really an authority, but when my intended and I began our relationship, we laid out a whole bunch of boundaries and rules and everything else we thought we needed to be happy in a relationship. Then, as it turned out, we didn't need the boundaries and we're happy without them.

I can't say that this is the only way for a relationship to work, or even the best, but it's what I needed to have a relationship. (Also love, of course.) If you post a followup in thirty years, I'll let you know how it worked out.
posted by stet at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2005

ah, the big question. if you have a difficult relationship this is, in the end, what it comes down to. there is no answer, of course. in my experience the best thing to do is try and talk as much as possible. at least that way you have some chance of reaching a consensus. good luck.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:05 PM on November 1, 2005

Another data point, along the lines of "loving someone sometimes isn't reason enough to get married."

This happened to me as well. I was engaged to a woman who said, while she was breaking it off, that she loved me but that it would never work out. The differences we had (education, goals, etc) were similar weight/importance that you're talking about, mercurysm2. I think love is enough if you're not in a romantic relationship, but when you're in a relationship the love (however great) is taxed by showing your (the generic your, not you specifically) insecurities and stresses and needs.

All posting comments are autobiography, so I'll state it in the first person. I would need a greater level of compatibility in relationship in addition to love, no matter how real it is.
posted by philfromhavelock at 4:21 PM on November 1, 2005

Forgive me for over-simplifying, but check this out.

You would like changes and improvement. HE is happy with love alone. I think you can do better. It sucks not having a partner and witness to your life, but it pays off when you find someone who shares your dreams and goals.

I hate to bastardize this cliche, but it works. Do what you love to do and only then can you find your true love. Because you havn't found him yet.

Good luck to you!
posted by snsranch at 4:30 PM on November 1, 2005

Love is not everything. Remember, you can change yourself but you cannot change others. Good luck!
posted by 6:1 at 4:39 PM on November 1, 2005

I'm another one that agrees a long term relationship should have more basis than just love. There needs to be compatibility (for me at least).
Having said that, I also agree with the comment about talking it out. Communication could save the relationship, but if it doesn't, it still might cushion the blow ...
posted by forforf at 4:44 PM on November 1, 2005

I would suggest you read the great short novel On Love by Alain de Botton, and the excellent book Dreams of Love and Fateful Encounters by psychoanalyst Esther Persons. Also see Can Love Last? by Stephen Mitchell, who was a psychoanalyst. Though I am not sure your problem is love. It is your life that is on the line here. It has to be a life you can live with in the long run, and it is very difficult to sustain a relationship even with great love without some commonality of purpose and values. If one person is a slob and the other neat, if one is prudent about money and the other not, if one is ambitious, hopeful, and the other defeatist, etc. then love can just be a buzzword for avoiding the real problems in the relationship that have to be addressed, even if it takes a long time, if you think it is worth the time and effort because of the love. In the Australian movie, Innocence, the main character reflects back on his life and says to his daughter that "Love is the only thing that matters. Everything else is rubbish." True, in a sense, but not absolutely I don't think. If you are talking about intoxicating love in its early throes, that is one thing. But to sustain a life over the long haul is something else. The former Secy of Defense, Robert McNamara, is reported to have said " Money isn't everything. Love is the other 2%." That is too cynical perhaps, but it speaks to the necessity of taking reality into account in your personal accounting of the relationship. Love does not ever mean throwing your good judgment and inner cautionary voice to the winds (except maybe at the beginning).
posted by madstop1 at 4:46 PM on November 1, 2005

I'd agree with most of the replies above: No, love isn't enough; and no matter how much love or compatibility you achieve, a relationship is going to prove hard bjorkin' work. Like anything else, "You get what you pay for." If a relationship is going to make you truly, deeply're going to pay for that some days. Count on it. ;-)
posted by cribcage at 5:07 PM on November 1, 2005

I'd say love is not enough on its own. I think that if you're living together you need to have some sort of agreement about the way you live - you mention cleanliness, and I'd add to that things like the way you conduct your lives. Who cooks? Who cleans? How do you work that out between you? Do you go out, stay home, have people over? If you don't want the same things out of life, and you don't want to live the same way, then you need to have a lot of tolerance for the other person, or you need to compromise a lot. The love helps you to do that.

I think the main things that have kept me with my partner for 17 years are that we want the same lifestyle, and that we're both prepared to compromise a fair bit. For example, he is more houseproud than I am. He tolerates a bit more untidiness than he likes, while I do my best to pick up after myself and keep things tidier than I would if left to my own devices.
posted by andraste at 5:32 PM on November 1, 2005

Love sometimes is not enough, sometimes more than enough, and occasionally not part of the equation in any capacity.
posted by mischief at 5:46 PM on November 1, 2005

life goals, cleanliness (household), income, age/experiences, depression, etc

What, exactly, do you consider "love?" If you consider Love to be an unquantifiable, undefinable emotion that exists independently of your life goals, experiences, emotions, etc, then what on earth is it?

Ask yourself: WHY do you love this person? What is it about this person that supposedly makes you mad with love? That's your first step.
posted by davidmsc at 5:49 PM on November 1, 2005

I am sorry about your breakup, no matter how right or wrong you feel, everyone feels lousy.

I am also one of those "love is not enough" people and I feel that I'm totally fine as long as I'm with another "love is not enough" person, but really up a creek if I'm with an "all you need is love" person. Most of my past relationships have broken up because one of us wasn't meeting the expectations of the other person in some way. This may sound callous or cynical, but there are a lot of ways to make, set, adjust and maintain expectations and sometimes you just can't. I can see all sorts of ways that love alone isn't going to be the glue that holds a relationship together when other things are trying to make it fall apart, especially when things like depression come in to play [on either side, yours or his] and partners have a different idea of how to grapple with it. It's very draining and really gets at many other ideas of how we take care of ourselves and how we take care of each other.

It's always a good idea to look inside and say "Was I really doing all I could?" just to cover all bases, but in the end, if you are okay with the relationship splitting up -- enough so it seemed like the way to solve the problems you were having -- then that's the "right" conclusion.
posted by jessamyn at 6:18 PM on November 1, 2005

No, love isn't necessarily enough. I recently broke up with someone who I loved very much. We didn't have differences in terms of goals or housekeeping.
I want babies. He doesn't. Love wasn't enough for me to compromise or sacrifice on that one. Him either.
I knew I'd regret it if I stayed with him. Will you?
posted by clh at 6:24 PM on November 1, 2005

"'Love' is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."

-- Robert A. Heinlein
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:45 PM on November 1, 2005

If you consider Love to be an unquantifiable, undefinable emotion that exists independently of your life goals, experiences, emotions, etc, then what on earth is it?

Pretty well exactly what I was going to say. I simply don't think that a situation like you describe, where you have wildly different ideas about how to live your lives, and neither person seems to want to change, is really love (as I would define it, anyway). Love is most definitely enough if you believe that love means that you will do whatever it takes to build a happy life with your partner, and they will do the same - this doesn't mean you don't sometimes resent the sacrifices you make, and it doesn't mean you're always cheerful and blissfully happy, but it does mean that the long term feelings you have are positive ones. I suspect that there are no different categories like "all you need is love" and "love is not enough", I think what there really is are people who aren't actually in love, and people who are.
posted by biscotti at 7:04 PM on November 1, 2005

It doesn't really matter what you think love is, unless, like biscotti, you define it circularly as what you need in order to "build a life" (or even a "relationship") together.

You can be comforted and inspired by someone's essence; value beyond description his kindness, wit, empathy, humor, perspective, intelligence, conversation, or other qualities; his smile and his touch can turn you to jelly; you can care for him even more tenderly and thoroughly than you care for yourself; you can even know that he will have a place in your heart forever.

None of that means that you can or should necessarily want to share a place, promise sexual exclusivity, open a joint bank account, or commit to coffee and chess together every Wednesday. You're a grownup; you get to decide what you want to do with the particular feelings and type of companionship you share.
posted by tangerine at 8:29 PM on November 1, 2005

Also, think about other types of "love" relationships. I love the members of my immediate family, but I don't want to live with any of them; for the most part they have different ideals and interests than I do, and we'd make each other crazy.
posted by JanetLand at 6:44 AM on November 2, 2005

Life is very hard. We know this. Love is very fun. We know this too.

When love stops being fun, and becomes hard, well, you can get that from bank tellers and IRS investigators and that little... but I digress.

My experience has been that those closest too you have to be champions of the things you are championing, or at least willing to stay out of the way and take care of themselves while you're out championing (and contrariwise)...

Do you want to spend your life doing what you love and fighting for what you want, or picking up (literally and figuratively) after your significant other?
posted by ewkpates at 7:06 AM on November 2, 2005

Love isn't enough. Not the romantic/Shakespearian/Hallmark-Card love your boyfriend is talking about at least. If your boyfriend really loved you then he would never say something as silly as 'love is enough'. He would be willing to put in the time, the blood, sweat and tears, and do what it took to make you happy. Similarly you would be willing to do the same for him. If both of you aren't willing to really work at the relationship and make whatever changes are necessary to make everybody happy, you should reconsider whether you really love each other at all.
posted by nixerman at 8:44 AM on November 2, 2005

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