The idea of love is so romanticized and widespread in the media today that mentioning any relationship without love seems like a disgrace. Love is perceived as the cornerstone of two people living together. However, if love truly is the pillar of every relationship, then why do people in love still suffer with each other? Why is it that love marriages still break? Why do individuals, despite loving their parents and siblings, choose to live away from them? Why do parents, in the name of love, humiliate their kids?
While love is the primary emotion that every human craves, it is not what sustains a relationship in the longer run. And it is not always love that holds two people together. There are bigger components such as respect, compatibility, and accepting the other person for who they are. This may sound naïve, but the integrity of a relationship is maintained by its values that are mutually observed, rather than the adrenaline rush that many individuals confuse with love.
Love, in its essence, is not a noun but an action that requires effort. The effort to understand where the other person comes from, the effort to respect their boundaries, and to accept them with all their imperfections. Love is a form of soul connection, and the nature of connection varies when it comes to motherhood, fatherhood, brotherhood, sisterhood, or a romantic relationship.
In any relationship dynamic, understanding the beloved requires much more energy, time and discomfort than showing affection. It can only happen through difficult conversations, when one can make the other person feel heard and supported, keeping their own triggers and egos aside. Understanding comes with genuine empathy. It is sad that we judge and make assumptions more quickly than allowing the person to be human and make their choices freely. A relationship grows when the two people share the space to evolve together in their own ways. That is where intellectual, emotional, and spiritual compatibility comes in. And all have their own capacity to strengthen the connection.
Respect is another core value that upholds a relationship, even in difficult times. The two people need to respect each other’s space, choices, ambitions, and growth instead of letting each other down and crushing their dreams. Respect is the need of every individual, irrespective of age. Even a parent is supposed to respect their child and not damage their self-esteem. Showing respect to the other person’s experiences and decisions, even if it clashes with your own, can truly touch a person’s heart. It builds confidence and makes the person feel empowered as they go along the journey and learn from their experiences. Hence, respect is non-negotiable and protects a relationship in adversities.
Nevertheless, compatibility and respect are not sufficient as a foundation of the relationship when there is a lack of acceptance of the other person’s flaws. As much as it sounds easy, accepting the beloved without imposing any condition to change requires deep connection and the level of attachment. Love alone cannot soften a person’s heart to let go of their desire to help the other person feel comfortable in their skin. Acceptance leads to validation and support of the other person’s identity and goals. It is the power that enables a person to fight against the world to value the beloved for who they are. It calls for the patience to see the person evolve at their own pace. That is what leads to a healthy relationship where both sides are aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and complement them together.
None of it is simple. Every single bit of a healthy relationship demands work. Love alone is nothing but a plant without seeds. Compatibility, respect, and acceptance encompass all the nitty gritties of a relationship that are essential to sustain it, however, uncomfortable communication is the only road to it. We are living in an era today where the concept of love arises from movies, books, and early dating but the idea that we live with is deceptive, to say the least. It is time that we open our eyes to the relationships around us and see for ourselves. There is love and lasting relationships, but are they thriving enough?
Amna Sheikh is currently a graduate student of Psychology at National University of Sciences & Technology. She does not only have a strong passion to contribute to mental health initiatives in Pakistan but also writes reflectively on social issues to understand life from a deeper and holistic perspective.