“When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” – Oscar Wilde
Are you experiencing eternal wedded bliss?
If you’re in a relationship, you probably aren’t. (If you’re not in a relationship, you surely aren’t, either.) Relationships always include frustration, irritation and disappointments, though we’re doing the best for our partners. Well, not always the best, admittedly, we’re only human. Still, we’re going above and beyond to make our other halves happy, yet they hardly ever are.
And it’s not as if they make us happy. They’re making some efforts, true, but not the right efforts. They were so attentive when we fell in love, but they aren’t anymore. They seldom listen properly. They seldom understand. And on top of everything, they have the nerve to complain about us, imagine that!
All we want is the basics, really. Only to be able to be whoever we are around them, to always have their acceptance and understanding. And to get their help solving our problems, obviously, so that we won’t have any. And to always be entertained and happy together.
Is that too much to ask for?
Yet, our one-and-onlyies seem never to know what we need. No wonder we frequently leave our promising-but-not-delivering lovers, and even when we stay together, we have endless difficulties.
Our best halves never manage to love us properly.
Who Is to Blame?
Deep in our hearts, we understand that our partners aren’t always guilty. The fact that they ceaselessly blame us for everything contributes to that understanding to some extent.
We can, if we want, accept the spiritual realization that generally, there is no guilt and no guilty ones, only gratitude.
But that’s really a far fetched idea. Instead, we can find comfort in blaming our culture. We were all brought up absorbing illusory stories about idealistic falling in love. (The stories seldom describe what happens after the flamboyant wedding is over. Even fantasies have their limits.)
Our inner picture of love is, therefore, fairly picturesque. As The Wonder Years series declares,
“All our young lives we search for someone to love. Someone who makes us complete. We choose partners and change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope. All the while wondering if somewhere, somehow, there’s someone perfect who might be searching for us.”
We may, sometimes, feel we found our perfect someone when we fall in love, but afterward we rarely feel that together we are complete. (It’s for the better, probably, because we do want motivation to keep growing and reveal new treasures.)
We do know that our parents’ relationships looked differently, of course, and contained much more yelling and taking offenses, and much less everlasting lust. Yet, we always hope to get the stories’ dreamlike love rather than our parents’ struggling one.
But we don’t.
We always end up getting the complicated, demanding love, which includes frequent misunderstandings, anger and loneliness. We always get the earthly version.
We don’t get what we want.
But, maybe, we get what we need.
What Can We Do With This Love?
To achieve wedded bliss (almost, maybe, somehow,) we need to make a conceptual changeover and see relationships from an entirely different angle.
Love can’t, unfortunately, grant us with unconditioned, incessant happiness.
It can, however, help us grow and learn how to incessantly become happier.
Love does enable us to be happy. But we have to do the work.
Unlike the stories we used to consume, finding our one-and-only and committing to each other is not the end of our story. It’s only the beginning.
Because relationships are a great way to get to know ourselves. As philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti says,
“What brings understanding is love…love makes for sensitivity, for vulnerability. That which is sensitive is capable of renewal. Then truth will come into being.”
Not only the intimate parts of love are helpful, however. The alienated parts can help, too. Our loved ones repeatedly push our buttons, for example, so we can learn who we are, what we want, and what we need.
Furthermore, our disagreements, insults and anger are often the experiences that teach us the most. If we realize that this is where our truths are hidden, we can constantly learn what makes us happy.
That way, we can become happier and happier over time. It can be a continuous process; from our first meeting till death do us part. It requires awareness, vulnerability, and acceptance – three of the hardest attitudes possible — the ones, however, which enable intimacy.
Learning to be happy, then, is both the challenge of a relationship, and its present.
How Can We Use Our Relationship to Be Happier?
To experience unfailing joy, we have to figure out what our needs are. Then, we have to sufficiently answer our significant ones.
It’s easier said than done, though.
First step: Recognizing our considerable needs
Knowing what we need sounds easy, but it usually isn’t.
For one thing, we are used to ignoring our feelings and needs. We often don’t know our needs if they hit us in the face (and trust them, they do).
I, for one, met the-love-of-my-life right after he purchased and renovated an apartment in the city center, so I left the pastoral rural house I rented and moved in with him. Little did I know how trapped I would feel without my open spaces. Only after writing about our need for nature in my M.A. thesis and my first novel, I acquired the willfulness required to pull my inert sweetheart out.
But our vagueness is only one of the problems when we try to identify our needs. The even bigger trouble is our habit of letting the media dictate what we want. Its flashy images conceal from us what we truly want and need. The ever-so-popular wish of making a lot of money, for example, is often no genuine wish of ours. Instead, it can cover genuine needs like security, self-worth or recognition.
Therefore, whenever we face a desire, a choice, or a hard feeling, we better find out the need below. If we hesitate to buy ice cream, for instance, we may have a need for consolation, for caring. If we envy another parent for their child’s achievement, we might feel we need appreciation. Identifying our needs can help us find the best way to answer them.
Fights, where we tend to shout at our dearest what we lack because of them, are also an effective way to discover our needs. But somehow, most people find this way less pleasant.
Identifying our real needs, and finding what can answer them effectively (hint: money seldom does) can bring us peace and happiness.
Identification, then, is the first step.
Second step: Telling each other what we need
This step is no picnic, either.
The efficient way to share our needs is by having a chat about our feelings and plans at least once a day. Telling each other about our desires and difficulties enables us to understand what lies behind them.
A piece of cake, isn’t it?
Well, not really.
Many of our needs are not only practically unrecognizable, or embarrassing, but they also make us look needy, God forbid. Sharing them with others is frightening.
It requires a lot of trust.
Not every couple gained that trust, but every couple should try to achieve it. Because, as actor Harold Lloyd writes,
“If I could have just one word for love—it would be understanding.
Love must always be unselfish, and strangely enough, love is the only thing in the world that ever is unselfish.”
Expecting us, once we’ve fallen in love, to always be unselfish sounds a little far fetched. Yet, we can certainly try.
But there are more reasons for not sharing our needs with one another. For instance, most couples include one side who knows what they want in any given moment, and another who just goes with it contentedly. (If you have a spouse, think about who suggests your plans, foods, entertainments, etc. If there is a pattern, you probably nailed it.)
This one-sided course of action is indeed quick and quiet, and the two sides seem satisfied, but it has an astonishing price. The initiating side is typically bitter about taking on all of the responsibility. The complying side is bitter because their wishes don’t count. Each side, inevitably, feels lonely and secretly blames the other.
So as hard as it is, we better learn to cooperate rather than walk over one of us (habitually the one who dreads fights or abandonment more than the other). As Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
“Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual.”
After identifying our needs and sharing them, we have to find ways to answer them.
Unsurprisingly, this step is also not that easy.
Luckily, it becomes easier over time.
Third step: Finding how to answer our needs
If the role of identifying and expressing your needs is for and foremost in your hands, the job of finding solutions that satisfy both sides belongs to both sides.
This principle sounds like a contract, but in reality, luckily, it feels rather heartwarming. Investigating our needs is fascinating. Learning to know our loved ones better is touching and uniting. Trying to help our sweetheart to be satisfied and happy is exciting.
Now is the time, then, to call to our aid our resourcefulness, creativity, and preferably a good sense of humor. Then we can all sit together and find the best ways to satisfy us all.
Later, we can try our solutions, fail, complain, come up with new ideas, and verify that no one gives up too much.
That we meet all of our significant needs.
That we’re happy.
And by the way, while we identify and share and solve and change, our gratitude and love for each other are growing.
Creating Our Happily Ever After
Paying attention to our wishes and needs, listening, thinking, trying together, all of this can indeed be challenging.
But it can also be wonderful.
Learning together, growing together, can improve the life of each of us.
But, more than that, it can bring us together.
So we better learn to recognize our needs, express them, respect them, and do our best to meet them. Because answering the significant needs of both of us is the only way we can both be happy.
It’s the only way we can be in love forever.
So even if finding solutions takes time (love is so time-consuming!) and requires thinking (nowadays we’re not used to thinking out of work, if at all,) still, we better make an effort.
We better talk with each other regularly about our feelings.
We better look into our difficulties and choices.
Identifying one need at a time.
Finding one solution at a time.