"You complete me." Beautiful, romantic sentiment, isn't it? And yet, looking beyond the cliche, the meaning of that statement is disturbing. How can another person complete you? If you said that somebody completed you, wouldn't you be saying that you NEEDED that person, in order to be whole?
And that is exactly the way many people feel in their relationships. Thinking that way leads to a paralyzing fear of losing the other person. And acting out of fear causes the mind to go into a state of fight-or-flight, and survival mode, there problem solving is reduced to desperate acts.
Does this sound like an exaggeration? Consider, then, the wife who puts her career on hold, because that is what her husband wants. Or the husband who never speaks up, because he is so afraid of starting an argument. The fear of losing someone keeps a relationship "stuck," and prevents both people from reaching their potential.
Let's look at some other love cliches that don't ring true in real life:
1. "I'd Die Without You."
This falls along the same lines as "You complete me." The person saying this fears that they will lose their sense of self if they didn't have the other person. And this leads to the same situation mentioned above.
Fear is never compatible with love. And depending on another person to make you who you are can never work. Becoming whole first, and then learning and growing with your partner, is a better way to look at relationships.
2. "You're My Better Half."
Having a hierarchy is never good in a relationship. One person should not view the other person as "better." This leads to poor communication, as the person will always defer to the other person's judgement, rather than be an equal partner in problem-solving.
However, this isn't to say that relationships can't make both people "better." As you learn to communicate better and to value yourself as well as the other person, you both can't help but learn and grow. Even the rockiest of relationships can lead to tremendous personal growth.
3. "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
We should always strive to understand the other person's perspective and depersonalize their actions, but the reality is that we all sometimes act out of fear and make incorrect assumptions. Apologizing can allow us to acknowledge this.
An apology is a simple acknowledgement, and no further actions are required in order to gain the other person's forgiveness, because it is really our own forgiveness that we need. If we are perceiving that we need to give in constantly and be inferior, that is due to our own lack of forgiveness and understanding, for ourselves.
4. "Love hurts."
The thing that hurts isn't love. It's insecurity. Feeling like you need someone and worrying about losing them, hurts. Being afraid to take the next step with someone, because you don't think you are good enough, hurts.
Love itself never hurts. Love means understanding and valuing both yourself and the other person. It means understanding that other people sometimes act out of fear, and that everything isn't personal. Love doesn't hurt, but misunderstanding does.
5. "You are so much better than I deserve."
Who decides that someone deserves or doesn't deserve something? We can see our own thoughts, and we know all the times that we have acted out of fear and misunderstanding. To say that we don't deserve someone means that we are assuming that this other person does not do the same.
When we say and think this, not only are we placing ourselves in a position to be taken advantage of, but we are also setting the other person to an impossible standard. If they now fall short of the perfection that we are assuming they are, we will be disappointed.
This week, we will be examining more misunderstandings that people have about love and relationships. In my next post, we will explore the relationship between self-love and love within a relationship. On Friday, we will feature on interview with an expert on co-dependence.
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