Being in love is not enough

Tom and I have been married for over eleven years now. We can say with some confidence, that love is not enough. Feeling love alone doesn’t sustain a relationship. It doesn’t magically solve problems. It doesn’t heal you all by itself, although it can help with that.

We both came to this relationship with a lot of baggage. We’ve both had a lot to get to grips with – old protective behaviour to understand and let go of. Triggers to deal with. Assumptions to wrangle with. We’ve had to do a lot of work separately, and a lot of talking to each other. We’ve had some very bumpy times, because of the baggage and considerable external pressures along the way. But we’re still together, still invested in each other.

Love isn’t an event. You don’t fall in love with someone and that, magically, will be your relationship sorted for all time. I am advantaged around this because my background includes both kink and polyamoury and those things require negotiation and communication. Tom came to me from a much more conventional, hetronormative background so he’s had quite a steep learning curve just to make sense of me, and to get round to seeing why my way of doing things might be better. One of the problems with the hetronormative stuff is just how normal it is for a marriage to be an uncommunicative battlefield. 

There are two things I think stand out in all of this. Firstly, we talk about everything. All the time. Every day. We check in with each other, we talk about how we feel or what’s impacting on us. We raise problems as soon as we can. We work together on finding effective solutions. We get better at this all the time. We try not to assume things about each other but instead to ask. We both have issues around how our heads work – and sometimes don’t work – and we’re getting better at flagging up to each other when things should not be taken personally. 

Thing the second, is that love is not an idea. It’s not something that lives in your head, or for that matter in your heart or your genitals. Love is what you do. It’s not about the big gestures, either. It’s the small, every day stuff. The sharing, the taking care of each other, the supporting and encouraging each other. Love is learning how the other person(s) thinks and feels, what works for them and what doesn’t. It’s finding new things to be interested in, new sources of joy and delight. Every day. Marriage is being committed to that non-dramatic every day involvement in each other’s lives. 

Love in other shapes may involve different levels of commitment, but the gist is the same. It’s about showing up for each other and being available to each other in a genuine and wholehearted way, at a frequency that works for the people involved. You can be a queer platonic hosuehold on those terms. You can sustain deep and enduring friendships that way. You can have a messy polycule with some people you don’t see all the time. It’s the commitment to being involved and the showing up for that which makes the difference and makes love into something real and significant.

The feeling of love is not enough. Wandering around in an oblivious cloud of romantic feelings can be largely meaningless. The love that makes a difference is the love that acts.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “Being in love is not enough

  • Katie Marie

    So very true! Thank you for articulating this so beautifully ❤

  • celticchick

    I’ve been married for 25 years, and we were together for 10 before that. We have also had our ups and downs, but we have a commitment to each other. Communication, respect, and trust are so important in a relationship. You are right, sometimes love isn’t enough. Also, I think some people confuse passion with love.

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