I saw a jarring quote on Facebook the other day-
"Let's emotionally damage each other and call it love."
The person who had posted it had probably found it funny and so did the people who 'reacted' to it but I'm sure it had struck a chord with many beyond inciting just laughter. I think it's appeal was in straight out stating a bitter truth, and most who saw it agreed with it.
Do I agree with it? Hell yes! And ew, no. Depends how I looked at it when you asked.
So many people in intimate relationships have no idea what they are doing, to themselves and their partner, and don't really bother with learning what healthy relationships look like and how to have one. The attitude is- "What's there to learn? Doesn't it come naturally? Like parenting does once you become a father/mother?" Sure! I mean, most mental health professionals would be out of their jobs if these things came naturally to everyone, but sure!
To be fair, we have very few models of healthy relationships in media and our schools and colleges teach us nothing about constructive relationship skills. To top that, family discussions rarely tackle such issues in our culture until one is getting married in the next 3 days and an insignificant minority actually seeks out books or therapy to 'learn' about themselves, the human nature and relationships. Still considering the widespread failure of marriages (failure is not marked just by divorce, mind you) and general unhappiness in relationships or dating that gets so much media attention, it's a mystery how people don't strive harder to learn about and be in healthy relationships. One would think that their own feelings or their partners' feelings would sometimes give them the signal that everything is not alright and that things need to be done differently, but would it work that way if people think that it's all a part of love? What if people have learnt to associate love with tumult and pain?
Even with all the platforms of learning just listed missing, if the two individuals involved have healthy templates of relationships, appreciate the need to put effort into their relationship, prioritize their relationship enough to be ready to invest in its growth even when nothing is wrong, and have honest discussions on how to go about it, a lot of heartache could be kept at bay. After all some people do end up learning to swim once they are in deep waters! Yet, this doesn't seem to work for the majority of us when it comes to relationships. Why? Because the template itself is faulty.
You see, anything goes in the name of love- passive aggressive behavior, playing games and whatnot. Its like living on a trial and error mode of learning, and then wondering what went wrong and why relationships don't last, and then posting status updates or writing songs that blame 'love' for every unhappiness in life. So yes, I do agree that a lot of what goes around in the name of love is actually emotionally damaging oneself and one's partner. But does that imply that love is, by its very nature, a transaction of damaging each other?
If the foundation is not right, and the material used for construction is of low quality, no wonder the house is going to crumble one day! Does that mean it's the fault of the house? I get really pissed off at material on the web, that I come across more frequently than I would like to, that equate love with pain. If your relationship didn't work out, chances are you or your partner or both had something to do with it, or circumstances made it exceedingly difficult to survive. Don't go around the city badmouthing love! Pain is an inseparable element of life, and there can be no denying that there is pain in love, just like it is in everything else in life. Why then give a bad name to love exclusively? Of course, more is the love, the more the potential for pain, but does that mean love is not a worthy pursuit?
One needs to get one's template right. What does a healthy relationship look like? What are the red flags in a relationship that point to its having gone from unhealthy to toxic? Only once one has the right template in place, one can work towards achieving it in one's life or make the decision to opt out of one's relationship. A case in point is the distinction between good pain from bad pain. Living with abuse of any sort can never be good, no matter how good the relationship otherwise is or has been. One should never have to learn to live with such pain, and absolutely never in the name of love. But if it's say the pain of not being able to see one's partner for days or weeks on end because of being in different cities, that sort of pain is way different even if it might be as intense and can be lived with without damaging oneself or one's partner. That sort of pain is pain you can learn to live with- pain that need not be a red flag for an unhealthy relationship. Chances are you could witness personal growth and growth of your relationship thanks to that sort of pain!
The huge fan of love that I am, I'm going to try and do my bit in demystifying loving, healthy relationships thorough my blog in the next few weeks. Based on my training in Psychology, my on-field experience with people in hospitals and family court dealing with relationship related distress, my understanding gleaned from English literature and my personal observations, in the next few blog posts, I'll write about healthy and unhealthy relationships, and try to keep it as non-academic and relatable as possible. Feel free to share your experiences, give feedback, ask questions or suggest topics you want me to tackle :)
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” ~ Anais Nin