The ancient Greeks classified love to define it in a more in-depth way, whether it was love between friends (philia), erotic passionate love (eros), selfless love (agape) or familial love (storge). But love in itself, in the world we live in, isn’t always healthy. It can be possessive and suffocating, manipulative, vindictive or completely misdirected in some cases. It is essential to explore what healthy love really is. We will explore using these five words.
For anyone who has ever shared a secret with someone from a young age, you know what this means. Even the leaking of a childhood secret amongst friends is enough to tear any form of relationship to shreds. Infidelity is normally quoted as one of the highest causes of divorce or break up. It’s not just about the act of sleeping with someone else. It also boils down to an individual not feeling trusted enough to share literally everything. There is no love, without trust.
Perfection is a myth. We are all flawed human beings. Yes, the Idris Elbas and Beyonces of this world are flawed. You need to be rational in managing expectations of partners. You will not always like everything they do, say or even what they wear sometimes!
Learn to accept certain things about your partner - save for abuse, of course. Accept the things you cannot change. It could be as simple as how they squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube. Or the fact that they can’t cook. If it isn’t a deal-breaker for you, then make compromises and embrace the rest you love and care about in your partner.
You also need to be aware that as people age, they do change, so you both have to adapt to the changes and re-learn each other, and re-align what areas of compromise make sense for you both. That’s the only way long term relationships work. Do not think you will build a relationship by changing the other person. It won’t happen. Your partner is a human being, not a project.
The same kind of patience you will need for a child may also be what you need to acquire in your relationships. You are different people with different motivations and drives. Certain adaptations in your partner may take longer than usual. But you need to be willing, it if it’s worth your while, to hang in there. This is particularly true during transitions in people’s lives. It could be grief, living with a condition or losing their livelihood.
It takes time for people to process who they are and where they are going in the next phase of their life. And in those times, comparison, sarcasm or plain insensitivity only widens the chasm between you. In times of hardship and tragedy for your partner, this is the time to tap deep into patience and just be there, listen and support however else you can while letting them go through the motions.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is more about you than the other person. When you forgive yourself first for whatever you may have done, said or even judged yourself for, that release allows you to forgive the other person and move on with your life. You no longer are defined by the actions or the experiences, however tragic, of your past. This may need professional help like counselling therapy. But you need to forgive yourself and each other to keep your relationships strong.
In cases of extreme violence and hurt by a partner, forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation. You can forgive someone, and move on to a safer and healthier environment you can continue to grow in.
Tough love is common in most relationships. At times when you are being hard-headed, irrational or plain silly, your partner or friends will call you out on something so you can know and do better. But in the process of rebuke at times we take it too far and rip people to pieces. Even as we give tough love, we need to also learn how to make people feel better about themselves and not make them feel like the scum of the earth. So, use your words wisely and kindly as you rebuke your loved one.
What do you, dear reader, think healthy love looks like?