I am certain a good portion of the world population has heard these lyrics from the famous Beatle’s song. I must admit, it is catchy and nice, except when the phrase “all you need is love” is taken out of context and applied to relationships; if only it was that simple.
Quite honestly, the phrase, “all you need is love”, makes me cringe because of what it falsely promises. Love isn’t everything in a romantic relationship. I cannot even count how many times I have heard that phrase be used as a way to convince someone to stick around in a relationship that they absolutely shouldn’t be staying in. I have heard people say it to themselves, to others, even to me [both in and out of session]. I must admit, I used to believe this in my much younger days too. However, the sentiment couldn’t be farther from the truth. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to discuss this from a romantic relationship stand point although a good portion could be applied to relationships across the board.
So, why is love not enough?
First, it isn’t enough because one isn’t always in love. In the beginning of a relationship, sure there is infatuation and lust, but this is not love although it is often confused as such. The feelings of excitement are often what keep us intrigued and together. Love tends to come later down the line [or sometimes not at all].
As the relationship evolves, love may become part of the glue. But imagine a relationship as a puzzle. Love is one of the many pieces that create the entire puzzle. Among love, what are other pieces necessary in making a lasting, strong, loving relationship?
In no particular order:
Acceptance: you will need to be able to accept your partner[s] as who they are. Likewise, you will need to accept yourself as who you are. This piece is quite important yet is one piece I often see missing. When we have acceptance, we are able to see our partners as who they are rather than who we want to see them as. If we are unable to accept, we will constantly be trying to change or see something other than what is true for them or us.
Respect: respect is vital in relationships, if we do not respect one another; we have nothing going for us. Respect is often what allows us to continually honor our relationship and each other.
Trust: a firm belief that someone is who they say they are, will be there when we need them, will be honest with us even if it may hurt. Ultimately, it creates our sense of security.
Honesty: always maintain a level of transparency with your words and actions. Without honesty, your relationship will be built and grow under false pretenses which only ends in disaster and heartbreak.
Commitment: commitment requires a constant, deliberate choice to be a part of the relationship. It is intentionally choosing to show up when it could be easier to walk away knowing you want to be there together because lets be real honest, relationships are not always easy. They require a lot of work which requies a true committment.
Loyalty: always having your partner’s back, willing to support them through it all. Essentially, it is an allegiance to them and your relationship.
INTIMACY: both emotional and physical. Allowing yourself to be seen as your true, authentic self could be one of the scariest, yet freeing things you could do for the partnership. The same is said for seeing your partner[s] this way. By being your authentic selves, you are allowing each other into your inner worlds where the relationship can truly blossom.
With physical intimacy, you are giving your partner the gift of your beautiful body. Being naked is ultimate vulnerability and is very exhilarating. Seeing each other in the raw and carnal is what can bring the relationship to a deeper level.
Comfort: a sense of home, a place to always return to regardless of what life may throw at you. Like putting on a cozy blanket, it gives you security, warmth, and a sense of calm.
Passion: the powerful emotion that brings an uncontrollable drive of desire and other emotions between each other. It often feels as all consuming; this incredible pull to one another.
Forgiveness: being able to say “I’m sorry” is a very important skill when in relation with others. Further, being able to hear it and accept it is helpful in moving forward. Forgiveness tells your partner that you understand they are human, they make mistakes, and you are willing to continue to be with them knowing this.
Communication: verbal and non-verbal. With verbal communication we can express our needs, boundaries, desires, love, concerns, and so forth. Non-verbally we can use touch and body language to share our love and care for the other.
Compassion: because there will be plenty of times that our partner[s] will need our warmth, kindness, and sensitivity during tough times and I can guarantee you will need it as well.
Individuality: even in relation with others, it is imperative to continue to be your own individual. We will always have ourselves even if/when our time with others ends. Continue to grow and thrive in this primary relationship and watch how it greatly improves the partnership.
Friendship: because at the end of the day we need to be able to talk to our partners about everything, laugh with them, and have tons of fun together!
Clearly, if we only focused on love we would leave out so much of what is required to create the ideal relationship. I also would confidently guess that these other things are what help created the love that you feel for your partner[s]. I know it did for mine!
Our relationships could be viewed as a puzzle. If we only had love, we would be unable to see the whole picture, heck we may not even see the possibility of a picture. With love along with the many other pieces I discussed above, the picture comes together. So the next time someone tells you “all you need is love”, be sure to say “not quite” and fill them in.
Until next time,
Dr. Lily A. Zehner, MFT-C is a therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. Her private practice is located in Denver where she helps others reach their fullest relational and sexual potential. To learn more about her and her services, please feel free to take a look around her website.