With all the books and songs out there about love, you'd think that someone, somewhere should have a good understanding of it by now. But you don't have to look too far to see that love is mysterious. Despite all the books and love songs, everyone still has stories of heartache. Everyone has been let down by love at least a time or two.
A lot of people look at others who have found love and think how lucky those people must be. But the truth is, while it's hard to find love, it's even harder to make love last. If you want your love to survive, here are 10 things you need to understand.
1) Love doesn't work like interest in a bank
Banks are nice. You deposit money in them and your money stays there until you take it out. A lot of the time, your money even grows — thanks to a little thing called interest. But love doesn't work like interest...or like a bank. Once you've given love to your partner, you must continue making regular love deposits in order to get a return.
2) Love isn't a tool
There's a scary secret I've discovered as a marriage counselor: the person who cares the least about the relationship controls the relationship. Too many times, a partner will threaten his or her spouse with divorce or some other consequence if the spouse doesn't shape up. In essence, these partners are using love as a manipulation tool to get their spouses to change. "If you don't do (x), I won't love you." When this happens, there's a lot of damage done. Whether the relationship stays or goes, there's a lot of damage that needs to be repaired.
3) Just because you give love doesn't entitle you to get love back
I've seen countless couples in my office where one partner is mad at his or her spouse, saying, "After all I've done for you, you think you can treat me like this." The truth is, just because you love someone doesn't mean he or she has to treat you in any particular way. Sure, that'd be nice, but when you love others, you love them for who they are — not how they treat you in return.
4) Love isn't contingent
Too often, partners yell at their spouses for not putting their dishes away or leaving wet towels on the floor...again. While these things sure are annoying, our love for our partners shouldn't be contingent on their ability to put a dish or a towel away. When you love someone, you should love him or her no matter what.
5) Love comes in all shapes and sizes
You may try to express your love by sending flowers, but your spouse may not feel loved this way. There are a lot of ways to feel loved. Your job is to find out how your spouse prefers to feel loved, and then do that.
Love is great, but there are many kinds of love. There's friendship love, romantic love, commitment love and more. You may feel heavy on the friendship side but low on the romantic side. You need a little bit of all kinds of love in order to have a truly healthy relationship.
7) To give love is more important than to be loved
Everyone likes to feel loved. While it doesn't take a lot of talent to feel loved, it takes a lot of character to set aside qualms and show your partner you care — even when you're feeling hurt. When partners can look past their own hurt in order to be there for their spouses, it not only shows great character but it does wonders for relationships.
8) There are many types of love
Not all love leads to romance. And not all love leads to commitment, either. This is great information for people wondering how they can love those who have done hurtful things to them.
9) There's no reason to withhold love
Even if your relationship is on the verge of divorce, there's no reason to withhold love. When you become angry and resentful, when you begin withholding love, you are creating baggage that needs to heal — either in this relationship or the next one. You are a capable person. You can be on the brink of divorce and still show love.
10) You can show love no matter what
As mentioned before, you are a capable person. There are plenty of opportunities that arise for you to withdraw or withhold love. But you don't have to. You can deliberately choose to show love no matter what. Plenty of parents still love their wayward children. Plenty of divorced couples still love their ex-spouses. You have limitless power to love.
Bonus: 11) Love makes the world a better place
It brings beauty and joy to the world and to you personally. You don't always have to be the recipient of love in order to experience the beauty and joy that love brings. You can experience that beauty and joy by showing love. You can create love.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.