Love is Risky
"I promise to love you as long as I do,"
Byron Katie vowed to Stephen Mitchell
at their wedding.
Trying to make love feel safe can create more risk for our love
Love is risky. And, most often, in our desire to make it feel safe, we set ourselves up for more risk.
When we feel safe in another's love for us, when we assume that their love is unconditional, then we easily take our partner for granted. In taking them for granted, they have difficulty in feeling our love and respect. Taking each another for granted is the biggest danger for any love relationship.
A conditional understanding
One essential way to support each other is for both sides to make this intention clear:
"My intention is to create and maintain a great relationship with you, which could be forever. And, if at some point I've done my best and I still don't see that it's in my best interests to stay with you, then I will say goodbye."
The best long-term marriages and partnerships I know of have this as a background understanding. Who would want someone to stay with them anyway if their partner wasn't getting both short-term and long-term benefit from being with them? None of us, if we're honest with ourselves, would want another to sacrifice their life for us.
Keep the man on the edge
In most love relationships, it's more important for the man to be present to a sense of risk than it is for the woman. Women want to feel a measure of safety in a romantic relationship and, because of this, they often provide too much safety for men. A feeling of power, in contrast with a feeling of safety, is more important for men. This feeling of power comes from a sense of accomplishment, but also from an ongoing challenge and risk. This is why men are often addicted to computer games.
A woman client, married for twenty years, complained to me that her husband was working such long hours and was unable to make any time to be with her. I suggested she say this to her husband, "Honey, I'm so excited about having an intimate, romantic relationship with a great man. Right now, you're the #1 candidate. Are you interested?" He took the next day off from work to be with her.
More power in working things out
If each side knows that, worst case, they will be okay if they are not able to work things out with their partner, then this provides a level-headedness and a power to find ways that both sides can continue to enjoy a relationship supporting mutual self-interest. If we have shut down the option of creating boundaries, with saying goodbye as the ultimate boundary, we greatly diminish our ability to create and maintain amazing relationships.
My mother suspected that she made a mistake in marrying my father after the first two days of marriage. She stayed unhappily married to a man she didn't love and didn't respect for 41 years before she finally left him. Two weeks after my mother left father, we were having lunch together. She was complaining about my father, "He did this...he did that..." After listening to her complaints for a several minutes, I interrupted her, "Mama, you let him do all those things." After a brief expression of anger towards me, she stopped and said, "You're right. I did let him do all those things."
Setting boundaries and creating distance
Setting appropriate boundaries and distances, while often stimulating a sense of risk, can create better relationships. The Chinese have a saying, "Distance creates beauty." Examples: keeping money separate, separate bedrooms, even TLA (together living apart).
In 1998 I was renting a house in Hiroshima, Japan. One day I hosted four Japanese ladies for lunch. They were all married, in their 40s, with children. As we talked about marriage, sex, and romance, it was obvious that three of the women tolerated uneasy partnerships with their husbands. But the fourth woman blushed as the other three teased her about her passion for her husband. I asked her, "Junko-san, you've been married for twenty years. How do you still have passion for your husband?!" I found out that her husband worked in another prefecture and only came home one weekend a month.