Reality Check: Love, Practically Speaking

Different people want different things. It’s a good thing too, isn’t it? Otherwise, we’d all want the same house, the same job, the same cat, and…the same mate.

Clearly, we don’t all want the same mate, but many of us do want to have one “special person” in our lives.

Dr. Glasser’s choice theory specifies love and belonging as a basic need, and a strong pair bond can go a long way toward satisfying that need. The theme of “you and me against the world” is common in poetry, music, and literature. When we’re sad, confused, and perceive that the world is treating us badly, it helps to know that someone sees us as “number 1.”

Some long-married couples seem to grow closer even as the qualities that brought them together originally, like beauty or wit, fade with time, age, or disease. If you choose to believe that you are right for each other and remain grateful for the gift of each other, you are also, in a sense, choosing to grow closer.

But at the start of a new relationship, how can you tell whether you will grow together or apart? In a world where fakery and deception seem to abound, how do you know if you truly have a special connection? I guess the big question is: what does love look like, really?

Glasser once offered a suggestion that goes something like, “Pay no attention to what they say, but pay close attention to what they do.”

You may have noticed that people’s actions and words sometimes conflict! Governments, businesses, organizations, politicians, actors, community leaders—they may say one thing but do another. Which do you believe? I’m suggesting that what’s done tells more than what’s said.

This principle is also useful when applied to personal relationships.

Romantic, soaring statements of love are lovely. Perhaps your beloved offers you the moon and the stars, the mountains and the seas…  “All of these things, my love, I would give to you.”

Except, oh wait, they are not mine to give. But if they were, I would give them to you. Really.

That sounds wonderful. However, we never get to test it, do we?

Actions that reflect love are even more wonderful. When your beloved brings you a sandwich, washes your car, or talks you through an upsetting event, you’re seeing love expressed in action.

This came to mind when Yvette asked my opinion of her relationship. (I think people only ask for opinions about relationships when they have some concerns, don’t you?)

According to Yvette, the situation is: He tells me he loves me, he wants me as his life partner, he gives me expensive (but impractical) gifts; he’s romantic. It’s wonderful.

However, I can’t go to family occasions because my presence could cause tension. He believes in equality, so even though he is financially better off than I am, I pay half the expenses. He didn’t visit when I was sick; he didn’t want to “bother” me. And I don’t even have closet space at his place.

I love him. I believe that he loves me. But I’m uneasy. What do you think?

I think that what he is saying seems to meet your needs. How about what he is doing? Not so much.

Remember that different people want different things. If you want a relationship where you are the most important person in his life, but what he wants is simply to have a charming companion to accompany him to social events, then it sounds like a mismatch to me.

However, is this relationship need-satisfying for both of you? You are the only two people who can answer that.

What would you say if Yvette had asked for your opinion?

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