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Loving Someone for Who They Are

You can love someone for who they are, but that doesn't mean he or she makes a great partner for you.

I often see folks suffering from this kind of confusion.  You can get confused here in at least two basic ways.

Here's the first.  You have peak experiences with someone.  There is an enticing chemistry.  There is a particular way this person can see you that you haven't experienced before.  You share a passion together like art, music, spiritual practice, or a love of nature.  There are moments when everything drops away to reveal love.  You imagine that one or more of these things is enough to sustain your relationship.

These experiences are an important part of a lasting partnership.  Unfortunately they are not enough to sustain a relationship long term.  There is the practicality of daily life.  Here you need to have some basic things in common like lifestyle values (e.g., daily priorities, how to handle money, long term goals, relationship to stuff and home, use of mood altering substances, etc.) and some sense of agreement about how to handle difficulty. You can deeply love someone, yet if these things are not in place the road ahead will likely be very difficult.

For the second basic confusion, you have some of the peak experiences listed above, and you even have in common many lifestyle values, and yet there is something major missing.  There is some way you want your partner to show up that she or he isn't.

Often this has to do with a level of vulnerability or personal growth.  You see so much potential in your relationship and in this person.  You keep making requests of him or her hoping you can bring forward this potential or this willingness to be more vulnerable.  You have the sensation of longing and sometimes pulling at your boyfriend/girlfriend.  He or she may be saying things like, "You want me to be someone I'm not." Or he or she may attempt to make you the problem, saying that you have too many needs or that you ask too much and that you should just be happy with the way things are.

Tragically when I encounter this in couples I work with, I can hear that one partner is sending the message (albeit indirectly) that she or he cannot come forward in the way the other is asking.  However, the attachment to having it work out is so strong that these messages aren't heard. 

You can love someone for who they are and still make many requests to have your needs met in new or different ways.  If she or he is responsive, the two of you can learn to love and support each other in ever more subtle and deep ways.

You can love someone for who they are and know that he or she is not a good partner for you.  You recognize that there is a lack of commonality in some fundamental approaches to life.

Lastly, you can also love someone for who they are and make many requests that are really asking for a lot of personal growth or vulnerability which he or she cannot access at that time.  Understanding this you can let yourself grieve and lovingly leave the partnership or examine whether there is a way you and your partnership can thrive without this change.

The message I am hoping you hear is that your ability to love someone is not in conflict with your hope for personal growth or behavioral change.  There is only for you to get clear about which is which and act in harmony with what's true.

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8 Responses

  1. Sep 09, 2010

    I feel you have hit upon such an important point. We often have an amazing connection with someone and may even love them very deeply but the practicality of daily life with that person is out of sync with who we are in some major way.

    It is so hard to accept that this love that feels so right in so many ways isn't going to be a lasting partnership. What has helped me is to understand that this love still exists energetically somewhere in the universe even though it isn't being lived out in the way we would like. It still exists and is valuable and beautiful and worthy and treasured.

  2. Sep 10, 2010

    thank you for spelling out so well how partnership works--this was very valuable for me.

  3. Sep 10, 2010

    It sounds like when you counsel couples in this confusion you feel longing for them both to be free and happy. I get that, but I'm curious why your suggestion is for them to break up if it continues to be painful. It seems like a strategy that precludes the growth that can happen when you see your partner and the relationship as a mirror.

    (As you know), I've had a lot of experience in the area of not accepting my partner and their goals and strategies for personal growth. What I've learned looking at this as a mirror is that there are ways I don't accept myself in the same areas--never feeling like I am enough. Part of my pushing was projection. I've also learned that there are ways I don't let myself have an independence which would let me get my own needs met. This struggle has consistently helped me peel away layers of confusion. And not because my partner was responsive or could hear my requests--often precisely because she couldn't. My learning happened because I kept looking at the relationship as a mirror, and held tightly to the memory of the truth of those early experiences of transcendence. The ways I've grown and shifted turned out to have nothing to do with my partner or what requests I make of them that they do or do not show up in. It wasn't about them--it was about me. It wasn't even about loving them for who they are--it was about being present, period, rather than being stuck in various painful trances from wounds.

    Despite the struggle and pain it has been to learn these lessons, it was being faced with the disparity between the "peak experiences" and the nitty gritty suffering of the relationship--and using those experiences of transcendance as a guidepost and a north star--that let me find my way out.

    I think using the label "peak experiences" diminishes them. It makes them seem somehow not relevant. To me they are the key to the relationship puzzle. These experiences are part of the lesson: this is what we could experience every day if we could understand the defences and strategies we carry, learn how to drop them, and open our heart and be present. Over time, as we come back again and again, we learn how to live up to those experiences. And it's not easy...but it's the point of relationships, to me.

    If I was only interested in the practicality of daily life, I'd look for a roommate. Being difficult does not mean it is not worthwhile. And in my experience the relationship is as difficult as my state of consciousness is making it.

  4. Sep 12, 2010

    thank you all for your comments. Emma you point to the many subtlties of relationship which I find valuable. Thank you for continuing to share the multitudinous ways relationship can look.

  5. Sep 13, 2010

    Hi LaShelle -

    I imagine you could write a whole book on this topic... or maybe recommend one that has been written?

    I am struck by your final point that your ability to love someone is not in conflict with your hope for personal growth or behavior change. By this, do you mean that we are capable of loving someone while not being in a relationship with them? Or we are capable of loving ourselves while also desiring to change our own behavior, or wishing that the behavior of our beloved was different?

  6. Sep 14, 2010

    Yes, to all of the above. If I were to make that point in reverse I would say, loving someone is not about accepting all thier behaviors or telling yourself that if you really loved this person you would accept _________ (whatever it is that doesn't meet your needs).

  7. Dec 14, 2013
    Jessica Eve

    Oh wow, this is EXACTLY what I needed to read right now. I just ended a relationship with someone with whom I had a very deep connection, and yet the partnership still did not feel true to my soul or who I really am. It's crazy how, after the relationship is ended, you can appreciate someone so much more sometimes. I find myself questioning, Why couldn't I just love him the way he was? And yes, we could all do a better job of unconditional love and acceptance for the people in our lives. But we might as well not beat ourselves up for being human and having our own emotions and needs, things that get in the way of perfect love sometimes. I think that my process now is going to be reconciling this love that I have for him, with the deep knowledge that we just weren't right for each other. Thank you so much for acknowledging and explaining that in this article.

  8. Dec 16, 2013

    Your welcome, I am so glad I could be of support Jessica.

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