Learning to Love in Balanced and Healthy Relationships

March 7, 2018

Two strangers pass each other on a train. Their eyes meet, and the magic is instantaneous. But a series of misfortunes separates them. Their families are at odds with one another. They find jobs in different cities. But, in the end, one of the two performs a heroic act and manages to get them together again. Against all odds. And they lived happily ever after.

Does that sound good to you? It could be the plot of any one of the many romantic films that come out every year across the world. Now, do these stories actually fit into a realistic idea of what love is? Do they promote balanced and healthy relationships or do they lead to toxic and dependent ones?

“Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.”

-Walter Winchell-

How does society influence balanced and healthy relationships?

In the first place, it’s important that we wake up to the ideals of romantic love that have surrounded us since childhood. Although it seems a trivial, the reality is that songs, stories, and movies have been teaching us unrealistic stories about what a relationship is supposed to be like. Society acts as an accomplice in spreading these stories.

“Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom.”

-Rabindranath Tagore-

Balanced and healthy relationships

As we grow, we have an idea of what it is to fall in love and what we should expect when that happens. In addition, we get an idea of how we should act and who we should be attracted to. For example, who told us that thinner people are more attractive? That wasn’t the “truth” centuries ago.

It’s undeniable: culture and education have an undeniable influence on the type of relationship we have. Therefore, it’s important to change the current canons. Those where love, all by itself, makes everything worth it. They say that if we fall in love, it will be forever and that we have to give our all to find love. Otherwise, it will mean we’ve failed.

The popular belief is that the person who’s supposed to be “our better half” complements us, and nobody else will ever be able to fill the role if we ever lose them. So we do everything we can to get our partner to stay with us.

Instead of balanced and healthy relationships, this creates toxic relationships where emotional dependence grows to an extreme. Everyone has to completely forget their previous life and now only do things together. But is that really love?

The key to balanced relationships: enhanced autonomy

In a toxic relationship, the other person’s health and happiness is placed above your own. Jealousy is encouraged, as is neglecting friends and family to spend more time exclusively with the partner.

These toxic, dependent relationships only create pain in all areas of life. They may even lead to situations of abuse. Therefore, it’s crucial that we exchange these romantic beliefs about love for more realistic ones.

“No partner in a love relationship should feel that he has to give up an essential part of himself to make it viable.”

– Mary Sarton-

Thus, if we want balanced and healthy relationships, we must treat them well. We must be aware that when we fall in love with someone, we don’t merge with them to become one single being. Each person still has rights and needs that need not be satisfied exclusively within the relationship.

Holding hands across a gap in the city.

Of course, you have to be comfortable with each other, sharing true, intimate times, building the trust that makes up the bonds of love. The difference lies in knowing that you do not have to do everything together. That it’s possible to have independence and still be in balanced and healthy relationships.

Therefore, we need to set healthy limits and work on trust and openness while also preserving our own individuality and freedom. Each person must feel empowered to spend time with others or alone.

In short, it consists of giving, but also knowing how to receive. It’s finding a balance where each half feels a sense of health and happiness both individually and within the relationship. Love is also something you learn!

Images courtesy of Anthony Mapp, Ezra Jeffry, and Jen Palmer.