If you could order up your love the way you order up your favorite Thai dish, would you specify mild, medium or spicy-set-my-tongue-on-fire hot? Mild or hot love, spicy or not, movies, news, social media, literature and pop culture imbue the idea of love with extremes. The easy example is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, where a couple of puppy love-sick kids are lead to die because of some warped parental loyalty values.
What would happen if you told your lover “Hey honey, I love you, kind of mildly”? Or you expressed your day to day affection with all the excitement of plain grits, no salt, no bacon, no cheese, no butter? Joking aside, what I really want you to consider is that the extreme examples, the high-pitched intensity of love portrayed in media and the arts, is not the stuff of long term relationships.
Being Apart Together Undergirds Trust
Being in a committed and trusting long term relationship is more of a mildly spicy affair, rather like the simple, low key jalapeño pepper pictured above. But there is an unfortunate shame in our culture if you suggest you feel a sense of ever-present mild-not-wild love in your relationship. It is the images of hot, passionate love (that comes with intoxicating highs and devastating lows) that we are told we must have to be happy. I submit to you this is patently untrue. Part of this is tangled up with the notion that lovers should be inseparable in their needs, desires and wants. In fact, the healthiest relationships have a fair amount of separateness in them. There is a feeling of being apart together that undergirds trust; you don’t even question what your partner is doing because you know they are committed to you. That kind of trust is only developed over time, and an over-urgent sense of neediness can destroy it.
Have you ever had an injury where bone rubbed against bone, where your cartilage was worn out or destroyed? Without the lack of cushioning that is the function of cartilage, you will experience some serious pain. Think of your relationship and having a healthy distance with your partner as the necessary cartilage to keep it moving smoothly. Having personal space and the freedom to work, pursue individual interests, and feel trusted to do so, are critical indicators of a healthy relationship. Don’t get me wrong: you are not eliminating the occasional punctuation of exciting experiences in life. Doing something new together once in a while is good for long term partnerships, but you don’t dwell in discontent looking for frequent proof of love, or expect the emotional highs offered up in the world of entertainment. Mild or hot love is not a choice you must make. High intensity emotions are not sustainable. In fact, all emotions are fleeting, even happiness. None of them stay present 100% of the time.
Mild Or Hot Love Is Not The Choice
The path toward a contented, emotionally satisfying relationship is punctuated by frequent small pleasures. Your weekly date at a coffee shop, dinner with friends, the sweet ritual of your first cup of tea in the morning, made and brought to you routinely by your mate. The everyday simple acts of service that knit your life together with your partner’s are what sustain happiness.
It is easy to take what feels routine for granted, but these simple commitments to each other weave our lives together in a fabric of soft joy that is sustainable, desirable and healthy. They don’t require shouting from a mountaintop.
If your relationship is in need of repair, or if you simply need someone objective to help you sort out some confusion, I am here and in your neighborhood, ready to help. Why don’t you shoot me an email? Or you can just go to my contact page. I’ll get back to you quickly, and you can get started making the changes you want to live a more fulfilling and engaged life.