Of late many readers have been writing to us about matters of the heart. To try and define love would be a fool's errand, and we don't claim to understand it fully. What we can do is explore the dynamics of " love" in relationships and what it tells about us when we fall in love.
Love, as we all know too well, is a complex, multi- layered emotion which is experienced differently by every individual. It is not always the same experience for two people in the same relationship.
In daily life, love is not only an emotion but also a constant dynamic between two people. When it is of the romantic kind, we are very often fooled by our unaware intentions and hidden desires. Where a healthy inner stance can help a relationship blossom, an unhealthy outlook can eventually spoil the relationship.
Here are a few common unhealthy ways of looking at love...
Looking at love to fulfil our need for self- worth:
When our sense of self- worth comes from being able to help others, we may be drawn to partners who are needy, demanding or " need to be fixed". We tend to take on the role of a helper or a rescuer. A relationship between partners is essentially of equals. When one partner gives more than the other, it tends to create an imbalance. The helper takes on the role of being the bigger or more mature person in the relationship.
This can eventually lead to them feeling burnt out, exhausted, uncared for and the partners may feel patronised and suffocated. The helper is often a very caring and giving person. The different variations of this inner stance is being a martyr, problem solver, the go- to person, an agony aunt or even of being a parent to the partner.
Looking at love to escape from the situation we are in:
Here, we tend to use love as an escape from the current situation.
Many times in our country, women, more than men, see marriage as an escape from their circumstances.
This is common in both love and arranged marriages. Often it backfires as we are so hell- bent on getting away from the present condition that we are blind to assessing and noticing what we are getting into.
Case in point, Neha, who is all set to marry early next year. She always had a contempt for her father as he was " aloof and emotionally disengaging" which caused a lot of emotional trauma to her in the form of " rejection". In Neha's words, her relationship with her fiance has been topsy- turvy and emotionally intense but they loved each other.
She is now realising that her fiance is too emotionally volatile to provide her stability and she is now unsure and scared, after four years of being in that relationship. Neha was " in love" to escape her cold and unfulfilling relationship with her father. Not a healthy way to start a relationship in the first place. Yet, not everybody is as lucky as Neha to wake up to reality and get a chance to choose differently.
Looking at love to satiate our previously unfulfilled needs:
These people can come across as two types. Type 1 keeps asking for more — more attention, more love, more support, more security. They do not acknowledge or appreciate what they already have in a relationship. Here the inner stance is that of a needy person. A needy person enters a relationship looking for a particular aspect of love which they feel they did not receive or have missed out on. They may be overtly demanding and clingy and may leave no space for the other person.
Type 2 will constantly feel there's something missing in the relationship they are in. No matter how " perfect" or how " right" the person is for them, they are always looking for something else in their partner. It is quite likely that the partner may never be able to fulfil what they are looking for.
Both these sets are looking for something that a partner can never give. They are so caught up and focused on feeling fulfilled in one particular way that many times they are closed to receiving what is available to them. This stance of neediness ultimately creates selfpity, self- loathing, a feeling of being a victim, or a feeling of meaninglessness and purposelessness.
Sometimes, a needy person can also be the one trying to escape.
Sometimes, a needy person finds a helper to form an unhealthy, intense but long- lasting relationship till one partner gives up.
The best way to look at love:
A healthy initial stance to a relationship can help establish strong, long- term stability. For that, be okay and comfortable with yourself the way you are.
It would be ideal to be at peace with your past. If not, being aware of your needs and fears that may be coming from the past can save you many an argument. A healthy stance in a relationship is where there is an equal giving and receiving. Where there is appreciation of each other and a healthy respect for differences.
There is also an openness to explore things together as individuals. This stance is of balance and integrity: towards oneself and towards the partner.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at dr. sangbarta@ gmail.