Business and Finance

Emotional crutch, sperm donor, or true love? by Isabelle Gravestein

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Exploring some of the reasons why we enter into a romantic relationship.

Romantic love is probably the most sung about type of love in the world. We all want it. We are all after it, weaving our traps to catch Mr or Miss Perfect, the one that will help us fulfil some of our dearest wishes and will make us utterly and blissfully happy ever after.

But is it really so?  Do we ever take the time to think why we want to be involved with another person in such an intimate way? This, I believe, is a crucial question to ask ourselves. Not only should we ask it, but we should also endeavour to answer it in a ruthlessly honest way.

Most of us consider it ‘normal’ to enter into a romantic relationship at some point in our lives. But why do we do it? Why do we feel the need, even the urge, to spend our days – and nights – in close proximity with a member of the opposite sex? Is it to fulfil our physical desires, for which another human body is needed? Is it to alleviate our sense of loneliness, using another human body to fill the vacant space in our hearts and on our sofa? Or a sense of incompleteness, unworthiness or inadequacy within ourselves, that we feel only another person could mend? Is it to follow a customary norm, where celibacy, and barren wombs, are frowned upon? Is it to enhance our self- image and status, because his shiny Mercedes, latest model, will certainly boost our ratings in the neighbours’ opinion?  Is it to use the other person as a dumping ground, or emotional crutch for all our unresolved psychological inner pain? Or do we consider the other person simply as an egg – or sperm donor – suited to provide one half of a baby – and not much else?

Joining with another human being in an intimate relationship is a very natural way to create the conditions to give and receive love. But I do not think that love is always at the top of our list when we go ‘hunting’ for a suitable partner. More often, we are seeking someone who will meet the fulfilment of our desires and our deeper needs. Most of us will be lucky and net a catch, according to our physical preferences, followed closely by the potential to tick all our emotional boxes, or other needs that we may or may not be aware of.

All of these reasons, and the list is much longer of course, are used by any of us, consciously or unconsciously, when we seek a partner in life. But what I think we ultimately want from a relationship is to be able to express love, and also to receive it.  This is a noble enough reason. Love, by nature, extends itself freely outward, towards other people but not exclusively so. It could also be towards animals, nature and of course God. What we tend to do though, is to put boundaries and limitations on our love, as soon as we decide to settle down with a particular person.

The ‘love’ bubble we live in at the beginning of a new relationship may be very short lived as both partners are expected to deliver what we have sought in them. This is never spelt out verbally, even less in writing as it is a consensual silent contract that we sign in a virtual way. From here on, we believe we have exclusive rights to each other’s body. If we are chauvinistic, we will also demand our partner to become the cleaner, the shopper, the cook, the sexual gratifier, the child bearer – and minder –and a host of other roles. If we are emotionally unfulfilled, we will expect our partner to heal our wounds from the past, to mend what others broke before, to make it all alright and all new. But since our partner does not know where the cracks are, and is most likely not a psycho-therapist, he or she will probably not deliver healing in the most appropriate way, and we end up being frustrated or even angry because of the unfulfilled contract! Beside the fact that our partner is seeking from us exactly the same things we seek in them.

It could also simply be a matter of seeking a mating partner, literally, and once the seed is sprouting, we have no use for the male and simply discard him, or at best tolerate him, without forming a proper bond or relationship with him. The poor creature is left dangling in no-man’s land, not fully emotionally engaged, neither fully free to seek someone else, and feeling totally unappreciated and used. This situation is all the more tragic as the woman can end up using the child as a pawn in a cruel game to inflict pain on her partner. Love is not on the agenda anymore, and both father and child end up suffering emotionally from this untenable situation.

Too often, we also seek a partner to help enhance our self-image. The shinier his toys (or her looks), the fatter his bank account, the more likely we are to grab him and not let him go. Besides shining brighter on his or her arm, we also pave the way for material security, not too much concerned if respective feelings are truthful on either side. He is our free meal ticket and if he is lucky, along the way, we may even end up loving him to a certain degree.

Truly, relationships are tricky paths to follow, marred with so many pitfalls and heartaches that not many of us are going through life without love-scars. This may seem like a bleak picture I’ve painted, but romantic relationships, and in fact all relationships, are wonderful ways to help us grow and evolve emotionally and spiritually.

For example, in a romantic relationship, our partner is a mirror of who we are inside. It is him (or her) who will tell us that we are intolerant, impatient, and unfair, that we are using them like a kitchen appliance, and thereby expose many character traits that would otherwise remain uncovered deep within ourselves. And what remains hidden cannot be brought to light for cleaning and healing! For example, we will easily be angry with our partner and show it freely and noisily (!). Without him or her, helping us expose our poor anger management, we may never grow out of having tantrums at every little frustration life throws our way.

Besides being a mirror to each other, if we are still on speaking terms that is, we can unleash all this wonderful love onto each other, till death do us part, for some lucky ones! Because if there is true love and respect towards one another, the relationship will endure many hiccups along the way, and blossom into a rock-solid partnership that not much could bring asunder. I think we should be very tolerant of each other and make plenty of allowances whilst both partners are smoothing out their personal issues and find a smooth flow that works well for both.

What we should bear in mind most when we engage in a romantic relationship is that we should not become our partner’s gaoler, and set boundaries and restrictions on their life path. We each were born with a very specific life plan to carry out, and it is not our partner’s jurisdiction to suddenly declare what is best for us. Of course, open, supportive and loving discussions may well help our partner in making certain decisions, but nothing should be imposed on the other, simply because we share the same bed!  In addition to this, we should always remain very aware when we may be entering the ‘user mode’, i.e. our partner has now become a commodity or a tool that we use to meet our own needs, rather than being the recipient of our love.

Using another person to fulfil any of our needs or to expect them to make us ‘happy’ is to set the relationship on the road to disappoint. No one is responsible for our inner healing, for our own happiness, for alleviating our sense of loneliness or even for mending our past. This can only be done or undergone by ourselves. To accuse another of not fulfilling these needs is not only unfair, but is also a way of avoiding responsibility for our own emotional and spiritual clean-up and growth.

I think it would be very wise for each one of us to really think about why we are in a particular relationship, or why we are seeking a partner. Beside the obvious sexual urges that we want to satisfy, many reasons may have nothing to do with loving another just for the sake of loving, without any conditions!  Don’t we feel cheated if our love is not returned or at least shown to be appreciated?  Don’t we feel a lack of gratitude if the amount of love we give is not matched in some other way? ‘I love you loads, therefore I expect my meal on the table when I come back from work’. ‘I love you loads, so I expect a new pair of shoes every week’. The scales somehow have to balance or out comes the accusing finger and the sulk!

Romantic love, the way it is viewed and lived these days, is fraught with much acrimony, tension, misunderstandings and disappointment. Most of us also enter into a relationship with a lot of emotional and psychological baggage. We too often end up dumping this nasty luggage in the middle of the relationship, expecting maybe our partner to help us clean up our most personal mess, or at worst, point the finger if they are incapable of  doing all of it for us!

Why not just love, for the sake of loving, and learn from what is reflected back to us through our partners. Let us have the courage to listen, and explore our inner world to identify our own flaws and smooth them out. Let us of course, also learn to treat each other with respect, whilst we are reflecting our partners’ issues. When ‘in love’, the language should also be loving and caring, without hurtful blame or accusations, and will naturally nurture and foster growth and healing in both persons.

One author titled his book, ‘If it hurts, it isn’t love’. We should think deeply about this one little sentence, packed with a very important message.

Love indeed, does not hurt, nor does it attempt to enslave. It gives of itself freely, and lands gently where it is welcome. Its warm flow must forever run and in its wake, it mends and builds up, silently and invisibly. Love is so big and fat that it cannot be contained or restricted.

Love indeed, is what makes not only the world go around, but also all of our relationships. Love is the sustainer of life. Everything else is a mere detail!

Isabelle Gravenstein is a writer specialising in humanitarian, social and spiritual issues, personal development and current affairs.

She is also a humanitarian,
campaigning at all levels of society for the birth of a more peaceful, equitable and caring world.

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