I’m watching “Casablanca,” the movie that epitomizes romance—my choice is not unusual.
I’m a romantic at heart, always have been. My world revolves around the sweetest emotion that we all know as love.
Having experienced my share of heartbreaks, I have also come to differentiate between love and relationships. I know love never failed me—relationships did. Love is not the culprit. The way we promote and romanticize relationships, even the wrong ones, may be the issue that needs attention and understanding.
Love itself is simple. Relationships are complex. There is no perfect relationship that can exist between two human beings because we are complicated people with even bigger egos, emotions, and uncontrollable behavior patterns.
Most people have a preconceived idea about their relationship with a partner. And most views of an ideal relationship loaned from books and movies, are only ideas. One may fantasize about a perfect relationship all they want, but one has to immerse themselves in a relationship to really understand.
The truth is sometimes a single bond may teach many lessons, and other times, two or three are not enough. The leap of faith that we call relationship is the only way to learn to be real with oneself and a partner.
The Roman poet Virgil, wrote “Love conquers all things; let us too surrender to love.” Well, as beautiful as it may sound, “Love conquering all” is directly in proportion to the commitment to not only love but to each other. Maybe, the poet forgot the coming together of two individuals with unique and different compositions.
But what is love? And how is it different from a relationship?
Love is a quality that all of us are capable of, and is inherent in each one of us. We don’t fall in love—we become love. A relationship is a name given to the outcome of love. “In between love” is not a status like “in-between jobs” is. Where love can be boundless, unlimited, and inclusive, a relationship limited by two individuals is a choice determined by the degree of commitment, desires, and wants: physical, emotional, and financial. The action performed by love is a tender, nurturing, uplifting devotion to a person, an animal, or even a plant. On the other hand, a dormant or absent love acts in a selfish and controlling manner.
“What you seek is seeking you.” ~ Rumi
We are an embodiment of love, and we live for the promise of love. Whether a man or a woman, heterosexual or homosexual, we all want more or less the same merits in our relationships. The tranquil manifestation of love in our relationship is connection, loyalty, respect, kindness, openness, vulnerability, authenticity, and honesty mixed with humor, sex, and above all, equality.
Perfectly-imperfect relationships don’t require the moon and the stars, but they do need these things:
Authenticity. We all have the good and bad in us. Accept the good with the ugly parts. In a healthy relationship, there is no need to pretend to be someone other than who one is.
Project or a relationship. We do not need to change ourselves or the other to fit in a relationship if we love someone. We don’t sign up for a personal remodeling project when we commit to a relationship, do we?
Honesty. Lies, small or big—lies are lies. A lie not only hurts but manipulates a relationship to levels that cannot be redeemed. A trust, once lost, is forever lost.
Loyalty. Respect is mutual, but loyalty is the ultimate way of showing respect for your partner. When another woman or a man tells you that you have a beautiful smile or eyes, consider it as a polite social interaction and move on. A 10-second compliment should not overshadow a commitment to a meaningful relationship.
Vulnerability. Recognize that being vulnerable is a special kind of strength, and one needs the courage to show it. A relationship should provide enough security to share the vulnerabilities without hesitation, and not further curb us for fear of judgment or embarrassment.
Freedom. Freedom to choose, not abuse. I am not a possession. I am not a thing. I am a person. Both of us chose to be in this relationship. Some days, it may be harder to make that choice, but I am willing to pick you again and again—only if I have the freedom to make that choice. Abuse, whether verbal, emotional, or physical is the beginning of the end of a relationship.
Pain and suffering. Pain is as much a part of life as joy is. A relationship flexible to write a new story, again and again, is the one that survives. If I tell you I’m in trouble, don’t run away, but support me with kindness and compassion.
Support. Support each other’s dreams. I may have a different vision than yours because I am as unique as you are. A partner may see the best in you, may be giving and kind, but supporting each other’s work, aspirations, home, and children is caring for the one you love.
Equality is essential. It is about equal treatment, sharing workloads, equal opportunity to pursue dreams, an equal partner in every facet of the relationship at home, and work. Please don’t ask me to be a man in the workplace and a woman at home. I can lead and love as a woman while celebrating the masculine in me also. Similarly, a man can be sensitive, caring, and celebrate the feminine in him while enjoying his masculinity.
Humor. Take the relationship seriously but not life. Let there never be a dull moment in the journey together.
Sex and intimacy. Sex is not only about sharing naked bodies, but it is also about sharing our naked narratives that combine to become one story. Boredom and passivity are other words for taking a relationship for granted.
In the end, when it comes to relationships, the most critical question to ask is—are we straight and candid with ourselves before committing to one.
Remember the famous dialogue from Julia Roberts in “Notting Hill,” “I am just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” A pure ask: love, just love. Think again! We are asking for much more in a relationship in the name of love. We are asking for everything listed above and more in the relationship. And the sooner we recognize the magnitude of this ask, the better we equip ourselves to commit or not to a relationship.
Love as the foundation for every action performed has an outcome of love. But, relationships have to be worked upon every day. And they are hard to maintain. So next time, when you hear the famous words, “I love you,” think it through, it may not mean you are ready for a relationship.
As for me, I will resume watching “Casablanca” tonight.