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Why Loving Someone Isn’t Enough to Make It Work

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“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~Stephen Chbosky

Have you ever thought that you could love someone enough to make everything work?

Have you been in a relationship where you knew you weren’t really happy, but you kept saying, “But I love him/her. Isn’t that enough?”

I know how it feels to believe this. I have felt this more times than I care to admit. The worst was when I fell in love with my ex-husband. He was twelve years my junior, from another country (Greece), and barely spoke English.

Our souls connected immediately, and I fell in love with him. What was I thinking? We had nothing in common. He was not ready financially or emotionally. We could not communicate. Our cultures were different. But I was in love, and shouldn’t that have been enough?

It wasn’t only my ex-husband that I had this problem with. Every relationship I’ve had was fatally flawed. They weren’t flawed because I chose bad, evil men. They were flawed because I fell in love with character and not with our compatibility or their ability to contribute to my happiness.

I fell in love with these men because of who they were, not how they made me feel. Yes, they were kind. Yes, they were ethical. Yes, they were attractive. But not one of them really listened to me. Not one of them treated me like I was the best thing since sliced bread.

Still, I stayed. I kept trying and trying. I kept thinking that if I were enough they would care more. I kept thinking if I gave more they would understand I was doing everything to make them happy, and in return they would want to make me happy.

I stayed hoping some miracle of all miracles would happen, because I loved them and shouldn’t love be enough?

Unfortunately, it isn’t. It never will be. Just loving someone isn’t enough.

So, whether you are in a relationship that you are unsure of right now or if you are just venturing into the dating world, ask yourself these things before you settle down.

1. How do you feel about yourself when you’re around them?

When you’re around them do you feel content and accepted, or do you feel anxious and misunderstood? Sometimes our relationships can be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, so be careful not to push your judgment of yourself onto your partner.

Determine whether these feelings arise out of their treatment of you, or whether they are insecurities you have no matter who you are with.

Some people are just a better match for us than others. I’m someone who likes to talk and connect on a deep, emotional level. Unfortunately, I have a habit of choosing partners who don’t like to talk and don’t like to connect, so I always end up feeling alone and misunderstood. There was nothing wrong with them; we just weren’t a good match.

2. Are my needs equal in importance to their own?

When you tell your partner something is important to you, how do they react? If you tell your partner, “I really need to spend quality time with you because it makes me feel special,” and they don’t understand what that means and don’t want to know, then perhaps you are not right for each other.

Relationships take two equal parts. If you make your partner’s needs important, then your partner has to do the same or you are in a lopsided relationship and you will never be fulfilled.

I remember one time I came home from an extremely stressful week/month at work, and I really needed to vent. I started talking to my then husband. To this day I remember him saying to me, “Carrie. Carrie. I am not your girlfriend. If you want to talk, call Tracy.”

What could I do with that? If my own husband doesn’t want to talk to me and doesn’t care about my day or that I’m stressed, where can we go? Yes, you can guess where we went. We went to divorce court.

3. Are their core values in line with mine?

We all have core principles and values that we live by. These are different for each of us. However, if your partner does not have the same values you have, then there is likely to be trouble in paradise as time marches on. Core values are things you must have in a partner.

Core values include:

  • Religion
  • The desire to have children
  • How you deal with money
  • Integrity
  • Fidelity
  • Family
  • Health

For example, I’m insanely ethical. I was born this way. I can’t explain it. No one wants a cheater or a liar, but many times people cheat and lie and explain it away or justify it. This is completely incompatible with my sense of self, and something I could never accept in a partner. I was drawn to my last boyfriend because of his ethical principles. He was highly actuated in this area and it made me extremely attracted to him because of it.

Some of these things change over time, and sometimes not. Some people can become more religious or decide they want children. It is possible to change the way you view and handle money.

Deeply ingrained core values are not likely to change. If the person you are with is not family-oriented and doesn’t want to be, and you have a huge conflict, you are setting yourself up for trouble. If you want children and s/he doesn’t and never will, then stop trying to make it something it isn’t just because you love him.

4. Do they want to know me? The real me?

I believe everyone has different comfort levels in regard to vulnerability. Some people crave intense emotional intimacy, and some do not.

My parents were married for thirty-four years, and I often wonder how much they really knew each other. They were happy and content, but at times it seemed like a surface relationship because neither was willing to show the other their true self. I don’t judge them because that is what they were capable of. For me though, I want and need more.

Are you capable of showing your partner who you really are on your darkest days? Do they want to know? Do you feel accepted and understood for all your quirkiness and irrationality or whatever your personality traits are?

If not, then you may be left perpetually dissatisfied, and over time the relationship will probably erode itself away, or you will be drawn to someone else you think does want to know you and does accept you. Honestly, this is probably where most affairs start.

5. Is my life better with them in it?

Is your partner an asset or a hindrance? Do they support you or suck the life out of you? Do they want you to reach your goals and your dreams, or do they put you down and make you feel like you can’t or won’t accomplish anything?

A partner should be your biggest supporter and cheerleader, and if they aren’t put them on the bench and find a new player. Life is too short to be with someone who doesn’t believe in you. Don’t take this to mean you should be able to do whatever you want and they should accept it. What it means is you should feel content and supported and loved with this person in your life.

Days should not be filled with angst, fights, conflict, or division. If your days are not happy the majority of the time, then ask yourself why. What are you contributing to the unhappiness? Fix your side of the street and see if anything changes. If not, you may need to rethink why you are with them.

What Do I Want?

Don’t ask these questions just once. Ask them over and over. Ask them in one month. Ask them in six months. Ask them in six years. As much as you love them, and as much as you think they may love you, if they can’t meet your needs, and don’t want to meet them, then you are wasting your time and wasting precious moments of your life.

There are many wonderful, kind people out there, but that doesn’t make them right for you. Just because you love them doesn’t mean you can be happy with them.

Don’t waste years on someone because “you love them.” Every day is a choice. Choose your own happiness, and in doing so you will choose love rather than it choosing you.

About Carrie L. Burns

Carrie L. Burns is a blogger on a mission of self-discovery. As a sexual abuse survivor that struggled for years with depression anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of self-love, and relationship issues, she found her purpose through writing and sharing her story with others. Check out her other writing at www.acinglife.com.

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  • Nat

    Love this one…absolutely right..I have same experience. .keep loving someone who doesn’t love me back. .that’s why In return. .what I got..a little of pleasure a lot more suffer. .

  • Carrie Burns

    Nat-At least you can learn from the experience and not settle for less next time 🙂

  • Tabatha

    This is very true and a fantastic read! My boyfriend of 2.5 years cheated on me recently and I have since kicked him to the curb. Upon reflection I realize I am like you describe, as though you were looking into my life. While I did come to the realization (but not until it was too late) that we had no common ground but it started from a physical attraction and grew from there. I am sad but I know I can do better. Secretly I was counting his flaws (as we didn’t always share the same views or have the same interests!) and thought that maybe one day we wouldn’t be together because I never felt he had my back like I had his, nor did I feel his support like I thought I should if you truly cared for someone. Now that he’s gone I feel some relief as he felt more of a burden to me that I didn’t realize until recently. I am sad of course, and had doubts about who I was and thinking maybe I was the one with the problem but I gave my head a shake. LOL. I’m a good person who just wants what anyone else wants. Someone to share their joys, hopes and dreams with. And someone to love me for me and vice versa. I have a better outlook and am not fearful anymore of what the future holds for me. This column lifted my spirits as it came at a time I had doubts about myself and I am glad I’m not the only one. Thank you so much and take care! <3

  • Carrie Burns

    I’m so happy for you Tabatha! That is am amazing way to look at things and although sad it is truly better to let things go that were not meant for us. My ex-husband was completely wrong for me, but I felt drawn to him by some unknown force. I think our souls connected…but it wasn’t enough and I’m much happier now. You and I will both find the love we deserve…when the time is right. Good luck!

  • Paul Fletcher

    A beautifully written illustration of the fabric of life. Value yourself and the world changes.

  • Sunny

    Exactly what I needed to read as I’m assessing the state of my relationship with my significant other. People show us who and how they are – we need to believe what they show us instead of trying to pretend it’s something else. Thank you. 🙂

  • Nishant Vashisth

    Reading this made me feel how wrong i was with my ex. I wish i could’ve heard her heart like this when we were one.

  • Carrie this post is really amazing! I agree with you. Love is not enough when the love we feel for another one is bigger than the love we feel for ourselves, that means, that we accept a relationship that is not the best for us, simply because we love the person too much, but in that process we really get hurt, so there is no point in accepting a relationship that doesn’t take out the best version of ourselves. The questions you wrote are really powerful, and it’s important to keep them in mind! 🙂

  • Carrie Burns

    I”m so glad it resonates! When I was younger I thought you could just love someone enough and it would all be okay….but I have come to realize as much as we want it to be true…the person we love isn’t always the one we are meant to stay with. So, we love them, learn our lessons and move on. I appreciate the kind words!

  • Carrie Burns

    Absolutely Sunny! It doesn’t mean they don’t love you…but it may mean they can’t love you in way that you need…or they choose not to. Some things can be fixed (if both parties want to try), but if they can’t its time to move on. Good luck 🙂

  • Carrie Burns

    Take what you have learned from choosing someone wrong…figure out why you chose them and try to avoid it for the next time. Easier said than done I know…

  • Carrie Burns

    Thank you Paul. Exactly Correct. If you don’t value yourself…who will???

  • Nishant Vashisth

    True.. Someone told me there is no failed relationship. Either you make your life in it Or you take away something worth making your future.

  • Sunny

    Right. People can only love us in their own way, and that might not be what we really need. It doesn’t mean they are wrong or heartless; just that they love in a different way.

    Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

  • DrAwesome

    Don’t agree with many articles on TinyB but have lived this one.
    Thought by showing someone how much you loved them, they’d eventually feel comfortable enough to love you back. 3 years later she walked away without looking back because I made her feel guilty about going after her own happiness.
    They don’t think the same way you do, or maybe they do, but they have poor character. But thats what pissed me off… she felt guilty, why? Because she knew she wasn’t making an effort, and it shows I didn’t really mean much to her, not even enough to make say something before walking away without any indication.

  • Carrie Burns

    I’m right there with you Dr.Awesome! That is exactly what I thought with one off my ex’s….I truly thought if I showed him what love was and loved him enough…he would want to change (not for me but for himself) because he would want what I was offering. But…Nope. He tried, but he reverted back. I don’t know that it’s necessarily about their character…but more that they have an inability to love and feel because it isn’t safe or natural for them. Just remember it wasn’t about you….she may have given everything she was capable of…it just wasn’t enough.

  • DrAwesome

    Thanks Carrie
    It seemed a shallow reason for couples breaking up to me, but you cant change people. They are what they chose to be, and won’t change unless they want to themselves.
    I do think that an the ability to love IS part of your character though 🙂

  • Josh

    This was very helpful to me. Thank you

  • Ngan Phan

    Hello Carrie,

    I feel like I’m in the similar boat here. I’ve been with my partner for almost 2 years. I like his spontaneity and pureness. I believe that he is a very genuine person, but we don’t speak the same language of love. We are very different in term of the way we think, view, and act. I am more on the emotional side while he is on the logical one. He sometimes makes me feel doubt about myself because he doesn’t like it when I’m too moody or emotional because he sees that I am suffering and he doesn’t like it. So we love each other very much, and we want the best for us. But I feel there is something missing, like that we couldn’t find a common ground. I see lack of misunderstand and empathy; and it’s just because we are very different.
    Sometimes I want to end this relationship because I somehow still cannot accept his uniqueness yet and our differences somehow cause me anxiety. But I really don’t want to give up until I do my best. I haven’t told him what I want and need from this relationship, so I feel like I need to make it clear to see if he can meet me in the half way before giving up on the relationship.
    Please give me some advice Carrie. When to know it’s time to stop vs to keep trying?

    Thank you,
    Ngan

  • RH2

    Thanks for this article Carrie. My ex and I ended things early August, so this really resonated with me.

    “A partner should be your biggest supporter and cheerleader, and if they aren’t put them on the bench and find a new player.” This really hit home. My ex definitely loved and supported me, but when times were tough I no longer felt like we were on the same “team.”

    We did not have the same financial values. Arguments would start if I was trying to be responsible with money in order to save. She always wanted something more and despite he being able to afford it, she would spend anyway; or show resentment because I wasn’t doing enough for her. I agree that the way you view money can change, but she is an only child and is spoiled by her parents. I was expected to take that role. Don’t get me wrong, I love spoiling my SO, but in my current situation (and was the same for my ex), I am paying off student debt and want to get rid of it asap to start investing in my future. When I told my ex I was investing in our future, she didn’t agree. She made me feel like I wasn’t enough.

    I think the hardest part right now is I still think about all the positives and the areas we were compatible, but I think the financial disagreements outweighed everything else. Thanks again.

  • Andrés Fernando González

    Wow, great article..wich btw, i’m living it right now 🙁

  • nelson

    I can totally relate to this article. Me and my gf have very different ethical values and most of the times I think she doesn’t care about my goals and all I want to achieve.

  • LovenoLimit

    I gave a lot and did a lot and in return, A whole lot. But I felt I was constantly begging for things that should come naturally in a relationship…..Love, affection, intimacy, attention, security. And I asked myself and him….”why am I doing so much to get little to nothing in return. And when these concerns was brought up, he made me feel like I was asking for something out of the ordinary. Like I was doing something wrong. He refused to compromise. And of course the relationship went left and he blames me. I do admit that my reaction was less than favorable. I could’ve handled it better. And I don’t mean to justify my behavior, but I felt like I was pushed up against a wall. Unfortunately, when things doesn’t make sense and we don’t get the answers to the questions we ask, we go looking for our own answers….our own closure (Social media etc). The worst part is, even doe he was lacking in many ways, I’m left with the bad reputation because of my actions. Til this day, all the blame is on me and he see’s that he did nothing wrong. I still second guess myself

  • LovenoLimit

    I gave a lot and did a lot more. A whole lot. I was under the impression that we shared a lot of those “CORE VALUES” you wrote about. So being that I already have a good career and financially stable, I had no problem standing by his side and cheer leading while he worked on building his business…..”our future” as he would put it. But after a while, I felt I wasn’t getting the same support. I felt I was constantly begging for things that should come naturally in a relationship…..Love, affection, intimacy, attention, security, time. Especially after being such a huge supporter to him, I felt I was owed that much. Just like you Carrie, I thought that if I showed him I loved him and was down for him, and cared about his happiness, he would in turn want to make me happy. So I asked myself and him….”why am I doing so much to get little to nothing in return. And when these concerns was brought up, he made me feel like I was asking for something out of the ordinary. Like I was doing something wrong. He refused to compromise. And of course the relationship went left and he blames me. I do admit that my reaction was less than favorable. I could’ve handled it better. And I don’t mean to justify my behavior, but I felt like I was pushed up against a wall. Unfortunately, when things doesn’t make sense and we don’t get the answers to the questions we ask, we go looking for our own answers….our own closure (Social media etc). The worst part is, even doe he was lacking in many ways, I’m left with the bad reputation because of my actions. Til this day, all the blame is on me and he believe that he did nothing wrong. I still second guess myself. Wondering if I ruin it? Or was it sabotaged by him.

  • FreelanceGroup

    I agree that the questions we ask should be asked over and over. Contemplation is helpful in our journeys; it is alright to change our minds about relationships after careful considerations.

  • Kapito

    Carrie, Carrie! I think your view isn’t deep enough. It is good points, but not totally true.
    Think back time, and then your list of the “perfect partner” I he walked right in to your arms, you hadn’t fall in love with him. Why? Because, all people are mirrors of ourselves, nothing more. You clearly have (or have had) some sort of childhood issue that you don’t value yourself and don’t listen yourself. That’s what you get (got) from others. Those who naturally give that bad, but wanted, impulse to you, you fall in love. And the “perfect parner in paper” is always off somehow in the level of our feelings. Only those who act like our father/mother acted and caused us to suffer make us fall in love, because it’s safe place to be. We have been there all our lives and survived.
    Sad but true, and why your article stinged me ? Because I’m in the realization of it in my self currently.

  • leah420badazz

    Seriously bitch? A man needs to serve you and your happiness so you will love them? This trash you have written is so bass ackwards that you don’t know which way is up. Relationships are supposed to be like 2 people flying a plane-when one can’t pilot the other takes over and vice versa. This isn’t about anyone serving the other. Your little spiritual journey bullshit is pathetic and it is no wonder you don’t have a man. You don’t know the first thing about people.

  • Alex Buxton

    Honestly, I think this is pretty wrong. I really don’t like this attitude of if someone doesn’t meet your needs then leave them to see if there is someone better. Noone will ever meet all your needs, this is the dangerous tie in of romance and love that has become an infatuation in the modern age. Being with someone does not mean that they will be your cheerleader every day, it does not mean they will constantly be supportive, and holding you up. They will be there because you both consistently want to stay together. Life is long and difficult, there will be times where you hate each other and times when you love each other. It is a difficult thing to accept because we as a culture are so engrained by fantasies of perfection and compatibility, but ultimately there is no-one that will suit you perfectly and you will not find anyone that you will want to be with 100% everyday for the rest of your life. The only defining factor in whether or not you decide to stay together is if you both decide to stay together. Every relationship will have faults and flaws, lines of dissent and love marring it’s surface. If you speak to any elderly couple who have been together for a lifetime there love is a deep and respectful one, filled with care for the other person and knowledge of the care that is directed towards them.

    Do not break up with your partner because they are not fulfilling your every need. Instead talk to them, tell them how you are feeling and that you are feeling that the relationship is suffering for whatever reasons. Tell them honestly where you are in your head and trust them to tell you too. Chances are they will be having the same concerns as you (very rarely is a breakup completely one-sided, merely one person jumping the gun before the other). Perhaps if you speak with an open heart about concerns then you can either learn to work them out or accept that the other person has subtle differences to you and be okay with them, or you can both decide to step away from the relationship together, with a sad pride, but proud in the knowledge that you have made the final decision together.

  • DrAwesome

    This has been an eye opener for me.
    ‘Compatibility’ isn’t everything. In order to make a relationship work, both people must be willing to put in some effort. But there is where the problem lies. You cannot force someone to put in effort, they have to do it for themselves, not for you. You cannot force someone to change, or even ask them to. If something is going to ‘work’ both partners must be able to make the other feel comfortable enough to keep going.
    Of course no one can meet 100% of your needs, but in my case, and Carrie’s too, simply putting in effort and hoping ‘one day’ they will see you’re worth it and can meeting their needs will never be enough. It is unhealthy, it will erode away your self esteem like nothing else can and when (not if, it is a virtual certainty) they leave you, you will be left devastated, and questioning why you decided to invest so much in something that was never going to happen.
    You cannot grow a healthy relationship when your partner is always unsure of what the future is going to be like. Trusting your partner to keep your best interest at heart is part of the deal, and that is where we get the mental security that you cannot get anywhere else but from a relationship.
    Life is short, and yes it is a bit selfish, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to. (Except maybe your parents)

  • Great stuff! I’ve experienced many of the feelings in this article. I recently broke up with someone because our core values were not on the same page. It was hard, he was perfect for me in the most important ways, but our paths were not in line. Allowing the impermanence of life has been a lesson I’m so grateful to have learned today.

  • Anonymus

    I am in love with a guy that lives in a different country. When I am around him I feel my best. We never fight, we always have the best times and we agree in the way we want to raise our kids and if we ever have a family how is going to work. He is from Israel and he is a jew and I am colombian and I am catholic. Even though we have different religious the core of values we share are very similar. He is very free spirit and very understandable . I am a little more traditional but at the same time understandable. We tried to make it work, he was going to move to my country but visa problems, different stages of our life did not let us. It has been more than a year since I meet him. We lived in the same country for 6 months and then I went to visit him. Right now everything seem imposible and I love him. At first I thought that I just loved the feeling that I couldn’t have him close so that’s why I was missing him and loving him so much. After a while I understood that he stole my hearth and is hard to forget someone when they did not do anything bad to you and they still love you as well. We are a sad story but very happy one. I would never change the amount of months we were together for anything in the world. Even if I marry someone else, I don’t think I will ever live the story I lived with him. Honestly, I wish I can be together with him one day. I find myself crying some nights just missing the idea that we cannot be together for immigration problems. At the same time I am happy for him because he is happier in his country, with his family and friends. The question is.. Why keep thinking about him if I cannot be with him? why keep talking to him? because If I do it hurts and if I do not it also hurts. I guess time and live will show you along the way and if our love is real how I feel it in my hearth one day we will be together but it seems very stupid and irrational to think about it that way. So yes I agree loving someone is not enough. We are not ready to commit because we are young and “free” and getting married to get a residence will be a mistake if we are both not sure about a forever story and we need more time to experience life.

  • Amy

    I cried reading it..felt heavy in chest…I think that explains it all.But I am afraid to take the step.

  • Mary Hannam

    Look in to Attachment Theory. People can change if they can acknowledge and accept their attachment//personality, which we all develop in infancy and childhood. If willing, someone can work on themselves to the point of “secure” attachment. It’s life changing!!

  • DrAwesome

    That is exactly the problem.
    I spent 3 years hoping my avoidant girlfriend would eventually see that I only meant well to her, and I hoped by showing her how much she meant to me, eventually she would let me be closer.
    But what Carrie says in this article is right, you can try all you want, unless they themselves want to change, they won’t and you will only end up hurting yourself in the process.
    For me personally, its rare for a guy, but I need someone who shows me attention and who is willing to talk to me rather than only tell me what she thinks I need to know. She was never willing to do that, and I made the mistake of thinking she would ‘come around eventually’

  • Lynda La Rose

    I had to learn about true compatibility in relationships the hard way–still I learned it. Thanks for writing this!

  • Hmmmm…

    Are you quite sure you learned it? This is an awesome blog, yes? Very sorry about Michael, Terrible!!!!

  • deuteronomy

    I meant to mention…Have no fears! I mean this sincerely! Much has transpired on both our ends over the past. MUCH!

  • Lynda La Rose

    Yes I am quite sure thanks! I’ve done the work on myself – I have no intention of going back to where I was!

  • peter

    I understand….

  • peter

    Lastly, time has not past, where I have always regretted my last actions!

  • Hard questions and not always easy to answer…

  • Totally mind blowing; your thoughts have completely changed the direction I was thinking in.

  • Sheila

    This is an eye-opener article. However, for someone who is not interested in relationship at the moment, I think loving someone would be enough. These past months, I fell in love with someone’s husband. And maybe I’m not yet interested in any relationship, hence I don’t expect anything from him. I’m complete and content with or without him.