When you fall in love, you hope that the way you love will be returned to you in kind. You want your love to be reciprocated, to be unconditional, to be fulfilling. You want someone to care for you, nourish you, and cherish you in the same way you do for them. In the most idealistic terms, committed love in relationship is about two people who wish to join as partners in life, who support and encourage each other, who hold each other up and have each other’s backs, who see the future as only possible with their partner as an integral part of it, and who believe that their own life is made more complete because their “other half” is with them forever.
Love of this kind is a beautiful thing and many people do find what they’re looking for. Many find the right one and will do whatever it takes to have that person in their life and by their side through whatever and wherever life takes them together. But what happens when this kind of love eludes you?
Sometimes, for whatever reasons, you just don’t meet the right partner. Sometimes, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, fate has a hand in bringing just the right person into your life. Sometimes, you may not be ready to meet someone and allow them into your life and you pass each other by. Sometimes, you’ve been burned or hurt in relationships, and the thought of meeting the right one is the furthest thing from your mind. The bottom line is that there are so many variables in meeting the person you want to be with for the rest of your life.
Finding love is easy when it’s mutual. First of all, you both have to be looking for love. And it’s important that you recognize that long-term, committed love is very different from any other kind of relationship that may seem to be love but is more about immediate attraction and gratification and having immediate needs met. (Don’t get me wrong. These kinds of relationships are important for certain times in your life.) In a long-term love relationship, you look for someone who shares your ideals, your life goals, your plans for the future. Finding the right one can be easy, but only if you’re on the same page.
But often, we don’t meet people who share our perspectives/points of view and so we get stuck and/or frustrated by our inability to find a fulfilling relationship. Sometimes our own vulnerabilities, anxieties, behaviors get in the way and block us from moving forward in our quest to find healthier and more personally satisfying relationships. Sometimes, we really don’t know what we’re looking for. Sometimes, we’re stuck in a pattern of repetitive relationships that never seem to get us where we want to go.
So what happens when we find ourselves in yet another relationship where we love our partner more than they love us? You may wonder, “How did this happen again?” Perhaps being in any relationship (rather than none at all) was the goal for you. Maybe you don’t recognize the signs of someone who likes to be in relationship, just not the kind you’re looking for. You may be wondering that if you care so much for this special person why aren’t they getting it; why don’t they care for you in the same way you care for them.
Here are some essential points to help you see your relationship more clearly, what’s really there and not just what you want to see, and hopefully, beyond the cloud of emotion that often obfuscates the reality of the situation.
There’s love, and then there’s love. What it all boils down to is the degree of intensity of love. You and your partner may just love differently. Certain components of love (such as the romantic component) may not be shared equally. That’s not to say that your partner doesn’t care for you but maybe not in the same way you care for them.
For some, just being with someone they love and care for a great deal is enough and all they’ll ever need. Some people know they love more than their partner loves them but hope and believe they can change their partner’s feelings over time. In other words, they may deny that there is an imbalance in the way love is expressed. Can you accept this imbalance in a long-term relationship? Hoping to change your partner’s behavior may be a very unrealistic expectation, and may ultimately result in frustration, disappointment, hurt, and anger. So this is an essential piece to be aware of from the very beginning.
Your partner makes plans and decisions without you. This is a pretty general statement and sometimes it’s fine for each partner to make unilateral plans and decisions. But if you’re talking about sharing goals and plans for a future together, making decisions unilaterally won’t work. If this planning without you happens a lot it should be speaking volumes to you. It may mean that your partner is not willing to share the most important parts of their life or include you in their future. The way they see it, maybe you’ll be around—and maybe you won’t. In other words, you fit into their life and their needs in the here and now, but who knows if that will hold for the future.
Your partner is interested in your personal life but maybe not as much as you’d like them to be. Sure, they want to know about you but maybe not enough. They may not need or want to know the nitty gritty of your life. Who you are in depth is not that important to them or to the relationship. It’s just more information. Now, this may sound a bit harsh. After all, there are some perfectly nice people who just may not need to know another person in depth. They like you; they care about you. There’s enough there to have a solid relationship for the future.
That’s not what I’m talking about. You would think that someone who falls deeply in love with you would want to know everything about you—the good, the bad, and the ugly. They can’t seem to get enough of you. Everything about you is precious and sacred. So when someone doesn’t want to know too much, lacks interest in you, your plans and goals, what is passionate to you and what makes you tick, or is downright indifferent, pay very close attention. Yes, they’re with you now but knowing less about you may make it easier to walk away from you and the relationship at any time.
How come much of the effort of the relationship rests on your shoulders? You take the initiative for most things pertaining to the relationship. You make most of the effort to get things done. You take on much of the responsibility for how the relationship works. Your partner is frequently passive and/or doesn’t care enough. You are often the one to keep the relationship interesting; to creatively find ways to engage your partner.
A partner may easily settle into a routine of being with you without looking to expand and develop the relationship. They may even resist any effort on your part to “grow” the relationship. You may find yourself working overtime to please your partner, to gain attention and praise from them. If you’re always making sacrifices to please them, to make life more comfortable for them, you may end up feeling as if you’re giving up too much or even giving yourself away in order to get attention, recognition, and love. If you are exhausted from trying so hard and not getting much interaction or interest back, it’s time to stop and really think about what you’re doing.
Do you feel like you’re competing with your partner’s friends for quality time? Your partner may choose to actively pursue relationships outside of the one you share together. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping old friends and spending a fair amount of time with them, the notion that you have to constantly compete with friends (and family) for your partner’s time and attention should raise red flags.
While a romantic, committed relationship often sees the couple spending more and more intimate time together, a less interested partner may continue to spend a lot of time with friends and may balk at the idea that these relationships are getting in the way, coming between you and your partner. While it’s important for each partner to have their own individual life and to have a substantial amount of time for themselves, it’s essential that they remember to designate large chunks of time for you in order to cultivate the caring and intimacy necessary to “grow” the relationship.
So the takeaway is never to ignore how you really feel. If you know what you want and need in a relationship you should never dismiss your feelings, or worse, settle just because you want a relationship to work, or that you just want to be in a relationship period. The truth is that try as you might, you probably won’t be able to make your partner into someone they don’t want to be. If you feel disappointed, frustrated, and unfulfilled because you love someone more than they love you, don’t ignore it. You deserve to have the best relationship—the one that feeds you in every way.