As we enter February, the month associated with romantic love, I have started to think about how love and relationships have been impacted by COVID-19. Between July and October last year the law firm Stewarts logged a 122% increase in divorce enquiries and whilst that statistic is sad, it’s not surprising. In this blog I’m asking the question, ‘When the world is in chaos – what is love?’
Love Starts With You
When we think about love, we automatically think about the ‘other’. But as Existential Psychotherapist Emmy van Deurzen explains, love starts with you.
‘For love to work you have to be able to be complete in yourself and to have some spare capacity to really focus on another human being and give them what you can – without of course stopping to look out for yourself first.’
This is a real challenge at the moment when the people around us genuinely need so much. It can feel strange, selfish even. But any investment in yourself is also an investment in your romantic relationship.
Love Is Brave
Romance doesn’t exist without risk. We take a chance at the start of a new relationship, wondering if we will be left hanging, having put our feelings on the line. And we take risks many years into a partnership – speaking out in the knowledge that honesty can sometimes upset and even alienate our partner.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer sums this up beautifully when she asks, ‘I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.’
When we are spinning the pandemic plates, how well resourced are we to handle feelings of rejection and shame? Being romantically brave is hard and yet essential if we want to meet someone and keep them around.
Love Is A Long Term Project
We don’t tend to think about love as a project – but ask anyone who has been married for several years and they will tell you it can be a lot of hard work. Barbara De Angelis reminds us that, ‘Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.’
The reality is that many people in relationships have other long term projects on the go at the moment. Staying alive, homeschooling the children, managing huge financial uncertainty – that sort of thing!
With all this going on, date night is understandably sliding down the list of priorities. It might be time to get creative. Let go of the idea of a perfect date and have a date. A Zoom date, a walking date, maybe even a masked date! Just have a date.
Love Is Not A Fairytale
What do we learn as children about love? That if we look attractive and suffer enough hardship, we will be rescued. That love is unconditional and once you have it, you are entitled to keep it forever. Of course these ideas are not realistic and set us up for disappointment. Good quality relationships will always consist in part of boundaries, hard work and difficult conversations.
I will leave you with the lyrics from ‘She Will Be Loved’ by Maroon 5. I bet you didn’t expect that in a blog about mental health?
‘It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along.’
*From April 2021 I will be taking on a limited number of couples in my private practice. Get in touch to discuss availability.