Dolly Parton has a song called ‘Love is Like a Butterfly,’ where she talks about the multicolored moods of love. I have always thought of love as a roller coaster ride. Either way, both points explore how love is not stagnant, it goes through changes and it’s not always the same thing. Relationships can be hearts, and love, and pink, and red. But they can also be messy, and difficult, and exhausting, and a little boring at times. A relationship is a partnership. Two people working through the messy, difficult, exhausting, and boring stuff so they get to enjoy the hearts, the love, the pink, and the red.
I’m by no means a relationship expert. In fact, full disclosure, I’m currently going through a divorce. Going through this process has taught me a lot about relationships and the roller coaster ride that they truly are. It’s hard for two people to be on the same wave length at the same time. While you may be content with things, your partner may feel something is amiss. At any given time, there is always one partner who is compromising more than the other. That’s not to say it’s always the same partner, or that by compromising you are giving up your power, but compromising in a relationship is a given.
Last month when Ryan Gosling spoke at the Golden Globes, he very sweetly thanked his partner Eva Mendes for staying home with their daughter while pregnant with their second. He acknowledged that by her making the sacrifice of her own career, he could go make La La Land, and now he’s able to win awards for it. If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have been able to work, and someone else would be receiving awards.
They are partners. Eventually down the road, their roles may reverse and she may be out making movies again while he stays home with the kids. They are both making sacrifices. He’s sacrificing family time, while she’s sacrificing her career. Their respective roles in the relationship are no less significant than the others, and they are each contributing.
Not all relationships are created equal, but for me, I like to feel like an equal partner in the relationship.
Thinking in math terms, 2 +2 = 4, but so does 3 + 1. There are different ways of getting the same answer, and in a relationship, you may be required to be different things at different times. It doesn’t mean your role is unimportant, you are still an equal.
Even if you are equal parts in a relationship, you as individuals will still have different needs. This is where I feel, in the wise words of the Beastie Boys and Run DMC, it’s tricky. While you may be the one in the relationship at any moment willing to take one for the team, if your needs aren’t being met, none of it will matter.
A large part of having your needs met, is being able to communicate your needs. One of my favorite relationship books is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Chapman is among many things a marriage counselor, and after practicing for several years, he discovered that most couples had the same complaints about not having their needs met. He identified the five resounding needs, which he calls your love language.
The theory is that once you identify your love language and the love language of others, you’ll be able to connect in relationships more effectively. What are the love languages? They are:
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
My love language is gifts. A Starbucks coffee is always appreciated.
Where Gary Chapman and I disagree is on the fact he says even if your partner is unreceptive to your speaking their love language, you must continue doing so and eventually they will come around. This may be true, but it will only be true if the other person is willing to come around. Because the truth about relationships is that both parties must be willing participants. If not, then there is no relationship.
However, you choose to think about love and relationships, as a butterfly or as a roller coaster, they can be difficult and they can be great. Ultimately, relationships are work. You both must be willing to put in the work for the sake of the partnership, meet each other’s needs, and communicate effectively. And hey, a coffee from Starbucks never hurts.