Love Is All You Need… Or Is It?

by Annie Kaszina on September 26, 2005

At some point, every one of us
has longed for that fuzzy ultimate feel-good sense of being regarded as the
perfect inhabitant of a perfect world by our perfect partner.
   

Whatever the problem is, love is
the answer. Love is all you need, after
all. 
Flimsy love stories still
impact on our psyche at the subliminal level, teaching us that you can build
strong relationships on hopelessly inadequate foundations.

 

This week I finally got round to
watching “The Wedding Date” an enjoyable –if slight – romantic comedy.

The plot, for anyone not
familiar with it, has reluctant singleton Debra Messing attending her step-sister’s wedding with a
male “escort”, Dermot Mulroney, who combines perfect eye-candy looks with
gentlemanly charms and a comprehensive fee per service policy.

The Messing character needs to
have Mulroney in tow because her ex, who inexplicably dumped her, is the best
man.

The action is simple and
predictable: girl meets boy, girl and boy connect at some profound yet unclear
level, they fall into bed together, argue, break up and then end up back
together, all smiles and tears while we the audience buy into the idea of them
toddling off into the sunset of Happily Ever After.

This is indeed the stuff of “rom
com” and romance, according to The Oxford English Reference dictionary, is
about “an atmosphere or tendency characterized by a sense of remoteness from or
idealization of everyday life”. Quite. Except that we don’t
entirely suspend disbelief even when we are watching romantic comedies.

At some point, every one of us
has longed for that fuzzy ultimate feel-good sense of being regarded as the
perfect inhabitant of a perfect world by our perfect partner.

Whatever the problem is, love is
the answer. Love is all you need, after
all. So Mulroney is a male s*x worker. Not a problem. He gets all the
best lines, from the philosophical: “You get the relationships you want”, to “
I think I’d miss you even if we’d never met” and this line that would sit well
in the mouth of any abuser: “I’d rather fight with you than make love with
anyone else.”

Aaah! And yuk! Aaah because both
leads are so good looking (and toned and well dressed) that they’re just bound
to be happy together ever. Yuk
because flimsy love stories still
impact on our psyche at the subliminal level, teaching us that you can build
strong relationships on hopelessly inadequate foundations.

Sooner or later, we all try it,
are amazed when it doesn’t work and punish ourselves. Often before repeating the same process with the self-same
outcome.

Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth
Revisited” – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What To Do About It”
urges business owners to develop strong visions for their companies.

How does that translate to women
who have survived abusive relationships? Surprisingly well. Since we are
all, first and last, flawed human beings, our design flaws in any one area of
life are likely to impact on other areas also. And so it is that Gerber’s comments about replacing assumptions (and
aspirations and dreams) with clear-sighted strategies relate to our emotional
world also.

Gerber writes:

“Most of us have had the
experience of being disappointed by someone in whom we have put our trust…
trust alone can only take us so far.

Trust alone can set us up to repeat those same disappointing
experiences.
(my italics)

Because true trust comes from knowing, not from blind faith.

And to know, one must understand.

And to understand, one must have an intimate awareness of what
conditions are truly present. What
people know and what they don’t. What
people do and what they don’t. What
people want and what they don’t. How
people do what they do and how people don’t. Who people are and who they aren’t.”

It becomes possible to develop
‘an intimate awareness of what conditions are truly present’ when you are
prepared to leave on hold the romantic justification: “Love is all you need”
for as long as it takes to work through the various stages of relationship
building – which Gerber defines as ‘Infancy’, ‘Adolescence’, ‘Beyond the
Comfort Zone’ and ‘Maturity’.

“And how am I supposed to manage
that, Clever Clogs?” you might be wondering. Once again, Gerber has a useful answer – if you are prepared to replace
the term “relationship” with “business”.

Gerber talks at length about
working on the business rather than in the business – a
fascinating concept for anyone who has ever spent time trying to pick up the
broken pieces of a relationship in the wake of a partner’s abusive outburst.

Gerber says:

“Simply put, your job is to prepare yourself and your business for
growth.

  To educate yourself
sufficiently so that, as your business grows, the business’s foundation and
structures can carry the additional weight.

And as awesome a responsibility as that may seem to you, you
have no other choice – if your business is to thrive, that is.” (my
italics)

Having spoken with hundreds of
abused women over the years, I can say with confidence that abusive men do not
change their spots. They may use
concealer when you first meet and fall for them, and their spots may proliferate
over time, but still those spots are there from the start.

The Love-is-all-you-need approach will blind you to the
spots. Working from the outset at
establishing a foundation of reciprocal care, respect and equality will quickly
enable you to see the face behind the concealer.

I’ve yet to encounter an abuser
who can manage selflessness for longer than it takes to earn a few vital
brownie points. And even then they
don’t just do it, they make a 10 course banquet of it.

Nor do abusers do solid foundations. Love is all they need. What they term love – over time
increasingly a justification for all manner of bad behaviour – is most unlikely
to be all you need.   (See www.joyfulcoaching.com for the excuses that abusive men use to justify their behaviour.)

That said, would I turn down the
chance to parade Dermot Mulroney at a family function? No way. He would add a whole new dimension to a forthcoming bash at a Kosher
Chinese restaurant in suburban London (truly!).

But
I’d like to think that if he came out with a killer line like: “I’d rather
fight with you etc.etc.”, I’d do the honourable thing and drag the sole of my
hobnail boot along his shin. Hard. Because I’m not too sure where that would fit with my compelling
long-term vision of a possible relationship.

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