#44: What makes love work?

Oh boy.

There are different kinds of love — with different durations, intensities, and trajectories — and so there cannot be one thing that makes them all work.

Love of a sport (say chess?), for example, takes practice to work. It takes engagement with the activity, on and off the board.

Love between people however — the love that grows in a marriage say — would require a different set of ingredients. I am speculating here of course, since me and marriage aren’t very fond of each other. But I suspect marriage takes sacrifice, effort, compromise, and patience.

Rinse, and repeat.

The same goes for any serious, long-term partnership.

Honesty is another big one. For love between people to work, there needs to be honesty. The more unvarnished and frequent honest exchanges become, the more love grows, and works.

All of that is true. I think. I mean, it’s hard to disagree with any of it. But there is another way in which love works — a way that is my favourite. Rather than having to put in work in order to make love work, I believe that it can also be done so effortlessly.

Love can be effortless. It can be flow. It can be the focus and pinnacle of your desire, respect, and admiration, transforming your actions not into things you have to do in order to make things work, but things you want to do because you want to do them. Because they make you feel good.

Why work? Love should feel food; and when it feels good, it’s never work.

When I was in my 20’s, I wrote an essay claiming that the purpose of any relationship was mutual spiritual growth. Perhaps that’s oversimplifying things a little, but not by much.

Many — and I mean many — relationships and marriages that I know are comprised of an interdependence that is spiritually unbalanced.

That is to say: in many relationships, both sides bring different things to the table; making the life of their partner more comfortable, more enjoyable, less lonely. They share duties, split responsibilities, and provide companionship. And for many people, this is enough. Which is fair, because all that sounds pretty good.

But what I’ve always believed is that being in love with someone is supposed to make you a better person while helping them become a better person, at the same time.

Love is about symbiosis. Not just living together and growing old in each other’s company (which, admittedly, that doesn’t sound all that bad — just talk to anyone who’s single in their 30s or 40s and they’ll tell you), but helping each other grow and evolve as human beings. Making each other better. Filling in the parts that the other lacks, and soaking in the things you lack from them.

At the apogee of this dance, you don’t need anything to make love work, because it already works, and it works well. On all cylinders. Everything becomes a pleasure. You don’t have to do anything, you only want to do things, and that’s certainly something to aspire to.