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Love Is Not Enough  

That is a strange title to cap a series on keeping love alive, isn’t it?  But it is true.  Love isn’t enough, no matter what Hollywood and the myths of the day tell you.  Keeping love alive requires a conscious commitment and conscious effort.  The myth says if you really love someone it just works out, the relationship clicks along wonderfully, and you both feel a constant, warm glow.  Reality is different.

I am often faced with a couple where one member, sometimes both, say something to the effect of “I still love my partner, but I’m not ‘in love’ with them.”  Invariably it is a case where the couple has failed to nurture their relationship, their connection to each other, and their love.  They then seem surprised at what has happened, and even worse, helpless to do anything about it.  The world has told them that relationships just take care of themselves but they have run head on into the harsh reality.  It isn’t true.  Relationships require effort.

This whole series has really been about this idea.  I have tried to offer things you can do in your relationship to build and maintain the connection and love you feel.  But it takes a commitment and effort to do those things.  It is also important to develop that outlook as soon as possible in a relationship.  When a couple gets to where they feel like they are no longer “in love,” they usually experience a good deal of hopelessness as well.  Hopelessness builds over time and is one of the biggest barriers to reinvesting in the relationship.  Making a conscious investment sooner rather than later helps with avoiding hopelessness. 

Maintaining love in a relationship is a skill, not something that comes naturally.  Think about what people who want to maintain skills do.  They practice.  Athletes spend a great deal of time practicing the skills that go into their sport.  Musicians practice regularly.  Recently I was listening to an interview from someone in the music industry who offered an interesting tidbit.  The biggest complaint of high end musicians on tour is that they don’t have enough time to practice.  Think about that for a minute.  Musicians at the top of their game tend to recognize that even when they are doing the thing they are known for on a daily basis they still need to practice the basics.  There is no room for slacking off.  Same with your relationship.

This feels a little heavy to me, like it is all work and no play.  But I really think it is quite hopeful.  It means you have a lot of control over the feeling of love and connection you want in your relationship.  And come on, a lot of the work is fun.  Be nice.  Take risks.  Have meaningful conversations.  I would like to popularize a new phrase and way of thinking about relationships.  Join me.  Here is how I say it.  “I am madly in love with my wife and committed to staying that way.”