When our needs are met, we feel pleasure. When our need for bonding is met, our feeling of pleasure can become attached to the person who meets that need. If one person meets our need for bonding, and perhaps other needs as well, the pleasure intensifies and becomes the feeling we call love. When we feel our needs and anticipate the pleasure of getting them met, we feel desire.
We can feel love for those with whom our need for bonding is clearly expressed and met — perhaps for the first time. We can feel love for the person who is there for us even though we may know little about them. It is important to remember that love is a feeling — chemical changes in the body and activity in the brain. Love is not a relationship. We say never marry for love. Never marry without love, but love alone is not enough. We have to look at our attitudes and behavior that affect our relationship. A relationship is work.
The work of the relationship is to resolve the historic feelings and change the historic attitudes that prevent us from filling our needs in the present and from responding to the needs of our partner. This can be hard work, as you know from your experience. It requires open communication and honest response. It requires taking the risk that sharing your true feelings will not destroy the relationship. It requires risking that the relationship might end if your goals and those of your partner are clearly in conflict.
The attitude we bring to the work of relationship is important. There is a story told of a man who went out for a walk and came across three masons working on a large structure of some sort. “Excuse me sir, what are you doing?” he asked the first mason. “I’m laying these damned bricks, one after another after another, can’t you see that, you idiot?” the first mason answered. So the man asked the next mason, “Excuse me sir, what are you doing?” The second mason answered, “I am laying a good, straight wall that I can be proud of. See how straight it is, how clean the joints are!” Finally, the man asked the third mason, “Excuse me sir, what are you doing?” “Why I am building a cathedral!” the third mason said, with a big smile on his face.
In our relationships, it is important that we share some goals in common. If one partner wants to build a cathedral while the other wants a gas station, they will end up either praying in a gas station or pumping gas in a cathedral. We may feel much love for a person, yet still not be able to make a relationship with them work on a day-to-day basis.
Sustaining love depends on understanding and developing skill in the work of a relationship.
~ Lori Heyman Gordon