A childhood of watching fairytale movies taught me that once you find someone you love, you’re all set. You’ve got a lifelong partner, and nothing can stop you. Unfortunately, though, life taught me otherwise. My first love and I weren’t compatible for many reasons. My second love didn’t treat me like an equal. My third love didn’t want a relationship. It turned out love was not nearly enough to make these work.
That was before I’d heard Nine Inch Nails sing “underneath we’re not so tough and love is not enough” or Lana del Rey sing “sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough.” People seem to recognize this simple truth that goes against what we’ve been taught: Love is not enough. And it’s an important truth to remember, because otherwise, we can end up in some toxic relationships in the name of love.
Fortunately, I’ve also learned that there are many ways to love someone, even if that means loving each other as friends or totally cutting off contact because you’re both better off that way. These actions don’t make the love less special.
Here are some times when a relationship’s not worth fighting for, no matter how much you love each other.Volume 90%
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Love isn’t just a feeling; it’s also an action. And no matter how much love you feel for each other, that feeling is insufficient if you’re not both behaving in a loving way. “Putting down your opinion, not allowing you to speak freely, being sarcastic about your words or actions, bad-mouthing you behind your back, or speaking negatively about you in front of other people” are all disrespectful behaviors that love doesn’t mitigate, psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW tells Bustle.
Along with loving us, our partners should be good for us. And someone who is constantly making destructive choices can’t be. Many people with addictions, for example, are toxic partners, says Koenig. Even if they love us, they’re often not capable of showing it in the way we need.
Many couples recover from cheating, says Koenig. But when it becomes a pattern or causes a serious rift, it could indicate that someone is either not happy in the relationship or just not suited for monogamy.
“Abusers and their victims often love each other,” relationship and etiquette expert April Masini tells Bustle. “Clearly, love should be irrelevant.” There are many ways to be abusive, and some are easier to spot than others. Controlling your finances, telling you what to do and who to be friends with, physically hurting you, and pressuring you to have sex are all forms of abuse. If your abuser feels love for you, it doesn’t matter, because they’re showing the opposite.
Unless the relationship is open, love for someone who’s in another relationship is often hopeless. “Many men and women get involved with married people, and they love them them, but are devastated that these folks won’t leave their spouses,” says Masini. “They stay until they can’t take it any more, and they figure out for themselves, often at great personal expense, that love is not enough. Sometimes, spouses stick together through thick and thin — even when they love someone outside the marriage.”
There’s something to be said for sticking to your dating checklist, no matter how much you love someone who defies it. “When you have a dealbreaker between you, love is not enough to make a long-term relationship work in a healthy way,” says Masini. “For instance, if you’re a saver and your partner is a spender, and you can’t seem to keep a bank balance above red, and they have no idea what you’re so distraught about, love is not enough. Relationships need mutual goals and common lifestyles that work enough for two people to live healthfully and happily.”
Sometimes, you’re better off single, whether that’s because you need to sow your wild oats, have issues to work on, or just have different goals from your partner. In these cases, loving someone might mean acknowledging that they deserve someone who can give them more than you can.
Love is just one of many ingredients needed to make a relationship work. You also need a lot more, and if you don’t have it, it’s more than OK to let go of someone you love.