By Allie Ochs
Are You Fit To Love? is the most important question we’ll ever ask ourselves. Let’s face it, our relationships are extremely important. In fact they are the essence of our lives. Yet, for many relationships are the cause of pain and struggle often rendering us powerless to bring about positive changes. Single or not, societal standards convince us that when it comes to relationships we can have it all. As a result we have developed a pervasive ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ attitude with an emphasis on superficiality. In addition, much of the available relationship advice compels us to go after everything we want from our partners. Sadly, for many it is not working. Climbing divorce rates and an increase in the number of singles seeking love are proof that our behavior and attitudes are counterproductive. We need to be reminded that being in a relationship is really about being with another person.
Our expectations of each other have become highly unrealistic. Rarely do we look in the mirror and ask: Do I give what I am asking from my partner? Am I fit to love? We resent each other for unmet expectations. When the resentment grows faster than our love and respect for each other, lovers turn into enemies and relationships into war zones. Today’s relationships are failing because of deterioration of characters. It is time we made a point of building long-term relationship success based on the strength of our characters, instead of clever-minded relationship rules and strategies.
Great relationships require great characters, a fact that will never ever change. Our relationships are only as good as we are. We simply must become better people for each other. Becoming fit to love is a relationship reality check that forces us to look in the mirror and become inspired to create a better character within. This powerful wake-up call is not for the faint-hearted, but for the brave. It will dramatically improve our relationships or our chances of finding love.
The happiest people are those in exceptional relationships. We admire and even envy these people. They are heavily invested in their most valuable asset: their relationship and have an abundance of life’s most precious commodity: love. They all have one thing in common: they are fit to love. At the heart of all exceptional relationships are three universal principles: mutual respect, moral responsibility and authenticity. Unless we understand and apply these principles our relationships will be subject to resentment, frustration and uncertainty. Being fit to love is taking a radically different approach to successful relationships and here is what it means:
1. Mutual Respect: Your partner is just as important as you are. Our partner’s dreams, hopes, wishes and expectations are as important as our’s. This principle requires us to be unselfish and think of our partner as our equal. Given that our generation has made history as ambassadors of our “me first” society, we are more concerned with getting what we want than thinking of another. For Bill everything revolves around golfing. He spends every weekend at the golf course while his wife Jane looks after their two small children. Extra money from their already tight budget is spent on Bill’s hobby. Stuck at home with toddlers, Jane has very little freedom or money to do or buy anything special. Despite Jane’s complaints Bill seems completely aloof to the fact that he is behaving disrespectfully.
How differently life turned out for Karen and Lucas even though they experience a huge interest-clash. Madly in love, they are making future plans. Karen wants to live in the city in a squeaky clean condo with nearby shopping, restaurants and cultural events. Lucas loves the country, gardening and pets. The differences don’t end here. She prefers fine dinning and classical music. Lucas likes roadhouse cuisine and modern beats. This sounds like trouble, but by honoring their opposing beliefs they turned their dilemma into a real bliss. They moved to a small town in between the city and the country. Karen couldn’t help but fall in love with the puppy Lucas brought home, even though she was dead set against pets. They simply focused on the positive in their diversities and embraced the richness of each other. They respected their differences and did not insist on their own views. As a result they deepened their love and now live the best of both worlds.
Relationship conflicts arise because of different perspectives and beliefs. Lovers find themselves arguing over who is right, instead solving the issue in their mutual best interest. The ongoing struggle over unresolved issues leads to resentment and frustration even when there is love. Love and respect take a backseat and the relationship deteriorates. This is not only a dangerous game but also the reason why many relationships fail, when they shouldn’t. This downward spiral continues unless we stop wanting to be right and be in control. Instead of trying to change each other or putting our needs first, we must realize that our partner is just as important as we are. In grabbing hold of our partner’s beliefs or buying a share of his or her dreams we show that we respect our partner as much we do ourselves. If conflict arises and we cannot agree on a solution, we should simply agree to disagree and continue to talk with respect and honesty. Without true mutual respect, it is impossible to create loving relationships with staying power. Being fit to love is the realization that another person is just as valuable as you.
2. Moral Responsibility: You are always morally responsible to those with whom you have relationships. We live in a society that elevates self-fulfillment above anything else and the term moral responsibility is hardly part of our vocabulary. We seek self-fulfillment at any cost, even at the cost of others. Regardless of how many times we have heard that we are not responsible for our partner’s happiness, we are responsible for his or her well-being. Love is still a moral responsibility to another person. In our relationships we have the power to make each other feel exceptional or miserable. How often do we blame our partners if things do not work out without looking in the mirror to see our own character flaws. We are far more likely to make excuses for our behavior not realizing that everything we think, say or do affects those we love.
Jennifer had lunch with her friend Sally at a quaint restaurant. Jennifer could barley wait to share the details about the blissful affair she is having with this young stud. Sally listened in awe as Jennifer blamed her so-called inattentive husband, Paul. It was a strange twist of fate that Paul sat behind the flower-decorated lattice wall listening to every word his wife said. From here on everyone’s life took a different dimension. Jennifer had deceived her husband Paul, betrayed her word, disregarded her children and lost the respect of her friend Sally. This is a high price to pay for moments of sex. What Jennifer thought, did and said affected the lives of those she loved. She had shed her moral responsibility towards those who counted on her.
In our quest for better relationships, we must make our relationship a priority. We must focus on our relationship not elsewhere. As Mary O’Hara said: Love cannot survive if you just give it scraps of yourself, scraps of your time, scraps of your thoughts. We are responsible for the state of our relationships. Realizing that we are indeed morally responsible to those we love is vital to being fit to love.
3. Authenticity: True love only happens when you are real. Have you ever found yourself laughing simply because everyone else did? Agreed with your partner’s opinion even though you didn’t share it? Told your lover you had a fabulous time when you didn’t or said: “I love you” when you didn’t mean it. In other words did you ever do something inconsistent with your true self just to please someone, get attention or get what you wanted? Of course we all have. We have lost the bravery to be real!
For many there is quite a gap between the person inside and the person they present to the world. How about Toni, the dad who rents a Porsche to impress his date, while being delinquent in child support. How authentic is that? Laura, owner of a marketing firm, supports and votes for the political party most of her clients belong to. Yet, she neither has faith in the candidate or the agenda of this party. Debby spends every Sunday at Grant’s parents but resents it. To keep the peace she refrains from claiming some of these Sundays on her own terms. Donna, a serial dater knows how to pick guys. As soon as her friends find her new dates socially unacceptable Donna dumps them. Donna no longer takes the time to get to know her dates. Instead she allows her girlfriends to decide for her.
To be validated by our lovers or to be socially accepted we often compromise who we are and what we believe in. Conditioned by our environment we have become products of the culture we live in and are in somewhat disconnected from our identities. No matter how good we are at playing roles for each other, eventually we encounter role conflict and our truth emerges. True love does not unfold unless we are real. Being fit to love means being real. It means removing all the layers of pretense and becoming vulnerable. When we are authentic our relationships become real and we never have to doubt them. To love, we need to know each other the way we know ourselves. Love only works when we are real! Our authentic self is the best of us. It is where our goodness lies imbedded in the strength of our character. To be fit to love we must encourage authenticity in each other.
Regardless of the state of our current relationships or how unsuccessfully we have tried to find love we have the power to radically improve our circumstances today. The three principles of being fit to love are as true today as they will be twenty years from now. Mutual respect, moral responsibility and authenticity are the essence of exceptional and loving relationships. Because people in exceptional relationships are fit to love, they are positive role models in becoming better human beings for each other. They put love before every thought and action. In the process they reap some profound rewards:
- People in exceptional, loving relationships live much happier lives
- They cope far better with stress
- They have better sex more often
- They laugh more often and have more fun
- They are healthier and live longer
- They are more optimistic
- They complain less
- They feel validated and needed
- They feel more secure and stable
No wonder we envy these people. Their relationships are like rock-solid anchors. In times like these, laced with tremendous uncertainty and uproar, their love shields these couples from the restlessness most of us experience. Mahatma Gandhi said: “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave”. Let’s be brave!
© Allie Ochs, 2004 www.fit2love.com Unauthorized publication or distribution are strictly prohibited