‘Love=Work’

Forget the movies. It takes effort to find love, and once you find it you must continue to maintain it.

By TAMAR CASPI
April 23, 2010 17:01
4 minute read.
Rachel's Fantasyland

Love cartoon 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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‘Love shouldn’t be work,” my friend Rachel said to me the other day. My response? “But you need to work to find love, and once you find it you must continue to work to maintain it. And, on top of that, is it worth it if don’t have to work for it?”

She reluctantly agreed. Rachel’s mind-set isn’t uncommon, but it is deeply mired in fantasyland.

In real life, love doesn’t happen the way it’s played out on TV or in the movies. You’re not going to trip while crossing the street, be caught by a dashingly handsome stranger and rescued from oncoming traffic, look into each other’s eyes and live happily ever after. Nor are you going to faint in front of a gorgeous man who coincidentally is a doctor – who then has to give you CPR, saving your life and falling in love with you instantly. It just doesn’t happen that way – at least most of the time. Although there are exceptions…

My parents met in a romantic and seemingly unrealistic way. My dad saw my mom from across the dining room on his kibbutz while she was making aliya, and told his buddies there and then: “She will be mine.” He asked her out on one date, and that was all it took. They were married nine months later and will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary this June.

But, as I said, my parents are the exception – not the rule – and to say it has always been easy would be a lie. My parents argue, just like any other couple, and they need their space just like any other couple. Sure, they met in a very romantic way; but they had to commit to making it work, and they have to work on making it last.

I’ve told my grandparents’ story before – that she used to buy chocolate-covered strawberries at his candy shop but was casually dating his friend, who told him that my grandmother was out of his league. Luckily, my grandfather ignored his friend’s advice and asked her out anyway. After many decades together, she continues to make a concerted effort not to do the things that she knows annoys him. Meanwhile, she has relatives he doesn’t like, but he toughs it out on holidays with the family to make her happy.

Alas, the type of work you put into it determines whether it is the type of love that is worth it. If you spend more time fighting and making up than you do getting along, then you need to determine if the work it takes when things are bad is worth the times when things are good.



Everyone fights – but what is the healthy ratio of getting along to fighting that makes the work valuable? And how soon is too soon to start fighting? What level of fighting is healthy and when does it go too far? These are important questions to ask yourself when dating someone turns into a more serious relationship and you realize that the reality is you may not always get along.

It’s common for two strong personalities to be attracted to each other, and therefore it shouldn’t be surprising when the relationship is a volatile one. Volatile does not mean negative or violent; rather it is defined as unstable and hot-tempered.

Some people thrive on volatile (think of your favorite Hollywood couple) but for most of us it does not make for a healthy relationship. If you spend too much time “working” on your relationship and not enough time actually being in and enjoying your relationship, then you need to end it, and move on.

“S” and I can both be argumentative, and we both also like to play the devil’s advocate. That means we disagree for the sake of disagreeing and that often turns into something bigger wherein a real, underlying issue rears its ugly head. These little disputes add up to only roughly less than 20 percent of the total time we’re together. That may sound like a lot – but having love and peace 80% of the time is rather incredible.

In addition, both “S” and I have decided that having to work at our relationship a fifth of the time we’re together is nothing. In fact, we decided we should work at our relationship even when we’re getting along!

People today are lazy and spoiled, and I believe that’s directly reflected in the increased divorce rate. Between instant coffee, drive-through ATMs and easy access to information online, this generation has become complacent, believing that everything comes easy, including relationships.

At the same time, people don’t go into relationships hoping to become a statistic. So there’s just one solution: Work at it.

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