As a teenager I was often faintly amused by the similarities between love songs and worship songs. As someone frequently exposed to Christian pop, sometimes I was unable to tell the two apart. Both varieties often spoke of finally feeling complete, of being unwhole before being rescued by someone. Both talked of how life without the object of the singer’s affections would be meaningless and not really worth living. Both waxed eloquent about how there was only one person in the entire universe that the singer really needed.
Those love song lyrics seem less amusing and more disturbing to me these days. Even for people who prefer monogamous relationships, the lessons I and my peers were being unwittingly taught by every line of the media that carried this insidious, unquestioned attitude are horrifyingly unhealthy when actually examined.
Romance shouldn’t be a relationship between victim and rescuer. It shouldn’t be the only relationship in your life – those who “throw it all away for love” may seem dashing and heroic in romantic movies, novels, or music, but if they’re literally discarding every other meaningful relationship in their life to be with one single person, there is a problem. Also, if you cannot see the point of living without this one person in your life, it’s red-alert time.
All of these traits are red flags indicating an unhealthy relationship, and all are strongly correlated with an abusive one. If none of your family and friends approve of your loved one, is it because every single person you’ve loved until now is a shitty human being, or because there’s something you’re missing about your new relationship? If your support system really is failing you – for instance, ultra-conservative friends and family rejecting you for a same-sex lover – finding a new support system is of paramount importance. If you’re simply abandoning them all slowly to spend all your time with one person, back that shit up and make a coffee date with your best friend yesterday.
Because no, that one person absolutely cannot meet all of your needs. It is an impossibility. The most wonderful, perfect-for-you person in the world could not meet them all. Humans need a variety of people in our social circles to be really whole. This isn’t even a polyamory thing – this is just basic taking-care-of-yourself. If you are expecting your lover to be literally everything to you, you are putting more pressure on them than one human should really have to take.
Every relationship goes through a honeymoon period where all you want to do is spend time together. The other person is so fascinating and wonderful and amazing and you just want to learn everything about them. Every new discovery is an occasion for joy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this wonderful person might really be “The One”: the single person in the universe who will, just by existing in your life, fix everything.
Here’s some news: if you are broken, only you can fix yourself. Friends, family, lovers, and therapists can offer you tools. They can give you more perspective, remind you of reasons to love yourself or give valid advice on how to handle difficult situations. But no one can fix you but you. If you look for someone else who will fix you, someone to literally be your reason to live, not only will you be disappointed, but you are putting terrible stress on that relationship, and your partner may crack under the pressure of needing to be something they cannot possibly be.
Likewise, each partner is only one person. You can share many, many things with a compatible lover, but there will always be parts of yourself that they don’t understand, passions that they don’t share. If you begin to think that this means your relationship is somehow broken or that your partner is not trying hard enough, you will become dissatisfied, disappointed, and hurt.
People who love each other do make an effort to understand the things their beloveds are passionate about. It’s not healthy, however, to try to remake yourself into a clone of your partner, someone who enjoys all the exact same things they do. In the end, it damages both you and the relationship you’re trying to strengthen.
The best solution is to have many people in your life whom you love. You love football and your partner would rather watch Doctor Who? Well, who else in your life would go to a match with you? Do you really need to be the one to go to the Doctor Who Experience with your partner when you can’t tell a Cyberman from a Cylon, and don’t really care to? Send them off with their best friend and spend the time they’re gone doing something you enjoy.
On a polyamory level, it gets even better, because then there are no artificial limits — at least from your end — placed on your relationships. They can develop into whatever you want them to be. Your sushi-and-Scrabble buddy may become someone with which you can finally explore your D/s fantasies, and you can be happy knowing one of your loves has someone else with whom they can argue about politics and get their foot fetish indulged as well.
Life with many loved ones is a rich, healthy, wonderful place. Don’t fall into that trap of thinking one person must complete you. It’s bullshit. You shouldn’t have to be mother, father, sibling, best friend, child and video game buddy to your lover, and they shouldn’t have to try to fill all your needs either. If you haven’t got the hang of this, make a Venn diagram of what each of you wants from your relationship together, and then only do the stuff in the middle. Each of you is responsible for meeting your own needs – go out and meet people who share the interests your current partner(s) do(es)n’t. It will enrich all of your lives.