Have you ever had a friend (or have you ever been) involved in a so-called “love triangle”? These sorts of configurations are very popular in books and movies, and because of this “fighting” for your beloved has become ennobled. For men, it is seen as an epic quest that harkens back to ye olde dayes when knights would joust over ladies; for women, we usually see what I’ll call “the makeover miracle” template, where a worthy (?) fellow has somehow overlooked how utterly perfect the gal is for him (usually in favor of some vapid hottie), but once she takes off her glasses and lets her hair down, he suddenly sees the light.
Yeah, that doesn’t sound right to me, either.
The problem with the idea that anyone should have to struggle (or joust) to demonstrate that they are a more worthy partner than someone else is that innate to the “competition” is an ego struggle; you are trying to “win” over the person you love and “defeat” the person you have been pitted (or have pitted yourself) against. This is the intrinsic flaw in those dating competition shows like “The Bachelor” (sorry, but yuck) and why so few of those relationships last. When your idea of loving someone is about gratifying your own ego, you have essentially doomed yourself.
The other problems inherent in the love triangle are:
- Even if you do (gratify your ego) “win”, the person you end up with is potentially someone you have wrested away from a co-dependent or toxic dynamic and because they actually had to be convinced (or manipulated) into leaving, they will more than likely remain co-dependent and attracted to toxicity. In other words, you will have won the battle, but not the war; a person who is conflicted about leaving an unhealthy relationship somehow believes that they were served by it.
- Anytime you are engaged in a competition (because that is what it is), not only will you spend a lot of time trying to “prove” your worthiness, you will also spend a decent amount of energy putting down your opponent (yes, you will.) It becomes like a political campaign, where smearing feels more effective than simply stating your case as to why you are the “best” candidate. This behavior is ugly in either context, frankly; if you have to tear someone else down to get what you want, maybe you should consider if what you want is worth degrading yourself for in this manner.
- Anyone who “pits” you against another for their love is not terribly evolved and more than likely will use this strategy throughout your relationship in myriad ways even if you do emerge “victorious”. Do you want to be a puppet or a partner?
When you truly love someone, your ego should go out the window; this is the essence of vulnerability and the bedrock of the strongest relationships. Or, as author Paulo Coehlo put it, “Anyone who loves in the expectation of being loved in return is wasting their time.” Love is not a game or sport, and it is certainly not a competition.
I think most of us regard the love a parent has for their child as very pure, and perhaps the highest form of love; in infancy, this helpless creature who is entirely dependent on us for survival, with no real capacity gratitude, never mind reciprocation. But as we spend an alarming percentage of our time sleep deprived and up to our elbows in fecal matter (or puke. Or both.) our love never wavers because it is not about us. It is about the well-being of our truly beloved.
What if this became our standard for romantic love as well?
Truthfully the only argument AGAINST that as our gold standard is the unfortunate fact that so many of us (most?) are looking to our lover for validation (to meet our ego needs) instead of seeking the pure communion of true intimacy. But when you think about it, if you are with someone you genuinely love, trust and respect (a “no prenup” match) then this should easily and automatically be the case. You love, trust and respect your partner because their focus in the context of the relationship is your well-being, too.
Sure, even great marriages have days that devolve into a “tit-for-tat” scenario, but those are ultimately just a blip on the screen of a much larger picture. In a healthy relationship, there is naturally occurring symbiosis, but you are not there to “get” something from your partner. You are there because this person accepts you as you are and allows you to become more of that every day; in true love, as in parenting, the nurturing and growth of the soul is the only acceptable path.
The ego struggles against this because we have been trained to focus on acquisition and power dynamics; that might work in business, but it is a recipe for heartbreak (or emotional shut-down) in a relationship. When you get really honest with yourself, you realize that you are afraid to love someone unconditionally because you think this will cause your partner to “use” you or take you for granted; but I say, if they do? Is that a worthy partner for you after all?
When we make so-called “love” choices with our ego, therefore, what we are really doing is selling ourselves short. Because we believe our devotion will be taken advantage of, because we fear it will not be reciprocated. So our core belief is that we ourselves are the ones unworthy of unconditional love, and that is what is ACTUALLY keeping us from the relationship we deserve, not our errant partners. Again:
“Anyone who loves in the expectation of being loved in return is wasting their time.”
This sounds so harsh until you really consider what it means; don’t try to use “love” to “get” something from someone. THAT IS NOT LOVE, THAT IS USERY. Either love for the sake of loving, or it isn’t love at all.
The only way to learn this is to start by loving yourself without expectation. Love yourself all-day, every-day and forgive yourself for your “mistakes”. It won’t be long before you realize that you are entirely worthy of this love, even on your worst day; and not much longer before you see that reflected back to you in healthier relationships with others.
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