Love and/or relationships is like a pie, a complicated mixture comprised of many ingredients. Some pies are sweet because they have more sugar, others have little to no sugar, being not such an important ingredient for that particular pie. All relationships and pies need basic ingredients: emotional and logical, the crust and the filling.

There has to be the crust that holds it together. The emotion, naturally formed, begins a relationship. Any relationship. Love (or like and lust) exists, or it doesn't. It might be based on the heart or  physical lust, but it has to be there: the basis for the relationship.

Next, we get to the pie filling, the logic, a million combinations. Some work, others don't. I may be terribly attracted to someone who thinks beatings are a relationship standard. The emotion works but the logic doesn't. Relationships work when these logical components are compatible.

Back to love. An interesting concept, with as many definitions as they are misconceptions. When counseling young girls, I hear, "But I love him!" wailed over and over and over as I watch these girls return to abusive, unhealthy, controlling, violent and demeaning relationships. It made me take a long hard look at their definition of love.

Dependency hit the top of the list with ignorance following right behind. Add an upbringing in an unhealthy family and you have a recipe for disaster.  

Affection, even intermittently, is viewed as love. A year of dating, despite obvious and ugly problems, is enough time for someone to become so accustomed to that life style, and person, that they automatically place their affection in the category of love. Young girls have not had, alas, enough experience that is truly required to determine, by comparison, what love, real love, truly feels like.

Teen dating is simply practise! You try one relationship out, learn how to get along, or not, with that individual, separate if the going gets rough, and move on to the next trial period. After you have a few relationships under your belt (hopefully not heavy realtionships involving sex) you can look back (oh, hindsight, beloved hindsight!) and rationally look at each relationship and compare them. After the emotion has subsided you can logically look at what worked, what did not, why did one person fit, another did not?  Once you grow into an adult, the real testing can really begin. What a shame that so many teens truly believe they have fully matured at eighteen.

Raised in a family who standards include yelling, continual public fighting, family gatherings revolving around alcohol, how can a teen judge what is sane and normal for their own relationship? When young girls from these families date one boy, meet another and find an improved relationship, do they think, "This has to be it, this is SO much better!" and remain unaware that this is still not a fully mature, healthy, workable adult relationship? How can they know an eight is still out there and obtainable when all they have seen, and known, is a one and a three?

So what is love?

By dictionary definition, it is strong affection for another arising our of kinship or personal ties, affection, devotion and tenderness, admiration or common interests. We won't go into the physical attractions also listed.  To me, all those qualities denote positive traits, opposed to negative. Granted, a tired, frustrated spouse can often come home with a rude a snappy attitude. Those closest to us are the easiest targets to hurt when you are hurting yourself, and need to feel better by passing on your hurt and anger elsewhere. What a mouthful. But, but, but, your basic real love includes the need (and desire) to offer, and receive, positive actions and demonstrations. You can love many people in your life, but marital and partner love is what we are concentrating on here.

How does one demonstrate love?

Watching the world revolve, and evolve, brings up the new standards that are increasingly apparent.  In the sixties, I thought free love was perfectly okay. In my sixties, its still ok with reservations, but not for me. Somewhere along the way, I grew up. I have become old school with fond memories and understanding of the days when I was not old school.  What is acceptable to the younger world is not always acceptable in my eyes. My son shrugs, and says "Everyone does that now, Mom." I shudder and go back to baking bread.  So. What I consider acceptable as demonstrations of love, or lack there of, will not be what everyone else might agree with in today's world. I will argue that my perception is solid, for back then, and now.

Love is being tender, understanding, patient, kind, caring, and giving. When you in love with someone you are on cloud nine, endorphins are frantically surging through your entire being. Love is impatient when you are apart, love is seeing something your mate would like and buying it for them, love is holding open doors for them, love is special efforts made, love is time together willingly and often, love is holding your tongue over small issues to prevent a hurt, love is honesty and willing communication, love is willing to do without so your mate won't have to, love is endless. What is it that Vince Gill sang, "Love never broke anyone's heart." I remember the first time I heard those words, stunned by the simplicity of the thought. If you allowed your heart to be broken by another person, they didn't really love you. I can see the nasty mail now. Think about it. If you really, really love someone, would YOU break THEIR heart?

Love is not repeated angry, cruel words or actions. Love is not continually and intentionally hurting your mate. Love is not a disregard for the other person. Love is not controlling the other's actions or activities. Love is not flucuation. Love is not abandonment.

How or if the relationship works depends on how the values, needs, "have to have" or the "can not have" match.

Each of us have three areas of consideration:
Things we HAVE TO have in a relationship (Love, respect, caring, trust, education, children)
Things we CAN NOT have in a relationship (Drugs, alcohol dependency, illiteracy, children)
Things we can NEGOTIATE about in a relationship. (Location, hobbies, living room color, children)

If something he refuses to change is in my CAN NOT have category, there is a problem. If there are not enough HAVE TO and more CAN NOT have in a relationship, there is a problem. When the relationship ends is determined by how long you can tolerate CAN NOT haves in your life if you are not able to change its category.

I know that once respect for your partner dissolves, it is not recoverable and the relationship is doomed.
I know that once one partner quits, permanently, trying to make a relationship work, it's doomed.
I know that once trust is broken, it takes a great deal of effort, on both sides, to rebuild it.

Just my opinion....

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