How Your Love Stories Make or Break Your Relationship
Each one of us has ideas about love and what love should ideally be like. These ideas are the basis of our love stories that ultimately become our reality. They are the lens through which we see the world, through which we interpret what happens to us, and through which we form expectations of what will happen. They are what inform our hopes for the future and our deepest fears.
Many of the themes in our stories arise from our childhood experiences, from interactions with family members or friends, or from experiences we had as adolescents.
We all have not one, but a number of stories that are organized in a hierarchy. Different partners or situations can bring out different stories for you so that what's most important to you changes.
Your love stories influence
- your partner choice;
- what you want in and expect from a relationship;
- what your ideal relationship looks like;
- how you interact with your partner;
- how you interpret your partner’s actions;
- your relationship satisfaction;
- and much more.
Where do my personal love stories come from?
Many of the themes of our stories come from our past childhood experiences with siblings, parents, and friends. Obviously, experiences from our adolescence can play a prominent role as well, and most often it is the painful experiences that get incorporated into our stories. When we construct new stories, we often use portions of old stories and then add new material to accommodate a new relationship.
Unconscious stories guide your actions, perceptions, and desires
The problem with our love stories is that they are mostly unconscious but influence our life in significant ways. Without knowing our stories, we cannot see how they alter our perception of events and what influence they exert on our life.
Take the following example: Linda asks Patrick to buy an expensive new mattress where she can adjust the firmness by remote. Her request might elicit a variety of responses from Patrick, depending on Patrick's story:
Patrick might feel pleased that Linda is very health-conscious, but alternatively, he might feel that she fell victim yet again to the latest fad or that one of these days she is going to drive him into bankruptcy.
Any interactions in our relationships are tinted by the love stories we have.
For that reason, it is very important for us to understand our stories and the themes they bring with them, like the fear of loss of a loved one, the fear of losing control, the belief that we are unlovable, or the belief that we are entitled to unlimited benefits.
If you know, for example, that you are prone to interpreting the actions of others as rejection, you can more intently analyze what your partner says and does because you are aware of your predisposition to feel rejected.
Arguments: Your stories represent your "truth"
Have you ever had an argument in which the way you saw a situation had almost no overlap with the way your partner saw the situation? Where you seemed to be unable to find common ground, although you were talking about the same situation?
Couples often argue about whose view better represents the “truth,” but if you consider each person’s individual love stories, you will realize it is difficult, if not impossible, to know the absolute truth about any relationship. Any information is always filtered through a person’s stories of his or her relationships. We never see things independently of our stories. That explains why both partners in a relationship may be convinced that the other one is lying when in fact both are telling the truth as they see it.
So it is entirely possible that you and your loved one have opposing interpretations of an event - neither of you is lying; you just view things differently because you have different stories. You both see your own truth.
The Three Components That Shape your Happiness
Your love stories very concretely influence what your relationship looks and feels like and what you want it to be.
Three components describe the character of any of your relationships. They play a crucial role in your relationship satisfaction: You are happier when
- your feelings are close to how you want to feel;
- you think your partner’s feelings for you are close to what you want them to be;
- both you and your partner feel the same way about each other, and
- you and your partner are relatively similar in what is important to you.
Let's have a closer look at those three components.
The Core Components of Love
You can feel intimacy with another person in a lot of different ways. For example, you may feel comfortable enough to share your innermost feelings with someone else, even when you are embarrassed about it. You experience intimacy when you emotionally support someone in times of need or when someone else is giving emotional support to you. Intimacy is also involved when you value a loved one, are able to count on them in times of need, and when you trust them and feel safe with them.
When you think about passion, the first thing that comes to mind may be sexual fulfillment. And while that can be a part of passion, other feelings can play a role as well. For example, you may feel that you absolutely could not live without that other person, you may find yourself fantasizing about the person, or you may be excited when you think about the person. In the case of your children, you may have a very passionate drive to ensure their well-being. Just as with intimacy, there are many ways in which you can experience passion.
Commitment is not a feeling but rather a decision you make. Well, actually it’s two decisions. First, you decide whether you love and care for another person. The second decision comes later on – it involves whether you intend to maintain that love in the long term. When two people marry, they legalize the commitment to love each other for life. Often, however, these decisions are not conscious. Most people don’t sit down to consciously decide they want to love a certain person forever. Likewise, the decision to stay together in a lifelong relationship with a partner may develop over time.