People understand their intimate relationships through stories of love. These are stories we create about what we believe love should be.
Every love story has its pluses and minuses—every story can bring trouble with it.
Even the fairy-tale story—of a prince and princess—can bring potential trouble. When the fairy-tale romance is worn away by the grinding realities of everyday existence, the partners may feel like they have been cheated out of the storybook love they promised each other and themselves.
The Top 10-List of Troublesome Stories
But the fairy-tale story is not among the most troubled. Here are my “double-trouble 10” picks for some of the stories that tend to be very fragile:
1. Addiction story
In an addiction story, one partner or both partners feel addicted to each other. They feel great anxiety at the thought of losing one another.
But addictions of any kind usually don’t go well. When addiction is a love story, people can burn each other out.
The relationship can become too intense, like a drug addiction, and as the rest of the partners’ lives go to hell, so does the relationship.
Or if one person gets over the addiction and the other does not, each partner may come to resent the other—one partner because the partner has betrayed their addiction; the other because they believe that addiction is mentally unhealthy and they don’t want to be clung to, perhaps to the point they feel they can’t breathe.
2. Art story
One partner loves the other for his or her physical beauty. As the person who is the work of art ages, the quality of the artwork may be seen as having become degraded.
The partner looking for the work of art may feel cheated—what happened to their lovely artwork?—and may start looking for a new work of art, so to speak.
The partner who was the work of art feels that their partner was only interested in their looks, not in them as a person.
3. Collection story
One individual collects partners; the other individual is part of the collection. Often, the partners do not know they are part of a collection.
Eventually, the partner who is part of the collection is likely to find out and be distressed to be just one of many partners; the collector, on the other hand, may believe it is time to refresh or upgrade their collection, and move on, leaving the partner bereft.
4. Game story
One or both partners feel like love is a game, played for fun and sport. The problem is that games can become tiring or boring.
Or one partner may decide to change the rules of the game, presenting the change as a take-it-or-leave it situation.
5. Autocratic government story
In this story, one partner totally dominates over the other. This story only can work if both partners are happy—forever—with one partner totally dominating the other.
But if the autocracy is forced by one partner on the other, the dominated partner can be expected, sooner or later, to rebel, sometimes with unfortunate consequences.
6. Horror story
In this story, one partner terrorizes the other. It is among the least savory of love stories.
A problem with horror stories is that they often escalate. The terrorizer needs more and more thrills, leading to a wholly unviable situation.
Occasionally, both partners like the atmosphere of terror.
More often, one partner does and the other does not. The terrorized partner seeks a way out and the terrorizer ends up either having to move on or, possibly, in prison, depending on how bad the terror was.
7. Mystery story
One of both partners like the mystery of the other. They are trying to find out who each other really is, much like in the Roxette song, “I Wish I Could Fly.”
The problem: Once the mystery is solved, the raison d’être of the relationship is gone. It’s now boring!
8. Police story
In the police story, one partner acts like a cop and the other like a criminal on the lam. Usually, the way this story enacts itself is by one partner doing careful surveillance on the other to make sure he or she does not get “out of line.”
Out of line, however, may mean nothing more than that the partner talked to an individual of the opposite sex.
O.J. Simpson appears to have had a police story that ended very badly with the death of his wife, Nicole. O. J. Simpson did not make a good policeman: Even though his lawyers got him off the hook for the alleged murder, he has had a history of getting in trouble with the police.
9. Theater story
In this story, one or both partners enact a role. The problem? It’s not you—it all is an act, and eventually, it may feel like an act too.
10. War story
The partners like to fight. Unless they are at war with each other, they feel like something is missing.
The problem: It’s exhausting to be fighting all or most of the time, and eventually the war becomes a war of attrition that wears away at the body and soul of one or both partners.
If any of these stories sound familiar to you—maybe you have one or more—now is a good time to think about whether you can find something attractive in another story.
Or you can ask yourself whether there is any way you can make the story durable and, more important, rewarding for both partners. Think about it now, before you’ve run out your time!