Collaborative Post¦ It’s a sad fact of life that most relationships don’t work out. But what’s worse is that many of us don’t understand why.
Why was it, for instance, that your last romantic relationship failed?
Why do you always get into fights with your lover?
And why do we think everything is going okay, only to find out in a single brutal moment that everything we believed about the person we’re with isn’t true?
There are, of course, many reasons why our relationships don’t work out the way that we want them to. But part of the explanation has to do with our conflation of what we’re going to call “lovers” and “partners.”
What Are Lovers And What Are Partners?
We all know intuitively what a lover is. They’re a person with whom we share our most intimate moments, both physically and emotionally and who we think about romantically. In short, they’re the people with whom we experience that biochemical “high” we call love.
A lover, however, is not a partner. A lover might fulfil your immediate need for intimacy and passion, but that does not mean that they are automatically somebody with whom you should spend your life: just ask expert divorce solicitors. A lover is a thrill: an excitement, but unless they tick a lot of other boxes, they aren’t somebody on whom you want to rely for your other needs and life goals.
Partners can be lovers, but they are, in general, much more than that. A partner is somebody who is aligned with you and wants you to achieve your goals in life just as much as they want to achieve theirs. Partners go out of their way to support you in whatever capacity you require, and expect you to do the same for them in areas in which you have expertise.
Partners commit to each other and decide to consciously forgo the excitement of active love lives in return for stability and order. A partner won’t betray you, run off with your money, or pretend to love you while carrying out an affair with another person. Partners are with you for the long haul, even when it doesn’t benefit them.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture which confuses the two concepts. When you fall madly in love with somebody, you automatically expect them to have the qualities of a partner, but there’s no fundamental reason why this should be the case. Sure, a lover can make you laugh and get your heart racing, but that doesn’t mean that he or she will provide a secure income, remain faithful, or support you through the tough times. Lovers are fickle creatures because what many people interpret as “love” is a transient feeling. It washes over you with the force of a tsunami, only to fade away just as quickly as it arrived. Unless you have the right approach to love, it’s almost always a temporary experience which subsides when the reality of the relationship becomes clear.
Should You Marry Your Lover?
Many centuries ago, the western world abandoned arranged marriages. They were an affront to human freedom. Nobody should be forced to spend a lifetime with a person they don’t know, haven’t met, and probably wouldn’t choose if they had the choice. The philosophy that society should choose who we marry was replaced by the idea that we should choose a person we love.
Sounds good on paper, but there are some problems. The first issue is the fact that most of us aren’t particularly good at thinking rationally about who we should keep as lovers, and who we should commit to fully. You might meet an attractive man on holiday who is good at surfing, and he may make you laugh and feel comfortable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s partner material. He could be the most satisfying lover you’ve ever had, but that has no bearing on his ability to stand by you through the rough times, help you to reach your other life goals, raise kids, or provide a decent home.
The trick is to get better at understanding the difference between a lover and a partner, and to recognise which you have. You may have met a great person: somebody you both love and who has the qualities of a partner – that’s great. But if you’re honest with yourself and look at the facts, what do they say? Is this a person who can make your life better? Or are there things about them which could damage your prospects long term? If it’s the latter, it’s best to keep them as lovers and enforce a strict policy of shielding them from the rest of your life.
What Does That Look Like In Practice?
Let’s say that you’re in the throes of love with a lover, but you know deep down that they’re not a partner. You can either choose to end the relationship there and then. Or you can continue to pursue it, see where it goes, and enjoy the ride.
It’s crucial, however, to ensure that you protect yourself from the inevitable demise of the relationship. Lovers won’t stick around forever. The first way to protect yourself is to keep your emotions in check and be stoical about the whole thing. It’s nice while it lasts, but don’t delude yourself that this is something that can last forever.
Second, you’ll want to keep your finances separate. Partners are great because they work with you to achieve a mutually beneficial financial outcome – something you both want. Lovers, however, may not, and might use your resources to finance their lifestyle without reciprocation.
Finally, you’ll want to protect yourself sexually. Partners are faithful. Lovers may not be. You don’t want to be saddled with disease (or children if you’re not ready). Use protection.
We all want partners who fulfil all of our needs, but we also need to stay in the realm of reality when it comes to relationships. Intimacy is physically, financially, and emotionally dangerous. We should embrace love if we find it, but protect ourselves against the dangers that it brings.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.