Love is a full-time job
Loving someone is a full-time job. Yes, I’m calling it a job. Whether you want to admit it or not, loving someone, being in a relationship, maintaining the love, planning surprises, having sex, doing the dishes, dealing with family, being a team – all of it is a great deal of work. If you are blessed and things are going smooth, this work may seem effortless. You might not even notice it; it will be second nature. But it is work. The sooner we accept it as a neutral reality of love and stop looking at it as a negative reality, we will be able to deal with the problems that can sometimes arise in it. I am not calling it a chore, though it can sometimes feel like it, just work. We all have jobs, and we all do them, mostly without complaining. It is the necessity.
What happens, however, is when the partnership/team isn’t in sync, this loving someone business becomes negatively effortful.
Witnesses to each other’s lives
At the end of the day, the entire ritual of being a couple is only worth it when you both feel the love for each other. If that’s missing, the ritual starts becoming futile and the relationship starts to die. Sometimes it’s the beginning of the end, and sometimes it is the warning which when heeded revives a relationship.
After all, we fall in love with each other, and become tied together in a variety of social contracts, not only to procreate but also for companionship and many other things. We want witnesses for our lives. We want to be seen and heard, and partners do that for each other. We notice each other’s lives in a whirlwind of lives. There are billions of us and our lives could get lost in that chaos, but the fact that our partner notices our lives, records it, lives it with us makes the whole thing worthwhile.
Related reading: When my loving husband stood by me in a dirty hospital
Breaking the unspoken vow
What happens then when our partners take away that witnessing? When a relationship starts to fizzle out, people tend to look away from their partners. Their attention goes to different things, and the other person starts to feel ignored. This, of course, isn’t a conscious process every time, but even the unconscious turning away can be severely hurtful in a relationship. Paying attention to each other is the unspoken vow that couples take when they get together. No one falls in love because they find the other person boring. Falling in love makes people find their partners interesting, even if others think they are boring. I’m not suggesting that our partners are our sources of entertainment, but they better be interesting if we are going to spend our lives with them.
It cuts deeper than we might see
Which is exactly why a partner ignoring you can hurt so much, to a degree where people get depressed and even think about ending their lives. Not only because their lovers stop noticing them, but because that lack of noticing erodes meaning out of their lives. When the person you care most about, the one who’s your sunshine and starlight, stops finding you interesting, it can make you question your existence.
You see, some people love with their heart and soul, they hold nothing back and leave all their cards on the table. For them, this gamble is worth the reward. The ends justify the means. They don’t hold back, because for them loving someone that way feels inauthentic. Whether you love this way or not, when the other person takes their love away after giving it for some time, it produces a void. This void can be painful and grappling with it isn’t easy. People feel like they’ve lost a limb, they are in physical pain and they can get clinically depressed in such a situation.
The stigma harms further
This becomes even more problematic when we take into account that our society stigmatises mental illness and discussing our emotions is considered a frivolous act. For a society that laps up Bollywood melodramas, we sure are tight-lipped and judgemental about our own emotions.
Dialogues for a better future
What we need to realise is that there’s a sense of being left behind that people can feel in such situations. Free and open dialogue needs to become a regular activity. We need to educate ourselves about mental health. We also need to talk more about the evolving forms of marriage and romantic relationships. Unless we talk about things, we will be ignoring the epidemic of mental illnesses that occur in a relationship.
We teach our kids a lot about the rivers of our land, the politics of our people, the languages of our ancestors but we fail to equip them in matters of the heart. We don’t teach them about consent, we don’t talk about the way love works. We just send them off to figure out love on their own. While every love experience is unique and subjective, there are basic rules of the game that we can share with each other. Depressed people and their clueless partners are just a symptom of a faulty system. We need to teach people how to communicate so that they keep witnessing each other. If love is what makes the world go round, clear communication is what keeps love going around and we need more of that.