In the way that social media scrolling can uncover amazing life lessons, a friend of mine wondered aloud why people stay in arrangements that they aren’t happy in. After some lively back-and-forth, I suggested that happiness – as measured by emotional affection – isn’t always the most important factor to everyone. It sounded highly chauvinistic coming out; after all, what could possibly be more important than the in-love feeling, and romantic fulfillment?
Lots of things, actually. Like responsibility, which we all know does not always harmonize with happiness. Have you ever had to forgo something you wanted to do for yourself, so that you could handle a more important purpose? Same principle applies. Being ‘happy’ is not always the end goal – in fact, accomplishing goals and surviving the tests of life can develop a bond rivaling romantic chemistry. For that reason, we must examine what it is to be young, black, and truly happy.
Collective ideas of love seem to rely heavily on Oxytocin levels: the chemical in the brain released during moments of passion. People seem primarily interested in how long you can keep them on cloud nine, and little else. A romantic love builds on emotional health, good treatment and “the feeling” that they give and receive. Its effects are not unlike eating large amounts of chocolate, which we all agree is a happiness in and of itself. The apex of this pyramid is emotional maintenance. That’s really great for Hollywood scripts, but for a 29-year old living in Southside Houston, real-world priorities often take precedent over feelings.
As a foundation for happiness, romantic love is highly volatile and based on moods, misunderstandings and external stress. Which is unfortunate, because people often use those closest to them as outlets, so it can be easy to say something that can’t be unsaid, or worse, altering the relationship irreparably as a side-effect of the craziness of life. This is the most unfortunate way of losing a partner, because you weren’t dissatisfied with them, but life’s pressures made you act out and drive them away.
The most difficult thing about romantic love is that it varies from person to person, meaning that something you think is special can be interpreted as basic by the person whose approval you seek the most. Romantic love is subjective because its standards are determined by its recipient – it’s not for you to say how well or poorly you performed. The jigsaw puzzle of finding someone who speaks a similar love language can quickly seem futile, after a string of mismatches. When people despair at finding love again, that’s how they stay in situations in which they’re unhappy. (But I couldn’t exactly type all that into her status.)
Like an alternative to traditional medicine, consider an alternative value system in your mix. Practical love is based on a joint effort to obtain the same standard of living. Your primary responsibility is to pave the best road for each other as you can. Have you ever met someone, and after awhile knew that you both have the same type of existence in mind, and seek a similar lifestyle? To the point where you want to give them exactly that? Whether you both want to live free, or dig in and grind for the comforts of life, what matters is it’s in tandem.
You actually develop a romantic bond based on the mutual respect of grinding together, struggling to pave a comfortable road to travel. When you do battle together, and prevail, you develop a soldiers’ bond with one another. Shared experiences go much further than shared emotions – people fall into and outta love all the time. But people who’ve been through the most together, are more reluctant to walk away from each other. People with nothing gained or lost but feelings always have greater ease throwing it away.
When practical love is the center of a romantic arrangement, it has more universally accepted principles: if a person brings A, B and C to the equation, you can build X, Y and Z. Because one truth is that your partner’s well-being is a direct reflection of your care for that human being. It is more than romance and sexual fulfillment – passion is not enough. You want your better half beaming with physical and spiritual wellness.
Some people view stability and security with the same or greater value as their personal feelings. Satisfaction can be drawn from several experiences, not just romantic ones. If romantic love is the three-point shot, practical love is a layup. Less exciting, but more frequent and equally necessary. Success of the relationship is viewed in terms of overall score, not how the points are scored. This sound highly superficial, but at the end of the day you can’t eat love. Financial instability is one of the top three reasons for divorce. And most people agree that a person’s financial health is very important to their decision to enter a relationship or not.
In the end, you must examine what you truly hold dear, what gives you maximum satisfaction in life and love. If romanticism is the apex of your Love Pyramid, seek it and demand that first. But remember that some people express their love differently than you, and place higher premiums on other things. For many men, we were conditioned to view our wealth like women view their sexual energy: the most valuable commodity we have to offer. If we are told that we are nothing without our ability to provide, and to be careful when choosing who to direct our resources towards, then what does that tell you about yourself when you find a man willing to share it with you?