According to my grandma, "A good romantic relationship takes effort, not work." How's that for a pearl of wisdom with terrifying implications?
The thing is, my grandma was right. Effort is a necessary part of nurturing a joyful relationship. Work, on the other hand, is not.
I mean, who wants to "work on their relationship"? Really. We work at... well... our work. Work is transactional, which means that we do something and get paid for it. There is a task, an objective and a reward. Ideally, we love our work. But do you know anyone who is "in love" with their job?
Effort means investing energy. Sure we put effort into work, but we also make efforts in other life domains. People tend to make an effort to do things that we enjoy, and avoid those activities which we dislike. You made the effort to read HuffPost, which by definition means that you gain something positive from the experience. How do I know? Well, I'm pretty certain that reading this blog isn't likely to be part of anyone's work.
Effort often feels good (even if in a twisted kind of way), as with exertion during intense physical exercise. Effort is also a key ingredient in personal achievement. We strive for our goals because they have meaning, and investing energy in the process contributes to that meaning. Shared effort is often even more rewarding, as anyone who has played on a team already knows.
My point is not to make a nit-picky exposition on semantics. Work? Effort? What's the point? Simply this: I want to share my grandma's wisdom this Valentine's Day. It's simple really, and the difference between effort and work is all about joy.
If you're in a relationship right now, consider how you are feeling. Do you find joy with your partner? If so, nurture that joy with effort. Take the time to invest in the little things that cultivate joy. Cherish each other, and celebrate your bonds.
Romantic relationships are different from all others: They are based on companionship and infused with magic. If the magic is there, even if only a tiny spark, then make the effort to feed the flames which make your union hot (and hotter). Sex is what you make of it: the mechanics are simple enough, but the passion and communion are personal. Remember, all fires need to be fed; and the heat of romance is no different.
If the magic isn't there, then you've got a different set of issues. Can you rekindle it? If so, it's worth the effort -- that is, assuming you want to continue with the relationship. Maybe you have a history, children, shared interests, great companionships, but even with all that good stuff, it's somewhere between cool and cold in bed. Make the effort here to see if you can spark the flames (again). But notice should that effort become work. The difference is in the motivation and intention. Effort feels constructive, joyful and willing.
In contrast, work (whether in bed or anywhere else) is usually infused with obligation; it can be heavy, tasteless and sometimes even despairing. Sometimes we have to work under horrible circumstances. That's a different topic. But a romance should be joyful, and if it isn't and the magic is gone (and not coming back) then it's time for closure.
Each of us deserve the chance for joy in our romantic lives. We are human; we have emotional and physical feelings. We come alive in the heat of love; it is our birthright. Make the effort, each and every day, and keep your fires bright. And if the ashes are cold, and there's nothing left to spark, then let it go kindly, respectfully and confidently. Go find that magic and feed the fires of the heart.
For more by Deborah Schoeberlein, click here.
For more on relationships, click here.