Opinion The Marriage Issue

Why love alone might sink your relationship

"Love is not the only ingredient that makes a relationship work."

By Asma Al Zayani

From my 22 years of being on earth, I’ve learnt to pay attention to details, to dissect everything we view as complex, and to not let our incidents pass as lightly as dust.

You may be asking, where am I going with this? Well, because of a recent incident, I’ve come to an important conclusion, and that is that love alone might set our relationships up for failure.

Hear me out. On a casual night not too long ago, my best friend and I were out to have some dessert with a mutual friend. The night was going well so far, and everyone was having a good time.

Interrupted by her mobile notification, our mutual friend picked up her phone anxiously. We asked her if something was wrong.

“He’s watching me” she replied.

“Who? Him?” we asked.

A little background:  our mutual friend and her significant other are the embodiment of a classic Khaleeji story of a couple who dated before marriage, and had to hide their fervid love from the public for years until it was socially acceptable for them to publicly be known as a couple (i.e. when they got married).

“Yes, I have to share my live location with him. It’s a thing,” she said, trying to brush us off .

It was only a matter of seconds until the awkward silence was broken by her phone ringing again. “My Only Love” her phone read, next to a big red heart emoji. She frantically started to recite verses of prayer.

“Is everything okay?” we asked.

She ignored us and picked up her phone, “Hey. Yes, I’m at the café with the girls, you already have my location!”

Her eyes began to wander nervously, “Okay, I will. Yes, I already told the driver to pick me up in an hour. Bye.”

At this point, my friend and I shared a look that reeked doubt.

This time, our mutual friend proceeded to take a photo of our table setting.

“He wants a photo as proof” she sighed. “He’s too protective of me,” she continued, choking up.

It was at this point that I realised that truly, love is not all that there should be to a relationship.

Now, does our mutual friend love her significant other? Of course, she does. We can never judge the way someone feels towards another person. However, is their relationship functional? Obviously, it’s not.

After that night, and after a long conversation with my best friend, and after a lot of thoughtful reflection, here’s what I have to say:

Fundamentally, I think the terms “love” and “relationship” should be approached exclusively. Unfortunately, we tend to fall into the common mistake of using the terms as synonyms for each other, and accordingly embroil the essence of the two.

But what is love, anyway? From my perspective, I would define love as safety – or at least place safety as the basis of love. When we feel safe with someone, our emotions flow with ease, breezing along everything that rests well within our soul. Hence, I believe that whenever safety is present, love is present between and within us.

In the wise words of my best friend, “Love is overrated. You can fall in love with a dog, with a tree, with anything… It’s not everything there is to a relationship!” And I have to agree with her statement. We tend to fall in love with whatever resonates with us, with whatever we feel a favorable emotional connection to. This is why we might fall in love with a painting, or with a song. It is the reason why our hearts skip a beat grand jeté-style when we hear the sound of our loved one’s footsteps at the door.

As sweet as love is, it truly is not all when it comes to maintaining relationships. Love is not the only ingredient that makes a relationship work, in spite of how critical it is. This is why people choose to stay in abusive relationships, for example. Although the matter has its complications and facets, love does exist between the two even though it is expressed through violence. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to justify abusive relationships. I’m simply explaining the logic that lies behind them.

In the case of our mutual friend, she is still madly in love with her significant other. However, their relationship was bound to be dysfunctional due to three factors: a. his overbearing, dominant behavior, b. her suppression and c. their lack of trust and communication. These three factors are the chains that are weighing down the love in their relationship.

On the other hand, to have a functional relationship you need love. Otherwise, it’s just bland and tasteless (and if you ask me, it’s not worth going for). Building on from that, you need to strengthen that base with mutual respect, shared values, acceptance and understanding. Through compassion, you must be willing to acknowledge each other’s needs and encompass as much as you can from each other.

I’m determined that relationships can’t flourish without love, but that having love alone can sink our relationships.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees, and affiliates.

Asma Al Zayani is a 22-year-old Bahraini who was raised in Muharraq. She has always found writing to be her best medium for self-expression.