Is Love Really Enough To Make A Relationship Work?
A conversation on Love Is Blind highlights the importance of compatibility.
Anyone who’s ever been in love knows how powerful the feeling is. Scientifically, the experience of falling for someone has been compared to a physical high — giving truth to the saying, “love is a drug.” It’s intoxicating to feel seen and wanted by another person. But is this all-consuming love enough to sustain a relationship for the long haul? And maybe more importantly... should it be?
The question of whether “love is enough” comes up directly in Love Is Blind Season 3. In Episode 9, Colleen Reed and Matt Bolton are at dinner together shortly before their wedding day. They discuss the hurdles they’ve faced as a couple — Matt’s lack of emotional availability stemming from his past heartbreak, Colleen’s uncertainty about the relationship — before Matt poses the question, “Do you believe love is enough for marriage?” Colleen pauses, then responds, “If I love you, then shouldn't it be enough?” Neither seems to have figured out the answer.
This isn’t the first time Colleen and Matt have questioned their readiness for marriage. In Episode 5, after Colleen has a friendly conversation with Cole (another guy she dated in the pods), Matt gets upset with her for not “shutting it down.” In Episode 7, he threatens to leave after she stays out late one night. At the dinner table conversation, Colleen tells him, “I don’t know, if sh*t hits the fan, if you’ll be there.” Matt, instead of alleviating that concern, says, “It’s a valid point ... I might not be that good at expressing my emotions.” Colleen then tells him that she is sure she loves him, but she isn’t sure she can marry him.
It’s obvious that these two care for each other, but whether they’re emotionally compatible is a different story. “Love is great. That's the goal,” Kiaundra Jackson, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Elite Daily. “But that by itself does not keep anyone committed to you.” No matter how powerful your feelings, there’s the reality of living in a relationship with another person, day in and day out. “If you don't have elements like respect, honesty, trust, accountability, support, and commitment, you just being in love will not sustain anything long-term,” Jackson says. By highlighting her fears about Matt’s emotional commitment, Colleen is speaking to this tension: When things get hard, they might not have a foundation to stand on. Falling in love is one thing, but staying in love is the bigger undertaking.
This conversation may not be a groundbreaking one, but it’s interesting to see on a show that idealizes “finding your person.” What the Disney movies you grew up watching do, along with reality shows like Love Is Blind and The Bachelor, Jackson says, is “romanticize the falling in love part” by narrowing in on a couple’s initial bond. It’s prime packaging for entertainment — who wants to watch day-in-the-life shows about married couples, unless they’re Real Housewives or the Kardashians? — but it leaves out a lot of the actual... well, reality. “I think that it has subconsciously altered how we view real relationships,” Jackson says. “We want that fantasized, romanticized love ... and we're going to walk into the sunlight happily ever after, when that is not how relationships work in real life.” That’s only a sliver of what really happens when the cameras are off.
Love is the work of maintaining your bond.
It’s also unrealistic to ask if “love is enough” as if it’s this unchangeable, static thing. “Love is a verb, not simply a feeling,” family and relationship therapist Nicole Richardson tells Elite Daily. “Love must come with actions in order to protect the relationship: actions like listening, being willing to compromise, understanding, and patience.” Love is the work of maintaining your bond. It’s an active commitment to saying, “Yes, I still want to be here with you.”
And what that looks like one day might be entirely different five or 10 years later. “People change over time, so there must be effort on both sides to continue to be curious about each other and look for ways to accept each version of your partner,” Richardson says. As much as a relationship can thrive in the best times, it’s equally real during the worst times — and when you marry someone, you’re signing up for those challenges, too.
This isn’t to say that love isn’t meaningful, or that Love Is Blind’s premise can never work. Successful relationships from the show (hi, Lauren and Cameron!) prove it is possible to develop a deep connection with someone without seeing them face-to-face. But if neither party is willing to listen, adjust, and compromise, there’s no way the initial infatuation can carry them very far.
Instead, it’s the real-life moments that reveal whether two people are really compatible. “Relationships don't happen in a vacuum, they happen while we do life,” Richardson says. “When you're stressed at work or making a big and scary life decision, does your partner support and cheerlead? What if your best friend and partner don't get along? What if you don't want to live the same way (i.e. house chores, routines, geography)?” You can love someone deeply, but if your visions for life don’t align, there’s no way you can be the right fit for one another.
For Colleen and Matt (and anyone who’s recently fallen in love), they’ll need to decide if staying together is something they both want to fight for. “For a lot of people, there is still the idea that once your find your person, the work is done, but that simply is not true,” Richardson says. “Once you find your person, you move from the work of finding to the work of maintaining love.” Love is significant, but it’s not “enough” on its own — and arguably, the active choice to love and grow with someone is the more meaningful part of the equation.
Kiaundra Jackson, licensed marriage and family therapist
Nicole Richardson, family and relationship therapist