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When Love Gets Restless – understanding the issues (Part 1).

I was mesmerized recently by this version of Kate Tempest’s poem ‘Hold your own’. It stopped me in my tracks. It was this section particularly that caught my attention.

Nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole
This whole thing thrives on us feeling always incomplete
And it is why we will search for happiness in whatever thing it is we crave in the moment
And it is why we can never really find it there
It is why you will sit there with the lover that you fought for
In the car you sweated years to buy
Wearing the ring you dreamed of all your life
And some part of you will still be unsure that this is what you really want
Stop craving
Hold your own

Is your love feeling restless? Have you found that these last weeks have shown cracks in your relationship, that you hadn’t seen before, or deepened existing cracks? Are you questioning the future/the present/the past? In any long-term relationship, these things are entirely normal.

I have just celebrated 20 years of marriage to my amazing partner. 20+ years of adventure, dancing, dreaming big and making stuff happen. 20 years of deep loving. Despite this though, I have felt that ‘craving’, that Kate describes, for someone or something, other than my husband. There have been painful times we have had to work through, together. Even though I have everything I could ever wish for, the craving can sneak up on you and whisper questions in your head – ‘is this it?’ ‘Is it enough’?

As I reflected on Kate’s poem, I knew immediately where to find the answers. It was like the moment in the film ‘Love Actually’ when Liam Neeson’s character (Daniel) tells his heart-broken son that ‘we need Kate and we need Leo, and we need them now!’ I knew I needed Natasha Lunn and I needed Conversations On Love now!

I have found my subscription to The COL newsletter – made up of interviews and personal essays on love – like a breath of fresh air. I knew that the wisdom of how to respond to this sense of craving, the feeling of when love becomes restless, would be found within these pages. There is so much gold to be found there, but I want to highlight some ‘best bits’ on this subject here.

Will Storr

Author and journalist Will Storr  wrote, ‘My wife is not The One’. She’s one of many women I might have fallen in love with and married, happily. .. the irony is, when you’ve been together for years, your shared experiences with another person do make them irreplaceable. Perhaps the myth is real, that The One isn’t given, but earned.

One thing a researcher said, that has helped in my all my relationships since, is a) relationship satisfaction goes up and down like the stock market. And b) the only certain thing in any relationship is conflict. Long-term relationships do go up and down like the stock market. You can feel absolutely miserable one month, then a couple months later you’ve almost forgotten the worrying bit. Short-term thinking may have ended lots of relationships that didn’t have to end.

The other thing that’s important, is accepting that you’re both going to change. You’ve got to bend and give each other room to do that. I think that goes badly when people don’t step back and allow them to do that…I think it’s about taking the ego out of it.’

Esther Perel

The Belgium psychotherapist, author and thought-leader (and one of our our favourites) said: Happiness is not a pursuit these days, it’s a mandate. You have to be happy. And you are entitled, in the name of your happiness, to do all kinds of things. So people are constantly asking, ‘Is my marriage good enough? Could it be better? Maybe I don’t have to deal with this, I’ll find myself someone else.’ So the consumer mentality of ‘I can do better’… you know ‘good enough’ is not in vogue anymore – it’s all about the best. So you don’t just leave because you are miserable or because you’re really unhappy, you leave because you believe you could be happier.

Sometimes it’s amazing, this thing called love. One day you just think, ‘I’ve had it, I’m out of here, I’m so done with you, I can’t take another minute of this’. The next morning you wake up and you squeeze the person and say, ‘I’m glad I’m waking up with you’. It’s this bizarre thing, it just comes and goes. And it’s really complicated. So invest in it. Because you learn to be in a relationship, it’s not a given.

Dani Shapiro

The American author of 5 novels said this: Who hasn’t hated their partner at one moment or another? That flash of ‘I don’t like what I’m seeing now,’ or ‘this particular moment feels untenable’? A long-term relationship is like a clear body of water. At times there might be a drop of something that isn’t clear, that’s toxic and dark, that falls into that water. In a clear body of water that drop dispels, it spreads, and it becomes absorbed by all of those other moments and history. I think where couples get into trouble is when those moments, those toxic drops or ‘I hate you’s’, become the fabric of the relationship and the reality, not the other way around. Life is always full of provocation and threats, and in a long-term relationship, more than once, a couple will feel ‘we need to pay attention to the relationship right now’. I think when couples falter, it’s because one or both people can’t do that. They don’t notice when it’s time to pay attention.

In a long-term relationship ‘life continues to happen. We have a profound human desire to hold the world still, to have that feeling of ‘I want to freeze this moment in time. This is a moment of beauty. It’ll never be better than this.’ And of course we can’t; life continues to churn and move and shift and change. In a long-term relationship all the selves that we’ve ever been, both individually and as a couple, are still inside us. At the same time life is doing what life is doing, which is both beautiful and relentless.’

Susan Quilliam

Is a British relationship expert who specializes in love and sexuality (and also a friend of ours). Susan said: There will always be times when we come together and connect, and there will always be times during even the best relationships when there is distance between us.We have to be grown up about it and say, right, we’ll work at coming back together, but we’re not going to panic, because we trust each other. I think as human beings we try to improve. David Schnarch said that a relationship is a people-growing machine – it’s a way that we grow.

Susie Orbach,

is a British psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, writer and social critic who says that ‘life isn’t static. And if love is any good, people should be able to develop and find new pleasures and delights in the other, rather than it being just a re-tread all the time.You want part of it to be a re-tread, and to be reliable and sustaining, but you want some of it to be, “oh god, I didn’t know you were interested in that”. Or to bring something that is novel to it. Because we’re not static.

Andre Aciman

The American-Egyptian professor and author of Call Me By Your Name asks this: Are two people ever on an equilibrium of their emotions? They can’t be. It’s like a mixture that is constantly solidifying and re-solidifying itself, one atom and another atom.That’s why I believe in fluidity. I don’t think two people are in love together at the same time, ever. One is always more and one is always less. It’s the same as when you make an appointment to meet someone at a café; there is always one who arrives before the other, and one who arrives later.

Sheila Heti

Who wrote the book ‘Motherhood’: If I’d imagined seven years ago what kind of relationship I would like to be in, in my thirties, it would’ve been boring and easy and had little to do with myself or with another specific individual. Whereas the reality that I find myself in is so complicated and complex and challenging—I would have forgotten to put those ingredients in. I wouldn’t have put in the ingredient of ambivalence, or the suffering that ends up being generative and bonding and which makes a deeper love. If you were imagining an ideal relationship, you would keep those things out of it, but they are what make you feel like you’ve made something with somebody else that you don’t want to throw away, because you’ve gone through hard things together and stayed together.

Ariel Levy

The New Yorker journalist examined her own relationship with control in The Rules Do Not Apply. Here she talks about her experience of IVF, however, her sentiment I think could apply to those relationships that are strained: “…at a certain point, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I thought, I can’t live like this, in this state of craving. I want to enjoy my life. I want to be present in my relationship and in my life, as it is.”

*Let us know if you’ve enjoyed reading this, and we will release the next blog in this series. This will offer up some wisdom, from many sources of the COL interviews, on how we can help ourselves through the tricky times.

Susannah Baker

After giving up a senior nursing role spanning 14 years, and moving to North Devon, Susannah is now a founder and trustee of The Pickwell Foundation, the owner of a holiday business; an interior designer, partner to Steve and a mum to two teenagers.

Keeping her hand in with the nursing side, she works as a Community First Responder for the South West Ambulance Service.

The question of 'what makes relationships great', together with a real curiosity of how people stay together for a lifetime, has always caused much fascination.  

On a search to discover some answers for herself, One:Retreat was born.