Jane Austen was the queen of “What’s love got to do with it?” Perhaps that is why her stories still resonate a hundred years after they were written. Let’s take a look.
- There is no doubt that Mariane Dashwood and John Willoughby love each other. Love was not enough to make him stay with her. He ditched her for the heiress.
- Fanny Price has no options for how to support herself. Yet backs out of her one day engagement with Henry Crawford because she doesn’t trust that his love will last. She doesn’t feel emotionally safe with him despite his money.
- Fanny Price’s mom was from a rich family, but followed her heart and married someone who was poor. We see how love was not able to make her happy. The crowded conditions, too many children, foul food, and her husband’s drinking made her miserable.
So what is going on here? Aren’t we told from the cradle that love is the most powerful force of all. Love conquers all. Love will find a way.
Reality is not very romantic unfortunately. Maslow was on to something when he created his hierarchy of needs. This shows why love is not enough and can help you get things back on track if you or your partner is saying, “What’s love got to do with it?”
Our primary needs center around survival. If we don’t have a place to live, food, air, water, and sleep, we are going to be preoccupied with acquiring it. When we are in a relationship with someone who threatens our survival by spending rent money on treats, the love goes very quickly. We aren’t our highest and best selves when we don’t have food and sleep. This can make us difficult partners. If this is where you are, focus on creating a strong foundation. You can’t build a strong individual, much less a relationship, if you are struggling for survival.
Suggestions for what do to if you are struggling here:
- Work on MEDDSS – practicing life skills until they become second nature; exercise; eat a clean, healthy diet; if you are on medications, take them as prescribed; go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. Get 8 hours of sleep per night. Engage in some sort of spiritual practice daily.
- Get a job that covers your expenses.
- Create a budget. Stay within your budget.
- Pay your bills on time.
- Honor reciprocity. Give as much as you take to avoid resentment and being a drain on the relationship. This doesn’t have to be you do half the laundry and I do half. It should feel like both are carrying their weight.
- Respect your partner’s need for sleep and self care.
Once we have a stable foundation, we begin to focus on our health, financial security, safety from bodily harm, and emotional safety. This motivates us to move away from things that harm us – like abusive people, joblessness, lower paying jobs, unhealthy lifestyles, and situations that threaten our emotional stability. It also motivates us to move towards things that we perceive will make our lives better, such as buying health insurance, getting an alarm system, and learning coping skills.
Suggestions for what to do if you’re struggling here.
- If you are not making the money you’d like to make, or don’t have enough for savings, consider upgrading your skills, getting another job, or scaling back your spending.
- Get checkups as an early warning signal so that you can catch things before they become big problems.
- If you are not physically safe, tell someone. Get help.
- If you are dependent upon someone for your safety, learn how to provide safety for yourself so that you can be an equal partner.
- Engage in self care regularly to prevent health issues.
- Respect other people’s emotional and physical boundaries. Don’t be abusive or manipulative.
- If you are not emotionally safe, get help. Fix the problems or get out.
- If you have trouble managing emotions, learn how to do this. It’s a skill. We can all do this. It’s not just how we are made.
- If you are dealing with a mental health or substance abuse issue, get help. You can’t be a full partner if you are struggling with basics.
- Be impeccable with your word. Use respectful language. Do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. Mean what you say. Say what you mean. No white lies. No lies of omission. Lies are incredibly destabilizing.
- If you go from 0 to 60 in the bat of an eye, you may have a trauma issue. The same is true if you shut down during confrontation. Love can’t flourish without open, honest communication – including conflict resolution.
“Love” includes any type of connection. Friendships, fraternal organizations, romantic relationships, and religious affiliations are examples of things that fall in this category. We all need to belong. However, one of the reason why relationships are so hard is that we are often given everything as children, then don’t learn how to provide for our physiological or safety needs. This means we have no foundation for a healthy relationship.
John Willoughby married the heiress because he didn’t want to lose his home, financial security, or social position. Henry Crawford offered Fanny Price a home, but he threatened her emotional safety. When Fanny Price’s mom chose love over security, that choice ultimately cost her her love.
We all want the whole pyramid. Each level of the pyramid sets you up for success at the higher levels. It may not be glamorous or sexy to go to work, budget, and provide for yourself while living within your means, but it makes you a stable person. It may not be fun to learn self control, work out, and save, but it helps us to be stable.
If you are not asking yourself “What’s love got to do with it?” when you are evaluating a romantic prospect, you may be setting yourself up for disaster. We can’t eat love. A lover who costs you physical or emotional safety comes at a high cost. If you can’t provide these things for yourself, you’re not a very good prospect either.
But don’t do the boring work of learning how to be safe for someone else. Do it for you. You can only build self esteem and self actualization on a stable foundation. You can only be a whole person, a happy person, when you take care of yourself.