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ove is one of the most sought experiences by humans no matter their background or beliefs. Most of us seem to share the desire for a safe place where we can feel accepted, cared for, and understood. Maybe, for this reason, love stories and relationships are so commonly the theme of many artistic expressions, books, TV shows and so on. But it is also true that, very often, the views and advice on how to build and nurture a healthy relationship are misleading and of little help in that matter.

A good amount of these understandings can be described as based on a “romantic view of love”. An eternal feeling, almost magical experience, that will happen once you find the one person in the world that completes you – your missing piece. This perception is so problematic that often people struggle to build deep, supportive, and healthy relationships as opposed to shallow and/or suffocating ones. Shel Silverstein illustrates this unattainable goal on his brilliant book “The Missing Piece”.

The idea of finding the missing piece comprises the perception that we can eventually be or feel whole, completely fulfilled and perfect. That is never going to happen. Fist because we’re constantly changing as a result of our interaction with an ever-changing world – the perfect piece of today might not fit in so harmoniously tomorrow. Secondly because, in reality, there are so many aspects of a single human being that it would be necessary a Frankenstein’s work to put together a person that would fit us perfectly

This perception is so problematic that often people struggle to build deep, supportive, and healthy relationships as opposed to shallow and/or suffocating ones. 

So, if finding the perfect person is not the answer, then what is it? If we shouldn’t be looking for someone that would make us feel complete and peaceful, what should we look for? In reality, we need a change of perspective to better approach such an important area of our lives. 

An underlying idea on the “romantic love” expectation is that the pursuit of happiness is the main goal of one’s life. A relationship, therefore, should be another way to achieve such a goal. And more, the perfect partner should either be the solution for those things we struggle with or take into their own hands the task of making us happy. But just like it is not possible to have the perfect person by our side, it is also not wise to buy into the idea of happiness as the goal of life and the purpose of a relationship.

Making choices to achieve happiness brings the implicit idea that we should avoid discomfort and unpleasant moments. But life is not possible without them. If we set ourselves this goal, we will live in constant frustration and might end up choosing certain paths not because they are valuable or meaningful to us, but because we want to avoid some discomfort present somewhere else. 

And maybe in the pursuit for happiness (or of the missing piece), we end up not noticing anymore the beautiful butterflies, the adventures that the present brings, and the curious experiences or situations we might bump into along the way. In other words, we end up not enjoying the happy moments because we are so focused on looking for a unachievable happy life.

Patricia CarvalhoPsychologist in Amsterdam

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