I noticed this piece of street art in east London a few months ago (this photo is from the South Bank Global Poetry System website http://gps.southbankcentre.co.uk/poems/1970/lets_adore_and_endure_each_other), and it led me to think about human relationships, how they really are a mixture of adoring and enduring one another.  It seems to me that if we have either too much or not enough of either adoration or endurance, then a relationship is in difficulty.

Popular images and narratives of romance would tell us that adoration is everything.  When the true lovers come together, it’s happy ever after.  That’s where the story ends or the film credits begin to roll.  But this is far from the truth of everyday life.  The glow of romance does fade, even if it never entirely disappears, and other qualities are needed- companionship, respect, tolerance, and sometimes a gritty determination to stick at it, even when the going is tough.

But too much endurance and not enough adoration results in an existence of unhappy resignation.  We fall short of ourselves- what the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger called ‘existential guilt’- if we settle for a sort of everyday dullness, putting up with a situation that makes us miserable because we’re afraid to make changes, whether to rediscover the spark of adoration which was once there or to accept, sadly, that a relationship might need to end.  It might be that economic, family, or cultural circumstances mean that the only option we have is to stay and endure one another, in which case, we might need to find ways of making our life meaningful in other areas.

What is less often realised, however, is that, despite the romantic Hollywood scripts, too much adoration is not necessarily a good thing. Many artists and poets have sought to describe the experience of falling in love as a sort of ‘madness’.  Certainly, the dizzy infatuation of the early days of a passionate love affair can leave us feeling disoriented, out of control, and delirious with excitement.  We might feel like we have left the earth and are floating heavenwards. But if we stay too long in the clouds, we are at risk of losing ourselves in our desire for the other- what many psychologists would call an ‘obsession’.  Excessive adoration of another person can result in our feeling less than ourselves, rather than more.  We become overly preoccupied with the other person, her or his feelings, wishes, needs, to the extent that we lose touch with our own.  We are also likely then to idealise the other and have expectations of her/him which cannot possibly be met.  We are bound to be disappointed. Then we have to learn again that the real hard work of living and loving is to temper adoration with endurance.

Therapy is a good place to work out for yourself where is your optimal balance of adoration and endurance.  Are you settling for less than you need? Are you less tolerant and more starry-eyed than is conducive to good relationships? These are the sorts of questions that it can be hard to voice, but valuable to explore in a safe and confidential therapeutic relationship where you can clarify your own values, needs, and priorities.