Of all the unfair ways we fight with our partners, one of the most egregious has to be when we use the phrase: “If you really loved me, you would…”. And what are some examples of requests that complete this phrase?
“…go to that event with me.”
“…move in with me.”
“…let me buy this.”
“…have a another child.”
But perhaps its most ubiquitous use has to do with anything sexual:
“…have sex more frequently.”
“…try anal sex.”
“…do a three-way.”
“…go down on me.”
The problem, of course, is that it is wholly unfair to use your partner’s agreement to participate in a specific act for you as evidence of their love. If you don’t think this is true, reverse the situation. Would you do anything—ANYTHING—for your partner, no matter how much you didn’t want to do it? No matter how uncomfortable you were with the request? No matter how unpleasant or even abhorrent it was to you?
Well why not? Don’t you love them?
Now, hopefully, you get it. Your partner’s love is not about compliance any more than yours is. At this point, it would be helpful to remind yourself what love is. Everyone from the ancient Greeks to the rock band, Foreigner, has contemplated its meaning.
The romantic novelist, Jojo Moyes, has an eloquent take on love:
“What love is depends on where you are in relation to it. Secure in it, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air – you exist within it, almost un-noticing. Deprived of it, it can feel like an obsession; all-consuming, a physical pain. Love is the driver for all great stories: not just romantic love, but the love of parent for child, for family, for country. It is the point before consummation of it that fascinates: what separates you from love, the obstacles that stand in its way. It is usually at those points that love is everything.”
In the absence of something definitive, I can only offer you my perspective with a series of qualities that, for me, are inextricably linked with love: acceptance, respect, compromise, knowing, being known, being vulnerable, listening, empathy, patience, caring and trust.
So whether or not your partner is willing to participate in a specific sexual activity is not proof of their love. A better indicator is whether or not they’re willing to listen and try to understand why your request is so important to you. That’s love. And if he or she can’t accommodate you, it would be loving of them to express awareness of, and empathy for your feeling of disappointment.
And you could return love by accepting that your partner has a different feeling about the request. You don’t have to agree or even understand it (although just like your partner, you could make an attempt to understand where he or she is coming from.)
Unless you enter couplehood with a robot, you will never find a partner willing to indulge every single request you have, sexual or otherwise. And when you look back on the beginning of your relationship, it’s safe to assume you didn’t fall in love because your partner did everything you asked, but because he or she made you want to be a better human being, and they enhanced your life by simply being who they were. It would be helpful to remind yourself of this from time to time.
So do yourself and your relationship a favor: eliminate this oft-repeated phrase from your future dialogues. It’s not only unfair—it’s plain specious reasonin.
If you really loved your partner, you wouldn't say it anymore. ;-)