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Should love be safe, or should it be challenging?

Posted June 5

I was recently talking with a friend who told me my standards are too high when it comes to finding love. She told me I am too busy looking for someone exciting to recognize the good things I already have in front of me. She asked me why I can't be happy with something safe, and why I am so adamantly against “settling.”

My immediate defense was that I was raised by parents who, in my eyes, have a fairy tale kind of love. My mom had several conversations with me as I was growing up about refusing to settle—and not being afraid to wait until I found my prince.

Now, I don’t necessarily believe that “playing it safe” is synonymous with “settling,” so I tried to push that out of my argument. I think my friend was just tired of me falling for men who were, in her words, “no good” for me.

The problem is that I always felt bored when I was with the men who were too safe. I wasn’t happy because I didn’t feel like I was learning or growing in any way when I was with them.

But in a sense, I agree with her. I am tired of getting hurt by the men who aren't “safe” enough.

So does that mean something is wrong with me? Why can't the “prince” my mom raised me to believe in be someone I feel safe with?

That idea raised a few questions. Should love be challenging, or should it be safe? Are my perceptions and expectations of love completely out of whack? What am I even looking for in a life companion?

I asked several friends and family members what they thought about love

The people whom I asked these questions have been in relationships ranging from a few months to several decades, so I expected several different answers. But, for the most part, they all agreed that love should be both challenging and safe.

“Almost by definition, a relationship will stretch and challenge you,” my dad said. “What matters is that it stretches and challenges in a positive, healthy way.”

A friend of mine said that in her past 30 years of marriage, she wouldn’t change any challenge or hardship she and her husband have faced.

“I think a relationship should be safe but I don’t know anyone who has had it easy, without challenge or has not been stretched,” she said.

It made me think back to a time I was part of a team-building experience and I was asked to climb a wooden-planked wall. It was terrifying.

I didn’t want to do it. I’m terrified of heights, and even though the people at the top said they would pull me up, I didn’t trust them. Right as I was ready to turn around and quit, my friend came up behind me, put his arm around my shoulders, and whispered, “you can do it. I’ll be right here the whole way.”

I think that’s what love should be.

His simple words of comfort made me feel safe enough to face my fears.

Granted, I didn’t enjoy climbing up that wall, but I’m grateful I had someone who supported and comforted me as I faced something outside my comfort zone.

“You should feel safe enough in a relationship to be able to stretch,” another friend of mine said.

Any relationship with love based at its center—a marriage, a friendship, love between a father and son, etc. should offer enough stability for both parties in the relationship to feel comfortable and grow.

Still, I definitely don’t believe anyone should settle for anything less than they deserve—I’m still a firm believer in that fairy tale “happily ever after,” but I’ve changed my definition of a “safe” relationship.

How do you think love should feel?

While the general consensus was that love should be safe enough to challenge you, I still had a few friends who leaned more toward one or the other.

“You’re not going to be happy if you don’t feel safe,” one friend said.

Another friend felt that love “definitely shouldn’t” feel safe, as safety defeats the purpose of growth.

“The whole point of developing relationships throughout your life is to grow as a person and as a partnership,” he said. “You don’t do any growing inside your comfort zone.”

So when it comes to finding love, it seems everyone has their own preference. What matters most is that you find someone who shares your values about how a relationship should work.

What do you think? Should love be safe, challenging or a combination of both?

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