How Much Work Should You Put into Your Relationship?

Is a relationship that requires effort worth that effort?

Posted Jul 10, 2011

In my last post on wei wu wei, I recommended that people take a "nondoing" approach to finding love: rather than forcing the matter by seeking it out and pushing it along, it is better to simply keep yourself open and receptive to love, letting it happen naturally.

Great—but then what?

Let's say you find someone according to wei wu wei: you meet by accident, find you have fantastic chemistry, talk for hours and enjoy yourselves, and before long you are in a wonderful relationship. Can wei wu wei keep the relationship going like this without further effort?

Here's where it gets complicated. In the last post, I mentioned that some goals are best achieved through nonaction while others aren't; you shouldn't "try" to be happy, for instance, but you do have to expend effort to mow the lawn. It may seem that an ideal relationship should be effortless to maintain; as some have said, a relationship that requires work is not a relationship worth working on. This can ring true especially if the path to the relationship was so magical that you expect it to sustain itself just as effortlessly.

But keep in mind that, even if two people came together naturally and easily, they still have a lot to learn about each other, which comes with time and, inevitably, some degree of conflict—conflict which will not disappear if you ignore it, but will only feed on itself and rear its ugly head later in the relationship. Or, circumstances in one or both of your lives may change, regarding such things as work, family, or health, all of which can introduce frictions into the relationship—again, frictions that need to be discussed (at the very least), not ignored. Despite these interferences with your smooth path to long-lasting love—things which, for lack of a better term, we can call "life"—it may be an incredibly beneficial relationship for both people. And isn't a relationship that wonderful worth a little work?

In general, it is not a betrayal of the principle of wei wu wei to work on your relationship; it's simply a recognition that not all things can be achieved using it. Wei wu wei may have brought you together, providing a great start toward a fulfilling and enriching relationship, but unfortunately you can't rely on it to keep it that way. As time goes on, care and love grow deeper, but incompatibilities and complications grow as well, and effort will be necessary if both partners want the relationship to endure.


You can follow me on Twitter and also at the following blogs: Economics and Ethics, The Comics Professor, and The Literary Table.

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