Fish Love or Real Love?

We all say we “love” lots of things. “I love that TV show!” “I love Starbucks!” “I love the Yankees!”

But what we really mean is that we have strong feelings about something because it fulfills a need that we have. Well-known author and Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski uses the story of a man who says he’s eating a fish because he loves it. But is it really love to take a fish out of the water, kill it, and boil it? It’s not the fish that the man loves, but himself.

When you translate this to relationships, “fish love” is finding someone who seems like they can meet all of your physical and emotional needs. But this just turns your partner into a way to have your desires met. In many ways, this is what most of us go through in the honeymoon phase of our relationships. We see all of the great things about our partner and the various ways that they make us happy.

But this kind of fish love can’t last. Why? Because eventually our significant other won’t live up to our expectations. They will leave us unfulfilled because they aren’t giving us what we need 100% of the time. They can’t. It’s impossible.

So how can you make your love last? How can you change that fish love into real love? By giving.

When You Give to Someone, You Love Them More

The idea that giving to your partner can make you love them more may seem strange at first, but it makes sense if you really think about it. Why? Because when you give, you are investing a part of yourself in another person. The time and effort you spend makes you care more. In a way, giving causes your significant other to become an extension of you, and because we love ourselves, it makes us love them more.

This is the exact same thing that happens when people have children. As a parent, you constantly give of yourself selflessly. You work hard to make sure your kids learn, grow, and have plenty of opportunities to succeed. The more time and effort you spend on them – the more of yourself that you give to them – the greater the love you feel.

Giving has another power, too: the more you give, the more you will receive.

When Someone Gives to Us, We Want to Give Back

As an NYC marital coach, this is one of the lessons I try very hard to teach all of my clients who are going through relationship difficulties. Giving leads to receiving.

All too often when things go wrong, we focus on what the other person isn’t doing and how our needs aren’t being met. This is completely natural. But unfortunately, this kind of thinking leads to blame, defensiveness, fighting, and disconnection.

If, instead, we refocus and concentrate on what we can do to be a better partner and give more to our significant other, it often leads to positive change for both people in the relationship. When one person starts treating the other one better or giving them more, it makes the other person want to improve their own interactions with their partner.

In other words, by giving more of yourself, you will strengthen your fondness for your partner, and you make him or her actively try to give back to you. Giving is how real love grows and flourishes.