He suggests two ways to assess the health of a relationship. If it is a source of anxiety, and is preventing you from being yourself doing the things you want to do, there is a problem. The other question is not whether or not you fight, but how well do you handle conflict?
The title challenges our emphasis on romantic love. People in dysfunctional or even abusive relationships often insist, “but I love him/her!”, and believe, “If he really loved me, he’d change”, or, “If I give her enough love, she’ll change”.
This is rooted in our cultural representations of love, in stories, songs, and movies. Concepts such as love at first sight, the existence of one soulmate, the belief that it is not possible to live without the partner, and so on are unrealistic. In fact, Manson suggests that many of our archetypes of true love actually represent toxic relationships, and encourage us to pursue dangerous fantasies.
Manson highlights the way that power imbalances can develop in a relationship, and how the concept of love can make this imbalance worse. He describes two basic types in this war – the narcissist, who believes “if you love me, you will change your behaviour to allow me to be happy” and the co-dependant, who thinks, “I must modify my behaviour in order to ensure my partner’s wellbeing”.
Ironically, Manson points out that, both narcissists and co-dependants are needy, albeit in different ways. Narcissists care too much what others think because they depend on others to take responsibility for them. Co-dependants care too much what others think because they feel responsible for making others happy all the time.
The truth is that nobody can make you feel anything. You are responsible for your own feelings, and need to establish boundaries. The manipulations that come in these situatons include the “burning martyr” guilt trip (“after all I’ve done for you, you should …”) and playing the victim (“You know I have issues so you shouldn’t …”).
The resultant behaviour or argument can be a toxic game of out-victiming each other in order to feel that you are right and they are wrong. If this comes with threats and ultimatums, it can only escalate. Each time you kiss and make up, the threat you used is shown to be fake, so you have to up the ante next time. You can also get hooked on the intense pleasure of each reconciliation.
Much of what Manson covers in Love is not Enough is not new, but he has structured and articulated some basic truths in a way that is fresh, very 21st century, and that I believe every couple can find engaging and enlightening.