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Just Right Love

11 February 2010 25 Comments

It’s a childhood bedtime story we all remember.

“Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” The one where the fair-haired maiden wanders into a cottage one day and finds bowls of porridge to sample. Goldilocks tests out one bowl of porridge and it is too hot. The next is too cold. Finally, she tries the third which is just right.

When it comes to love, isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

Something that is not too hot, not too cold, but just right?

Like many of us, I have yet to find that love that is “just right.” But through my trial and error attempts (and yes, they are many and honestly they are quite laughable in most instances) to find the “just right” love, I have realized something startling.

Everyone has a different capacity for love.

Think of people you love now or have loved in the past (don’t limit to just romantic relationships.) Not only do they all love differently, they all love in varying amounts, according to their own capacity. Some love a lot, some moderately, some a little and a precious few in ridiculous amounts.

Everyone innately possesses the ability to love. But why does it sometimes feel like you are not getting enough love back in the relationship or your partner is smothering you with too much love? I think it all comes down to a person’s capacity for love.

Pretend your capacity for love is a beaker (like the ones you used in science class.) The water you pour into the beaker is the love you feel for a special someone. You may have a 500 mL beaker while he/she has a 250 mL beaker. Both are filled to the brim with water, holding (giving) all they can, but your beaker just happens to contain more water, simply because its capacity is much greater. As such, you have more love to give and you likely need more love to feel fulfilled.

Photo Credit – Getty Images: Photo Alto/Eric Audras

Ultimately what does this mean? I think it adds one more thing that needs to be in compatible in order to find that “just right” love.

Take me for example. Exuberant is frequently a word used to describe me. I don’t really do anything halfway. If I do something, I go for it all the way, and typically pretty enthusiastically. I’ve been in love twice. Both times they were that head-over-heels, all-consuming, passionate, I’m-going-marry-this-person kind of love. I loved them with all I had. In one case, that was probably the root of why we didn’t have the fairy tale ending.

His capacity for love was very different than mine. The way I loved him and the sheer magnitude of my love literally overwhelmed this man and practically crippled him from loving me back. I was just “too much” for him (yes, that was an exact quote.) To stem from my analogy, the love in his 250 mL beaker didn’t come close to filling my 500 mL beaker and the 500 mL of my love literally ran over. He couldn’t even begin to hold it all, even if he wanted to.

In short, it was messy.

In contrast, one of my closest girlfriends also has tremendous capacity for love (the way she even loves her friends is awe-inducing and empowering). She found a wonderful man who also exhibits that same great capacity for love. The resulting power and depth of their relationship is so obvious it is practically tangible to all in their presence.

For them, their compatible individual love capacities are a BIG contributor to their “just right” love.

Yes, it is one more element to consider, but finding someone with a compatible capacity for love is one of the most pivotal elements in a lastingly euphoric relationship. And, really isn’t that the “just right” love we are all looking for?

One that is lastingly euphoric?

You doubters can call me naïve. But, I believe the “just right” love is out there. It’s out there for me. It’s out there for you. It’s out there for everyone. AND, it’s within your capacity to find it.

All You Need Blogger: Sharalyn Hartwell

Sharalyn Hartwell is the National Generation Y columnist for the Examiner.com. She also shares her insights on love, relationships and the strange workings of the female mind as a regular contributor to the men’s online magazines–AskMen.com and TheRugged.com.  You can follow her on Twitter @sharalynhartwel.

Song: Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole – Unforgettable

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  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Oh what a good post, Sharalyn. You put into words what I often feel and have experienced in my last relationship.

    Here’s a thought: Do we recognize that people love differently, accept it and know that even if it’s 250 mL and mine is 500 mL that his love is full and he can take me as I am and visa versa? Or, do we wait until we find someone whose beaker is just as full, can take as much and is overflowing? I’m thinking the latter, and like you said, waiting for “just the right” love is something I’m willing to wait for, too.

    Love the song too. I’m listening to it right now :)
    .-= Grace Boyle´s last blog ..Guest Post: Puppy Love – Saying Goodbye To Home =-.

    • http://www.examiner.com/x-13207-Generation-Y-Examiner Sharalyn

      Grace, I’ve pondered that question many times before, and here’s the thing. It really depends on the person. To go with the story I referenced, for a very long time I convinced myself I was ok with his 250 mL, that it was adequate, that I could make up the difference with my excess. But, I now see it never would have been enough for me. I would have wound up feeling dissatisfied.

      And, I’m sure there are others who could be perfectly happy in that scenario.

      I’m with you…I”m waiting. :) Thanks, Grace!

      • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

        Yes. Re-reading your post and hearing your response, you’re right. For me, Miss 500 mL (overflowing) 250 mL just wouldn’t be enough. So waiting, and okay waiting :) I LOVE THIS POST.
        .-= Grace Boyle´s last blog ..Guest Post: Puppy Love – Saying Goodbye To Home =-.

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

      Grace – Haha, I’m typing this with a red book cover staring at me from Lori Gottlieb encouraging young women to settle for Mr. Good Enough. I’m supposed to review it.

      And I’m mostly inclined to agree with you and Sharalyn. But on the flip side, I’m a little on the opposite side. I am a 250mL person, to most people. Someone who was overflowing with love and passion and exuberance would overwhelm and frankly terrify me. Not just because commitment makes me break out in hives either! 😉

      A partner or significant other or friend could (and have) easily assumed that I didn’t care as much cause I’m generally more reserved and analytical. Quiet yet blunt might be a good way to look at it.

      It only takes a dash of baking soda to add to vinegar to create a volcanic explosion worthy of any science fair.

  • Amy

    I think that was such a great post! One of my favorites :) Probably because I think that it’s so true and something I went through 6 months ago. I loved this person so much, but after 2 years and talking at him about wanting to move in and start a life together he finally decided it was too much. For a few months it shattered my beaker. I was devastated and convinced that no one would be able to match my beaker and that a magnesium oxide explosion would happen.

    Then someone who I dated in college told me that he loved me more than he thought possible. Things are extremely complicated with us, but it was quite a change from the 3+ years ago that I met him. I was truly flabbergasted that someone could upgrade their beaker. And it gave me a lot of hope. Hope that my beaker wasn’t too big and that someone someday will be able to match the measurement. My beaker is already pretty full, I’m very fortunate that way.

    Mostly what I’m saying is, thanks for writing this. Thanks for making me look at it in another way, a different point of thinking. Sometimes you get stuck thinking you only have a graduated cylinder to work with. Bravo :)

    Amy’s latest blog… amydoucette@wordpress.com

    • http://www.examiner.com/x-13207-Generation-Y-Examiner Sharalyn

      Aww, thanks, Amy! I appreciate that. wow! And, thank you for making me think of something I hadn’t…I think someone COULD upgrade their beaker. Looks like you were the inspiration for that man’s growth and that’s awesome. I would just never sit and hope and hope that he did…I’ve done that. Trust me. It is not fun.

      But…oooh…sounds promising for you. Good luck and thanks so much for the compliment. I’m all sorts of flattered! :)

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

      Amy – Look at you with all the science references. I’m duly impressed Paco. 😀

      And yes, I think that it is possible to start with a 250mL beaker (especially when we are 22 and just trying to figure things out) and realize with the right person that you want to upgrade and match their love.

      The real tragedy, I think, comes when we have a 500mL beaker that we are too afraid/angry/stubborn to fill.

  • Jess

    Hi! I’m the “friend” in the post. And Sharalyn I’m printing this up and taping it into my journal. You make me cry. But good cry. Not, my roof is now collapsing from the innordinate amount of snow we just got here on the east coast, cry. Anyway…

    I think Grace makes a key point. We all love in different ways. Every boyfriend I have ever had has told me that I “loved” them more than anyone ever has. I keep in touch with all but two (and like Sharalyn, there were many, and each had their own fantastically ridiculous story) and most still hold to this claim.

    I do believe I have a capacity for love that exceeds most limits. With that love however also comes capacity to feel pain, sorrow, anxiety, etc.. Good times. I’m a creative soul and am thrilled that through all of this I have managed to keep both of my ears.

    For many of my relationships, the love of which Sharalyn speaks was the deal sealer. They wanted it in their lives forever. They felt “true love” by the means in which I demonstrated love. For others, it was simply too overwhelming and they ran for the hills in a somewhat distasteful manner.

    My sweet husband, of whom I can honestly say I love more than anyone in this world, is amazing to me. He loves as much as I do, and as deeply, but very very differently. And for a long time that was a hard thing for our marriage. I didn’t get it. (“The Five Love Languages” It’s a book. Buy it. read it. Love it. Put it under your pillow at night and whisper it sweet nothings.) Because of this, he can receive my love and not be overwhelmed. He loves me in a different way. For a long time, I thought it was less. I was wrong. He receives and gives love differently than I do. I have learned to recognize when he is “giving” me his love now and accept it thusly. (Thusly? Are we now in mid-century England?)

    I do believe that I feel love, give love, NEED love, more deeply than your average Bob. (Can’t use Joe, that’s husband.) And I feel blessed to have found a man who recognizes the gift that I have to offer, and is able to reciprocate–though differently.

    Sharalyn is right. People have different beekers (love the analogy) for love. And Grace is right too. People also have different ways of showing/receiving love. Finding that someone who fits into your life at the right capacity and in the right way is something of a miracle. Keeping that someone in your life, maintaining that love, is just good hard work. But work well worth it.

    Love you Share!

    • http://www.examiner.com/x-13207-Generation-Y-Examiner Sharalyn

      Not much I can say to Jess other than yes, yes and yes. The Love Languages is huge and you totally have to be able to understand which language you each speak and understand. But, my point, above all, Jess: even if you didn’t always feel it from Joseph…the rest of the world could see it. And, that, my friend, is incredible.
      LOVE you too, girl!

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

      Jess – I’m with Sharalyn. Yes, just yes.

      Also, best line of advice – ““The Five Love Languages” It’s a book. Buy it. read it. Love it. Put it under your pillow at night and whisper it sweet nothings.”

  • Jess

    I also think that I misinterpreted what Grace said for my own nefarious means, but I’m still running with it.

  • http://www.emilyjasper.com/ Emily Jasper

    I like the beakers…I end up in the mine is too small and they have too much category. Or even if it’s the same, they’re the wrong chemicals. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I need the right amount and right chemical for things to work. I know I’m really hesitant. I had a guy tell me he loved me and literally walked out the next morning, moved to Texas and never told me. When I would hear from him again, it was only when he was drunk. He would say how sorry he was and that he did love me. But clearly, his beaker didn’t have room for me or was filled with booze (however you want to take the analogy). I would like to think I don’t have tons of baggage from this anymore, but I do know I’m more cautious. Thanks Sharalyn!
    .-= Emily Jasper´s last blog ..If You Want My Money, Treat Me Like a Customer =-.

    • http://www.examiner.com/x-13207-Generation-Y-Examiner Sharalyn

      We’ll just keep running with the analogy, Emily. Nothing wrong with being cautious. Your beaker is made of glass after all. It’s precious. Protect it. But when all the elements are combined in the right way and in the right amounts, you can see some pretty amazing things. :)

      • http://www.emilyjasper.com/ Emily Jasper

        And I feel all warm and fuzzy now!
        .-= Emily Jasper´s last blog ..If You Want My Money, Treat Me Like a Customer =-.

      • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

        So true! Whether 250mL or 500mL or 50mL an IMPORTANT factor to our beakers is their delicate nature. We’ve gotta be careful and mindful of them. A quick spin around or abrupt stop could send them flying and shatter.

        Another beautiful thing, though. While all the chemicals are mixing and mingling and working within the beaker, since most (good ones) are clear we get to watch the magic happen if we want. I’m a science geek, few things are as exciting as the implementation, experimentation and finalization of a scientific project.

        Or you know…love…if that’s what floats your boat. 😉

  • http://twentyorsomething.com Susan Pogorzelski

    I think I’ve become smitten with this series. Every post is powerful (and beautifully written) in its own right and I love the perspectives that everyone shares.

    Sharalyn: This post is no exception. Great post, and an interesting analogy. My own thoughts, I think, echo a bit of Grace’s question — in both instances, both are fully capable of loving, but one’s heart has the capacity to hold so much more. Does that mean that the first beaker can’t be a person’s “just right?” just because it’s smaller than our own? I like how you say you might not feel as fulfilled, but, at the same time, I think people have different ways of loving and showing affection and maybe life experiences have made that beaker seem smaller. Maybe through loving them the way you do, that beaker can change from a 250mL to a 500…Maybe it’s not as permanent as we thought?

    Personally, I know that my own “just right” would match my own capacity for love; I’d happily wait for that just right that matches my own because I, too, am of the love too much capacity. When I fall, I fall deeply. With friendships, with relationships, with family…I tend to be devoted, and love so much that sometimes it feels the heart barely has room to contain it. It’s funny — while I may be afraid of losing the people I love, I’m never really afraid of loving — or being loved.

    The past relationship that I wrote about in my own post didn’t end quite so messily, fortunately — in fact, his capacity for love was just as great, overflowing into forms of spontaneous affection. Rather, the substances within those beakers changed as we changed and grew up and apart.

    So maybe there’s more than just the size that makes it a just right relationship. Either way, I love this post because it brings up a fascinating concept and so many thoughts. Great job! Love this post!
    .-= Susan Pogorzelski´s last blog ..Clinging To A Past That Doesn’t Let You Choose =-.

    • http://www.examiner.com/x-13207-Generation-Y-Examiner Sharalyn

      Susan, I SO agree. This was such a great idea (hats off to you, Elisa) and it has been fascinating to read everyone’s varied perspectives. (FWIW, yours has been one of my favorites too).

      I think you are right. I think you might be able to love someone into a bigger beaker (heart) sometimes (and the key word is might). I just wouldn’t count on it. That’s not to say that you couldn’t be happy or satisfied with less. Some people can. I just know I can’t. I’ve almost settled for that before. I can see it now and I want nothing to do with it. I tried to love his beaker to growing, and instead just about shattered my own. I was miserable for literally years afterwards. It has made me more cautious, but I still have that big beaker, I just don’t starting filling it or pouring it as readily now. But when I do, it’s always in full-force mode. :) Because Sharalyn = exuberant (AKA over-the-top sometimes) lol!

      Without a doubt the substances within the beakers have to be complimentary elements or that won’t work either.

      (Goodness this is a fun analogy haha)

      Thanks for the feedback, Susan! I appreciate it!

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

      Interesting question (not to either of you directly, but spurned from thought on your comments, and Grace’s actually):

      Can we incorrectly assume that someone (or us ourselves) have a 250mL or 500mL beaker the whole time only to learn that we were wrong?

      I have a friend who fell madly truly deeply for someone, but they kept trying to convince themselves that they weren’t “in” that far. That they were functioning at a 250mL level. The other person got frustrated hoping for more and never getting it and finally broke things off. If only my friend had dared to acknowledge, or the other person had been successful in requesting more, who KNOWS what would have happened.

  • http://diamondkt.blogspot.com David

    I don’t know. I like my porridge like I like my women – HOT!

    I’m kidding. Ok, not really. But I’ll try to be serious here…

    Oh Sharalyn. You tickle the keyboard like you tickle the ivory! Very well written post! Unlike sex where a woman needs “preheated” first like an oven to warm up, a man is already ignited like a bond fire and ready to go! But when it comes to the relationship side, it’s the total opposite.

    Men do tend to get a bit frightened when a woman’s “beaker” is overflowing and his is just around the halfway mark. Men take longer to warm up to the love experience, or at least with me that’s the case. Whereas women tend to keep pouring – thinking he will eventually catch up to her level. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he doesn’t. Any other times she just gets tired of waiting for him to reach her. So what you said is really true. It’s all about finding that just right love. Creating that perfect balance.

    (By the way…how did I not know you write for AskMen.com?)
    .-= David´s last blog ..Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. Don’t Care. =-.

    • http://www.examiner.com/x-13207-Generation-Y-Examiner Sharalyn

      Thanks, David! You actually made me think of it in a way I hadn’t before. Sometimes it just takes people (men and women) longer to fill their beaker. It may have that 500 mL capacity, but it just takes them longer to fill it and start pouring. Sometimes it will happen, sometimes it won’t. I like that perspective. But, it’s just like I was saying to Susan and Amy, I would just never bank on it happening. I think you can tell what someone’s capacity is after you get to know them because they will exhibit that capacity in other areas of their life, not just in loving you. Thank you for a new perspective on a long-held theory of mine.

      P.S. Yep, I do! They even listed me as “Relationship Expert” on my byline. A few too many people got a laugh out of that one…haha! 😉 And staff writer for TheRugged.com (new men’s mag, totally awesome, you would like). :)

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

      David – Dammit, why do you have to comment with my thoughts independently of my other comments. Sure yours came first but I just wrote about someone assuming a “level” of beaker that may not be real.

      I like your description too, takes it one step further. I may even re-adjust my original “reserved and analytical 250mL” comment. Perhaps, I have the capacity for 500mL love, I just haven’t found someone who “fills my beaker” yet. And while it isn’t fair for a 500mL overflowing person to have to wait for someone like me to fill, it isn’t fair to fill pre-maturely.

      That just NEVER ends well!

      That’s not to say there haven’t been those who turn on my bunsen burner (god I LOVE this science post!!!) 😉

  • http://www.lifeschocolates.com Sam Karol

    I’m a little behind here, but better late than never! This is a great post, and I think the beaker analogy explains a lot. I want to expand on David’s point a little. Just like it may take some people longer to fill their beaker than others, sometimes one person’s beaker might spring a leak. Often, that leak can be stopped, but there are times when it can’t and the person has to realize that they need to replace their beaker in order for it to be full again. That’s just part of life.

    As you know Sharalyn, we are very much alike in how much we put into relationships. In terms of friendship, I’m a giver 100% and sometimes it’s hard when other people are mostly takers. But, I’ve come to realize that I give because I want to and because it makes my heart happy to make people smile. In other words, I recognize that my beaker is unusually full, and I’m okay with that. A very impressive first guest post, my friend!!
    .-= Sam Karol´s last blog ..Get Over It =-.

  • http://nicoleisbetter.com nicole antoinette

    Everyone I ever date from now until forever is going to need to read this post. I’m at least a 500ml girl, and this is just about the best analogy for our differing capacities to love that I’ve ever heard. Wonderful.

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