Not knowing the answer to that question can mean absolute destruction to your relationship.
One of the many causes of infidelity can be your partners need to feel wanted, desired and attractive. Whether that need is driven by a preexisting deep insecurity (that you can never fill) or driven by the breakdown of your relationship. The need to be wanted and to feel like ‘somebody’ when you don’t feel good about yourself can be as deep and insatiable as a drug habit.
It’s unfortunate, but all too common that many of us enter relationships NOT because we are truly in love, but rather, because we are simply trying to soothe our uncomfortable feelings. You fear being alone. You fear not being good enough to find the ‘right’ partner. You are looking for security, financial or otherwise. He looks good on paper and your clock is ticking. She has the family you always wanted and never had. We jump in not for reasons of love, but to feel safe, wanted, to fulfill an identity that we want etc. We mistakenly think this IS love.
There is nothing inherently wrong about appreciating what a partner brings to the table. Nor is it wrong to feel these things when you genuinely love someone. However, things go wrong when the main characteristic that your partner is bringing to the table is the role of stroking your ego or soothing your fears and insecurities.
In particular, partnering with someone because their entire life revolves around making you feel good…well, it always ends badly. Having a relationship dynamic where one person loves and dotes on another in an unbalanced way (not loving genuinely, but ‘hustling’ for love” read: “I gave everything I had to her!”) can and does often end with infidelity. When you have to hustle to be loved, it can mean the person doesn’t genuinely love you. They love what you do for them or how you make them feel.
Partnering with someone because they keep you feeling good (either by what they provide you or what they do to make you feel good) is not love. That’s one person using the other. Consciously or not, both people are coming from an unhealthy place. The person “getting” is having their ego stroked and their fears soothed. So is the person “giving” They get their ego stroked by believing that they are the “caring” and “loving” partner and by having someone dependent on them, their fears of being left by that person are minimized.
“Do I love her for who she is, or how she makes me feel?” is a question worth asking. In my opinion, it’s THE question worth asking. Preferably, sooner, rather than later. It is definitely part of every relationship to ‘be there’ for your partner. To support them. To even help them process their feelings. But when this dynamic is out of balance (and those of you reading this who feel a knot in your gut right now KNOW if it is) you are headed for trouble. So, ask it. Ask it now. Because although the answer may hurt and the decisions you have to make after asking it may be hard…..it’s a hell of a lot easier than dealing with a betrayal 15 years down the road.