One of my dear friends is going through a difficult break up at the moment, which has gotten me thinking about that crazy thing we call love. At 29, my mentality on the matter – as well as on romance and relationships in general – has been shaped by my life experiences up until this point and are likely to change and shift once again as I grow older. But what I can say at this very point in time is that these are twelve things I have learnt about love thus far:
We will love… and love again.
With age I have come to realize that love isn’t some pure, virginal, and untouched thing you grow with one singular person from start to finish, like tapping the top of Crème brûlée with a spoon together – that is unless you marry your playground love. We all have a history and for 99% of us, we will have loved before we love again and the person we love will have loved before us. Which in all honesty is not a bad thing. With each relationship we have, we learn more about ourselves and get closer to understanding just what we need in order to create a successful relationship – which in turn makes us an even better candidate for our next partner.
Soul mates: the biggest lie since sliced bread.
When I was in my teens I was unaware of just how subliminal movie plots and the media truly were in shaping my view on relationships. I was a firm believer in the idea of two people being unequivocally destined for each other. Then I realised that the idea of soul mates was bullshit. There isn’t just one person meant for you out in this giant universe. There are a multitude of individuals that could and would make you happy. I died a little inside when I stopped believing in soul mates. But only for a little while.
Because the idea of only being meant for one person and one person only on a planet of close to 7 billion people is absolutely bollocks to say the least and there is such a beauty in having been able to love different people at different stages of our lives. And there is a beauty in choice and decision making and deciding that although there are many people with whom you could be happy with, you have chosen one specific person with intention. And being chosen is pretty sweet if you ask me.
The person you are is always enough.
In the past I had a tendency to dive head first crashing into love, and was extremely reckless when it came to letting people into my life. I didn’t protect my own feelings and emotions and put these men before myself. My long term relationships were all with people unsuited for me in one way or the other, and even though all relationships are based on consideration and compromise, I failed to see just how much I was bending over backwards to meet the needs of another person while ignoring my own happiness and how I allowed myself to question my interests and dreams due to the opinions of another human being.
I now know that although compromise and patience are both pillars to any good relationship – romantic or not – if you find someone who vibes with you and is on the same wavelength as yourself, you won’t have to try to fit yourself to their pieces by twisting in un-human ways.
Romantic love does not define happiness
I used to think that love between two people was what defined ultimate happiness. But happiness is not something you need to find in another person. It is something you should be giving yourself. Sure, another person can make you happier – which is a goddamned beautiful thing. But this only works if you are already happy on your own. The biggest mistake we will all make at least once is trying to find happiness in other people rather than growing it from the inside out.
We’ve been sold a lie.
Ok so this one is rather radical, but I can tell you that with age I no longer believe that monogamous love with one person for decades and decades is completely natural; rather, we have been convinced of this concept by society. This doesn’t mean that I want to turn my life into one giant episode of “Big Love” or believe/hope to grow old with one person, but from a purely intellectual standpoint, I think that the idea of monogamous romantic love and the nuclear family is the best damned thing to happen to capitalism and for this reason am just a wee bit skeptical of the whole thing. For this reason, I think it’s best to appreciate love when you find it, but not necessarily demand from yourself or the other that it be forever or until death.
We are always changing and evolving. For the lucky ones, these changes coincide with the changes of our partner. But it’s also perfectly okay to realize that the person we once were is not the person we are now and that the partner we have does not make sense with who we have evolved into. I feel like so many people feel that once they settle down and marry it’s for life. And while “till death to us part” is a nice promise, it’s not very nice or even sensible if this means remaining in a loveless marriage due to societal obligation.
Fighting =/= feelings.
Until very recently, I used to think that love meant fighting. While a relationship built on constant bickering or explosive fights does not love make, I was under the impression that one only fights for things they truly care about, and if two people didn’t fight, it meant they didn’t care enough to get upset about things that mattered to them. But sometimes you meet someone, and things jive so well that there are simply no things to fight about. Sure normal bickering in a long term relationship is to be expected, but not mandatory – especially not in the “honeymoon period”. And on that note…
What the fuck is a honeymoon period anyway?
Of course the first few months to 2 years of a relationship has been defined as the golden age of a relationship. But if you are truly happy with someone, you should be growing more in love with them each and every day. (Then again, none of my relationships have made it past the 2 year mark, so what do I know…)
Love should be easy.
After being in extremely tumultuous relationships in my past which seemed to require constant strenuous effort and ridiculously long discussions after every fight with no true improvement to the situation, I started to think that this was the norm. But it’s not. Yes, love takes work, but it should also be easy and fun and effortless without much over-thinking.
Love is neither a chore nor a prison
Along these same lines, love should not be a chore. I hear so many women (mostly) dealing with partners who feel that seeing them or spending time with them is too much effort or “stifling”. Yes, everyone has a different level of “neediness,” and in a relationship you need to strike a compromise. But unless you want him to call you every 20 minutes when he is not with you, this kind of complaining is a red flag. Every couple is different, but ultimately you should WANT to spend time with each other.
It’s not you, it’s them.
Okay, maybe it’s you too. But hear me out. I had a distinctive pattern of getting involved with extremely broken poeple who had good souls but lousy execution when it came to how to be a partner. Because this pattern kept on repeating itself and because I was being told a lot of damaging things, I half wondered if I were not the root cause of distress in my romantic relationships. I realised that I was responsible, but not because I was some selfish, rigid, and uptight individual, but because I kept dating men who were selfish, rigid, and uptight. Now I’m not giving every human being a free pass to walk around thinking they are fabulous and don’t need to change a goddamned thing about themselves, but what I am saying is sometimes your fault is not to do with how you interact with other people but how you navigate love and who you allow into your life.
Small gestures are just as grand
Disney and Nicholas sparks would have us convinced that it’s not love unless some man is marrying you cos you’re dying of cancer. That it’s all grand gestures and sappy declarations of love. And while I am certainly not opposed to a John Cusack a la “Say Anything” kind of moment every now and then, my point is a that guy filling your room with rose petals and writing you love letters on the reg could still be a shit partner. Hell, he might be doing all these things to try to make up for his general lack of ability to be a good partner. (Side note: Whenever I see a man with a bouquet of flowers, I always think, “poor guy must have really fucked up again”)
And while grand gestures are always welcome and entirely sweet, they should be reserved for special occasions to keep them special. Besides, it’s the everyday that should be full of the small gestures and considerations which make a relationship more likely last and are heaps more romantic and sexy anyway.
I know fuck-all about love
Love is an enigma and it actually scares the shit out of me as a concept. It’s this thing we keep trying to define time after time but are also being told how to define it time after time. With so many conflicting attitudes about how to love and what love is or when like becomes love, I can only say this: there isn’t one recipe for these kind of feelings or one master equation to ensure a love to last the ages.
But this much is true: love is an innate human emotion and a pretty dope one at that. And while I no longer believe in a Disney-type romance, that does not mean I think love is any more lacklustre – quite the contrary: I think a healthy and realistic attitude towards love opens up the door for something even more extraordinary and romantic. I would like to end this post with the “wise” words of Justice Stewert. You might not know what love is, but you’ll know it when you see(feel) it.
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