5 Things To Know About Love

I've often marveled at some people's ability to open their hearts fearlessly to others. Maybe it looks that way on the outside, but from an outsider's perspective, there are just some people who seem to effortlessly glide from relationship to relationship. I love it but it confuses me because in romance, my experience has been more like Catherine Zeta Jones circa 'Entrapment'. As I wrote in The Cause & Solution to All Love's Problems, all our problems start from a place of helplessness and lack of information - a place of unconsciousness. But with a little inner space, discipline, and patience we can find ways to wiggle out of uncertainty and find so much more than just another person - we can see clearly our own thoughts, motivations, values, preferences. In essence, you make your self a better lover to yourself primarily, and then whomever is lucky enough to catch (or catfish) all of that secondarily.

Here's the outcome of a deep dive I did on this four letter word that unites us all: 

  1. We Learn to Love
    We learn to love, just like everything else in this world. It's a feeling we are all familiar with - an attachment, and a chemical reaction in the body towards another person. How we learn to express and react to that chemical reaction in the body is dependent on our training - what neighbourhood did you grow up in? who were your teachers? who were their influences? Who you are in love has nothing to do with you, but how you were conditioned to respond. 

  2. You Can Teach Yourself How To Love
    It's easy to settle into a self-deprecating story about how miserable dating life is and continue to get wasted on Rosé, but why not get wasted on Rosé and figure out the way forward? Life is a series of relationships - romantic and platonic. Since we've re-positioned love as a skill rather than an innate given (ie. we all have the capability but maybe not the right framework to express it in healthy or productive ways) then love is like going to the gym. The more you go, the more opportunities you can find to keep showing love - to yourself, your family, your friends, your coworkers (even Susan), and even total strangers - the more that feeling is normalized. Love is not reserved for your significant other, and if it is that's kind of like putting all your money on a hot stock tip instead of diversifying in index funds (the only thing I know about money).

  3. A Relationship Is Only As Good As The Work You Both Put Into It
    Having a relationship doesn't necessarily mean it's good. Sometimes a relationship can seem like the end of a long road for someone who has been out of one for a while.  An oasis in a desert of increasing and unrealistic expectation. People talk about infatuation, love and the difference between them. I actually don't think there is any difference but time. They start out as the same feeling, and then you either both learn to accept and adapt to each other's love quirks, or one or both of isn't ready for the long-term struggle of growing and changing with someone.
  4. The Best Couples Have These Things In Common If My Data Is Correct (And I'm Quite Sure It Is)
    I recently made a short list of all the couples I love and admire. It's a very short list, but a quality list, which seems appropriate. They all have the following things in common: they do cool shit together, they constantly put themselves in new scenarios, they support each other through change, they don't air their dirty laundry to people outside their relationship, they aren't constantly seeking advice from other people, sometimes they get crushes on other people but no one's getting jealous about it, they always speak about the cool thing their partner is doing, they take time out from each other when they need it, they don't sweat the small stuff, and they are problem-solvers. They do all of that stuff together, but they are totally and completely fine being apart for sometimes weeks or months at a time. In fact, individually they were pretty fantastic, independent adventurers - but together they just 'yes, and' all day, every day. Study your favourite couples and let them mentor you - and actually take their advice.
  5. Love Is A Choice To Build
    Reflecting on all of this, I recall asking my Dad what love was before he died. He didn't give me the answer that I expected or maybe hoped for. I wanted him to tell me the story of how Mom & Dad met one last time - the classic rebel rides up to the girl of his dreams on a motorbike and that was it. That's how our family came to be. I love that story and clung to it for a really long time. I guess part of me was asking because I wanted to know things would just be okay, but he didn't give me the easy answer - he gave me hard truth, very succinctly: you just choose someone to build with and that's it.

    At the time, I was really angry with him, and just chalked it up to him being frustratingly difficult. My hopeless romantic heart was disillusioned not to hear my Dad gush with emotion over his 26 years of marriage. But it was true - and I should have known because I was there for most of it. Most of it was not gushing with loving emotion, except for maybe that last year which was really nice. Most of it looked like hard work to stay on the same page, frustration, heated-arguments leading to passivity and many compromises. I imagine a lot of relationships are like this, and they start out in that singular moment of infatuation - the thing that makes you grab the girl (or boy) of your dreams. It is the beginning that many people - present company included - get hooked on and keep repeating self-destructively. Then comes the decision to love them despite who they become and through the madness that that could involve, build your lives together and have faith that this crazy thing just might work yet. 

I still think, after all of this, that love is magic. People who have been married a while describe it as a feeling of knowing. I think that feeling of knowing is real, but it's based on our knowing we are ready and our intuitive sense of the other person's readiness. Based in reality, love is this exercise of repetition and commitment - the decision to try and do, which coincidentally is the definition of confidence. It's magical because how damn cool is it that two random strangers in a mutual state of readiness can recognize it almost instantly with the utmost confidence and then become each other's family, like it's nothing? That's something incredible to prepare oneself for in the present.

Arianne TongComment