Everything You Know About Love Is Wrong
Almost everything you've been told about love is wrong. Films, books and TV package up romantic lies and sell them back to us.
It has seeped into our vocabulary and our psyche. This Valentine’s Day, it’s time to reframe the way we think about that four-letter word.
It’s ironic I’m even even writing this. My friend jokingly refers to me as Garrie Bradshaw, sitting on my balcony on a Mac, writing that meanwhile, across town, Samantha was doing a different type of yoga.
“I’m a serious journalist!” I counter, in my defence.
But, as I’m writing this, I couldn’t help but wonder if my friend was right. Unlike Carrie, though, my view of love is probably more grounded than idealistic or remotely romantic.
But with good reason. There are so many pitfalls; so many myths to bust.
The first love-myth to debunk is that your partner needs to be your best friend.
It’s fine, of course, if they are. But I think, in 2019, it’s putting all your eggs in one basket. We no longer live in the age where people view jobs or partners as lifetime commitments. And that’s a good thing: people are living longer; they can grow, evolve, move on. This is especially important to state, because it liberates people to leave romantic relationships before they become toxic or abusive.
The “till death do us part” lie lives on, though. It feels like a precarious vow to make when you don’t know who you’ll become in a decade. We’re all living longer, as well as faster. One person, for life, may not be able to fulfil all your sexual, emotional, intellectual and social needs. And that’s totally ok!
But it’s also why declaring your lover your “best friend” is dangerous. If that relationship breaks down, you’ve lost both your romantic and your social support.
The best friend category, surely, warrants its own category and separate person. Your best mate may’ve taken years to earn that coveted title in your relationships hierarchy -- to have that role automatically transferred on to the new beau you’ve known for a fraction of the time is somewhat insulting.
Especially when your best friend is the person who is there to listen, care, vent at and cheer you up when things go wrong. Cherish them. It doesn’t mean you put one before the other; you’re just filling your life with equally supportive people. Your lover already has a title; relinquish this further title with caution. The stakes are too high for a potentially devastating downfall.
There are three things, in fact, I’d argue that you should never rely on your romantic partner for: your confidence, your best friend, your house (renting or owned).
Once you have all three yourself, you're set. But spending some time as a single person and exploring who you are in different, challenging scenarios will mean you bring your best self to a relationship, and then you can start discussing living arrangements.
The second love myth is that this isn’t something that should be taught in schools because it isn’t age-appropriate.
It isn’t just age-appropriate; it’s essential. Students should know what control looks like in a relationship and why the equality of a partnership is important (the Respectful Relationships curriculum does cover some of this). But students should also know that same-sex attraction is normal and equal. They should be taught mental health coping strategies for when a relationship breaks down; why being single isn't shameful; the role of the biological clock in heterosexual relationships and how to compromise, negotiate and nurture one another.
Language perpetuates so many love myths. The love vernacular is deeply problematic.
“My other half” is a terrible phrase, insinuating you aren’t a whole person when you are single. You are absolutely a whole person when you are single, not some empty vessel waiting to be filled, to be completed. You make an infinitely healthier partner if you come to the relationship feeling complete as a person in your own right.
You’re not “lost till I found you” as many Valentine’s Day cards will purport. The most important lessons of self-discovery will be learnt alone, when travelling and speaking / fending / cooking for yourself or dealing with tricky situations without support. Once you’ve found yourself -- then. Then you’re ready for romance. You’re found; not lost.
And what about all that parlance indicating possession? You belong to me; the girl/boy is mine; I’m yours. Love isn't about possession, control, losing half of yourself, being rescued.
It's about liberation, setting each other free, allowing each other to be full people. I detest the vocabulary of “settling down” -- it’s what you say to a hyperactive child. I refuse to settle down. I want to find somebody to run with.
The final myth is controversial, but it’s monogamy.
Why do we continue to persist with this outdated expectation when we could just be honest with each other? It can feel like an unreasonable expectation and it encourages us to lie. It's a hangover from more conservative times and it’s about possession again. You don’t have to be a polyamorist to understand that asking one person to fulfil every single need you have at every point is asking a lot. It’s applying a lot of pressure on to a long-term arrangement.
For all the problematic love diction, there’s one liberating word that we may hear more often: monogamish. It means you have a discrete, occasionally open relationship.
As long as clear boundaries are set and respect and equality are practised, there’s really no need to freak out.
It’s 2019 -- love without fear, without the need to possess or control, and without the myths that are holding you back.