What is true love? And why should you care?

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In the movie Don Jon, the protagonist Jon Martello (a real good guy), but loves girls and porn obsessively. He meets Barbara (a bombshell), falls in love, and eventually has sex with her. But she never excites him the way porn does. And Barbara wants Jon to behave like a “real man”, one that never acts against a woman’s word. A few more minutes into the movie, he meets Esther. An older woman who lost her kid and husband, bonds well with Jon. She hands him over (what she considers realistic) porn and helps him realize that porn is one-sided gratification.

Barbara finds him self-centred where Esther helps him deal with his issues. Barbara is a bombshell whereas Esther is a 40-year-old woman. Jon “loves” Barbara, but he bonds better with Esther.

So what’s love? Is it something that makes people go crazy? Is it something that sparks on the first sight? Is it superglue for our brains we can’t get rid of? Or is it something we should work on, one that needs self-discipline and patience?

Before I go decapitating the myths of “love”, let’s begin by analysing how it evolved through history.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF LOVE

Love’s a cultural invention. Humans, being social creatures, lived among groups because it helped them to survive. They considered love absurd, and marriages were entirely transactional. For instance, Mari’s king marries Yamhad’s queen just because it meant more trade routes, connections and wealth.

In a similar instance, Louis XV had one chief mistress for wealth, trade routes, and had several mistresses (one of them was 14 years old). They saw marriages as mere transactions, which we modern people find abnormal. Yes, it’s a relief that we’ve overcome subjugation of women as objects that men can exploit out of. But our own definitions of love look like a stack of shiny, sugary and unhealthy donuts.

Our definitions of love looks shiny on the outside, but doesn’t really help us.

Modern day romantic love puts feelings over reason. Reasoning, calculating the odds of staying with a woman using calculus and trigonometry would make her run away. But having your feelings as a foundation to make choices might be a bad idea.

IDEALIZATION OF LOVE

We idealize love and see it as a cure to all our problems. Feeling lonely? Lack happiness? Loving someone would do the job. Barbara loves Jon and when she discovers he’s addicted to porn, all hell breaks loose. It’s painful to have your spouse watching porn. But abandoning your partner just because they are flawed shows your inability to handle obstacles in life.

Idealizing love creates a “perfect” identity of our partner. And when unexpected things happen, we find ourselves unable to get out of the whirlpool of false reality that we surround ourselves with.

WHAT IS CONDITIONAL LOVE AND WHY IT SUCKS:

Welcome to the trade planet. A place where you barter emotions and call it “love”. Conditional love is the unconscious, sentimental subjugation of the other to achieve one’s personal needs. For instance, 

“You’ll be much happier if you tell me the truth.” Barbara states.

John asks, “Wait, wait, wait. I’ll be happier?”

“What? You don’t think I could make you happy if I wanted to?” Barbara replies with a seducing smile slapped across her face, trying to manipulate Jon to spit the truth by trading carnal pleasure. Sounds more of a business deal, doesn’t it? There are more common examples in our own lives.

He threatens he would stop talking, if you don’t text him till 4 in the morning. She warns you that she would break-up if you continue hanging out with your friends. These relationships are highly conditional and toxic.

We often confuse love with the interdependence of each other, for the satisfaction of one’s personal needs. We see our partner as a means to some other end. For instance, Barbara depends on Jon as someone who does anything for her, and Jon depends on Barbara for sexual pleasure. A great example of conditional love, which always sucks.

These short-term relationships crumble once they attain the desired personal needs. And the way these relationships end, they are always “hideous”. Conditional love is taxing, holds unrealistic expectations, self-centred and egoistical. When your love is conditional, you aren’t in love at all.

THE THREE HARSH TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE

1. Love doesn’t equal compatibility

There he is. Handsome, charismatic, and cute. You “fall” in love right away. An electrifying connection happens between both of you. Your hearts synchronize together and your soul gets intertwined with one other like a DNA helix. Sounds familiar? 

This kind of love only uses only its heart to think. What if both of you have different values? Say you love a guy but he constantly ditches you and goes trekking with his friends, you love generosity but he doesn’t give a shit. It’s these values that matter in the long run. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean both of you go well with each other.

Don’t confuse love with compatibility.

2. Love never solves your relationship problems

Happiness, fulfillment or ecstasy doesn’t pop just because you love someone. Relationship issues are just like sticky gum. Once you step on it, it takes effort to get rid of it. You approach every relationship with the same issues. And love is just a new shiny attire. But the gum never goes away.

Love isn’t an all disease cure. This is like looking for an external solution for an internal problem. No matter the person you are with, your relationship issues will haunt you unless you take steps to settle it.

That sticky gum above, that’s how your relationship issues are.

3. Love isn’t worth sacrificing yourself

Is sacrifice an important trait of love? Yes. Is sacrificing yourself an essential trait in love? I don’t think so.

Sacrificing your clubbing to spend time with your wife or stepping down to patch things up is essential to build a long-lasting relationship, but love isn’t worth sacrificing your self respect. A great relationship must complement your identity, not take it away from you. Never lose your mind, body, ambition, or life purpose, just because you can be with someone. 

“If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled – have you no shame in that?”

– EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 28

Would you endure the same if your best friend did the same to you? Then why do we tolerate ill behaviour in our romantic relationships when we don’t do the same with our friendships?

Don’t treat love as the meaning of your life, have something above that. Only then love becomes complete. And never lose your self-respect to be in love with somebody.

THE EXPECTATION FALLACY

Its ubiquitous prevalence from movies to commercials make us question the truth. A gal notices a guy and they feel an instant “electric” connection between them, eventually “falling in love”.

Romeo Juliet is a warning about love that serves as a great example of this. Romeo, infatuated with Rosaline, later finds out her disinterest in the same. Mr. Romeo filled with grief wanders around until he notices Juliet and an instant connection sparks between the both of them. And a few misunderstood events later, both of them take their own lives.

Love at first sight is naïve. We fall in love with a perfect identity that we have created about them inside our own brains, not the actual person itself. For instance,

Kavin notices Anu, and the next instant he feels the typical butterfly-in-the-stomach-stuff. How does this happen? Kavin has created an identity around Anu, (and Anu being a real gorgeous woman) thinks that she would be a caring, helpful and kind woman. But what if Anu wasn’t as caring as he expected to be? What if she was domineering and what if she was a drug addict? Will Kavin be able to bear a great deal of disappointments around the identity that he has created? Probably not.

And the problem doesn’t end here. Love never survives if:

  1. They created it around a subjective identity.
  2. It thrives on the interdependence of each other for the satisfaction of one’s personal needs.

And Kavin “fell in love” with Anu not because he loved her, but he needs a caring, helpful and kind “HOUSEMAID” er.. “Wife”. Here’s another,

Barbara loves Jon and has an identity built around him – Jon, the ideal man, the one who never lies and does anything he asks for. Later, when she finds out about his porn obsession, she cannot break out of the identity conflict eventually leading to a nasty breakup. And this is real.

By 2015, Belgium’s divorce rates popped through the roof with a whopping 71%. And the most common response to their divorce was

“Initial expectations were not met”.

And finally, our unrealistic expectations that love would solve everything? If it were true, then why bother doing all other stuff? Why work hard, when you can smooch with your spouse, cuddle and make love all the time?

To every romantic who follows his heart, the one who builds love around a fake identity,

“Your heart is a bloody drunkard, Period!”

Don’t expect a perfect partner when you aren’t one. And just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to be with them. You may  even “fall in love” with a shithole, when you rely on the rule of “love at first sight”.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

Plato argued that the highest form of love was actually this non-sexual form of attachment to the other called the Platonic love. This is what real love is, acting unconditionally, with no expectations, with no bars held.

1. Little things in life matter the most

You love your wife not because she’s sexy, but you just love her. You care, caress her in times of pain, shut your mouth and patiently listen to her bad days though you had a great one, making an extra cup of coffee, buying her a chocolate when she only asked for a sanitary towel not because you can get your tongue all over her, but because you love her. Unconditional love is exhibited in the tiny moments, making our lives more meaningful and happier.

2. Mutual respect for each other

You’re neither dominant nor submissive. You stand up for your ideas and respect your partner’s ideas, though they are conflicting. One of the most misunderstood things about love is this. Happy couples think alike. No, they don’t. It’s just that they have better ways of handling conflict and mutual respect for one other overcomes the need to be right. Youtuber Matt D’Avella is a great example of this. 

Matt’s a hard core minimalist and his wife isn’t. He suggests his wife to adopt minimalism, but never forces her. She eventually takes up a 7 day experiment and at the end she doesn’t find it that useful and Matt’s cool with that. This plays a chunky role in the sustenance of a long-term relationship.

3. Treating your spouse as a part of your own

Treating your spouse’s issues as part of your own. Helping them break out of their cocoon, to become a better self, not by forcing them to change but acting as an example. And being there for them in times of need.

Learn to appreciate despite their flaws, mistakes and dumb ideas. Judge a partner based only on how they treat you, not how you benefit from them. See them as an end within themselves rather than a means to some other end. 

Create a gazillion Hypotheticals,

  1. “If I told my wife that I wanted to start a career as a photographer, would it wreck our marriage?”
  2. “If I lose my job, would she stop respecting me?”
  3. “If I tell my boyfriend about my sexual abuse of the past, will he leave me?”

And ask questions to yourself too…

  1.  “Will I stop loving her, if she didn’t call me daily?”
  2. “Will I leave him, if he stops buying me anniversary gifts every year?”
  3. “Will I stop loving her, if she had any health issues?”

And if the answer is anything other than a “HELL NO!” You are being conditional. 

Unconditional love doesn’t shy off from telling things your partner doesn’t want to hear, but it helps in the long run. It requires you to tell your spouse to turn off the television. When he had been watching Netflix continuously for the eighth hour. It requires you to speak up, to defer instant gratification, to create a beautiful relationship. For instance,

Your partner has been eating junk non-stop for the past week. It’s easier to leave him undisturbed and let things off. This gives you instant gratification. But having the courage to tell (not force)  your partner to stop consuming junk (though he doesn’t enjoy hearing this stuff) so that he can maintain a healthy body, provides delayed gratification.

And hit possessiveness out of the park. Possessive behaviour contaminates unconditional love because it communicates extreme insecurity and a lack of self respect. How can your partner respect you, if you cannot tolerate any sort of discomfort in your relationship? 

That’s how you hit possessiveness out of the park

Be empathetic, honest, building trust out of titanium, love them beyond their appearance, ditching your ego down the trash can and finally flushing possessiveness right through the stinky toilet can help you create depth in your relationship.

LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH

Love isn’t the end, and it is never enough. You must create healthy boundaries, spend time with your own friends and stop thinking about your spouse all the time. It’s the balance that matters, and love becomes fruitful only when you have something else to chase. Bigger than love.

Love is an irrational degree of affection and loyalty which requires self-discipline and sustained effort to produce. It must provide hope, kindle up your spirit, make you feel responsible enough and is altruistic. Love must never cause a relationship, but must be the effect of it. Love unconditionally, create deeper bondings and achieve your dreams with a pair of hands always to support you despite your failures, successes and stays with you no matter what. That’s true love, and that’s one of the few things that matter, ain’t it?

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