Ah, Valentine’s day. Love is in the air.
Artfully dodging through giddy young couples on the streets and swiping through sadistic 9gag forever alone memes on social media, I turn my thoughts to the topic of the day.
Having once been a hopeless romantic myself, I used to buy into the idea of ideal love. The one of fantasies and dreams where you meet “the one” in the most perfect way imaginable and then live happily ever after.
But having had this cycle repeat itself once too many times, and a love life that’s turned out to be even more complicated and colourful than Picasso’s canvas, I woke up one day to realise there has to be more to love than this.
I realised that in my emptiness and thirst for love, my life was modelled after that of Disney’s fairy tales. I would fall for a girl, rescue her from whatever problems she had, escalate in building physical chemistry and romantic attraction, make her feel incredibly special in the process, and the rest would be history.
Until the relationship underwent its biggest tests, the princess turned out to have warts and was actually a frog, and the temptation to jump ship became real.
The problem with Disney though, is that they never told us what happens after the prince gets the princess. What happens after the initial infatuation and feelings of novelty fade, which it always does? Or the fact that there is no happily ever after in the real world without sacrifice?
After all, we can only receive as much love as we allow ourselves to. And that means to first let ourselves be loved not through the lenses of others, but by embracing who we are without judgement.
Until we are in a healthy relationship with ourselves, we are incapable of being in a healthy relationship with anyone else without falling into the trap of co-dependency.
The fact remains that love can only be love when it is a choice made from a place of true freedom. Without manipulation. Without games. Without trying to change our partner into who we want them to be to suit ourselves. To allow them to love us with their very real limitations, and yet be completely okay with it.
“You complete me,” was a line made famous by Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire.
As romantic as it sounds, I now know it cannot be further from the truth. It reeks of co-dependency. Mature love is the opposite. It is the coming together of two individuals who are already complete, sharing their completeness with each other, and freely giving of themselves from which greater love grows and abounds. It does not entail expectations of the other to fill and meet the needs of whatever is lacking in oneself.
Being with someone you cannot live without implies dependency on them to make you happy. Placing the responsibility of our happiness in someone else’s hands is not only selfish, it is symptomatic of unhealthy attachment that always leads to disappointment, because only we can ever be in charge of our true happiness.
If we aren’t truly happy on our own, we can never bring lasting happiness into a relationship. So never choose to be with someone simply because of how good or special they make you feel. Because these feelings never last.
Choose them only because you have first found and loved yourself, and having reached a healthy state of freedom, you find them to be the best fit that complements you and your life’s purpose. Choose them only then, because you are able to accept them unconditionally for who they are.
Because that, is love.