I often rant that the world used to be simpler. That without the Internet, smartphones, and paper towels, love was easier, as if human interactions have become more complex alongside the evolution of our tools.
I think this theory was a product of my millennial ego, my tendency to overthink everything in life and my desire to explicate and justify my loneliness. In my defence, it also seemed this way on television. In old films a handsome fellow would catch the gaze of a pretty girl at a dance, they would spend months going to the movies, meeting each other’s family’s and giggling over ice cream before he asked for her hand in marriage. They would spend a lifetime together making babies, cooking meat pie and doting over their grandchildren. Their love would waver, but never die; it would be challenged, but never fail. There was an attitude of persistence in love. That persistence, combined with a sense of faith in love, made bonds unbreakable, made ecstasy irrelevant and made questioning dangerous.
I have now realized that this sense of nostalgia is a fiction I created to appease my loneliness. Love is love, people are people, values may have shifted, but everyday I build my own reality. I built the false narrative — with the help of TV and movies, and millennial things — that love is extremely complicated and that when I feel it, I will feel it viscerally. When I experience real love the framing of my world will change, small blue cartoon birds will follow me around and I will dance to a song that only I can hear in the middle of the day in a crowded place. Not only will I feel the shift, but the whole world will respond and my life will never be the same again. This is a world where love is a chemical reaction that requires an exact measure of many different elements in order to catalyze the perfect result.
This myth of real or true love is dangerous. Particularly, in the context of the current information explosion, which has exposed us to worlds that we didn’t know we wanted, products we didn’t know we needed and displays of love that make us feel inadequate. We live in a world where no one buys toothpaste without researching all the brands and the effects of whitening properties. We want to know everything about everything and we want to know that we have the best.
This is an attitude that has set us up to fail at love.
In order to succeed at love we must first demystify its supernatural qualities. Not to develop a cynical approach, but instead to have a sense of realism about what love looks like on a day-to-day basis. This process of injecting reality into our views on love will also help us develop more faith in love. We must also dispel the culture of scarcity around love. The idea that it is ‘once in a lifetime’ or that it involves finding a ‘soul mate’ puts us into the chaotic search for a needle in a stack of hay, only the needle has been transformed by a warlock to look exactly like a piece of hay. It’s frantic, it’s impossible, and it will result in the hunter feeling exasperated, desperate and alone.
Here are some things to consider when taking stock of your views on relationships: What expectations do you have when it comes to the experience of falling in love? What sort of pressure do you place on yourself and on your potential partner around living up to standards of love and relationships? Whose standards are you using to measure your relationship success? Are you constantly questioning your relationship or wondering if there are better options out there?
Reflect on these questions and remind yourself that in love there is no best. You can’t research your way to the answer, and there is no perfect endgame. The reality is we are all just living in entropy. Nothing is perfect, and no relationship can be written as a chemical equation. It may not look the way you expect. It will not be perfect. The perfect one may pass you by.
When you are able to accept this, you will open yourself up to love. Love is no more complicated or simple than it ever was in history. It is as easy or as difficult as we make it. Once you start thinking about love as something that can be felt and experienced everywhere and with anyone, finding love becomes a far less stressful experience and a much simpler one. You need to accept that your partner will not fill every space in your life and that it is okay to also seek different forms of support and connection from friends and family outside of your relationship. When you stop questioning and searching for the best or better in love, you will find satisfaction and happiness. If you cherish every experience of love or almost-love for what it is, and you constantly seek more of it in your life then you will find bounty.
In its essence love is simple and plentiful, so long as we continue to view it as such and fill our lives with it we will be happy, full and satisfied.