When we’re young, we have a very specific idea of love. It’s this concept of forever love, a soulmate, or that twin flame connection. However we phrase it, we have this idea that when we fall in love with someone, we’ll love that person forever. But there are so many things that they don’t tell us about love.
All of the media we’re exposed to in movies, music, books, and magazines promotes love looking and feeling a certain way. It’s how we have such a heteronormative culture. Most of what we see is a man and a woman, and the relationships unfold along a certain timeline, things happening in a certain order, and we’re meant to feel a certain way. Sure, sometimes people have experiences that fit this narrative, but I would say that the vast majority of people don’t see themselves in the latest romance novel, romcom, or other love story. Instead, we have these unrealistic expectations of what love should look and feel like, and we may pass judgment on ones that don’t look and feel this way. We find ourselves disappointed so much of the time because we’ve got this idea that has little basis in the reality of actual love affairs.
I can dispel a myth or two. For instance, loving someone doesn’t mean we’ll love them forever. If we used to love them but don’t now, it doesn’t mean that we never did. I’ve heard that said more times than I can count, and it’s just not true! It’s judging love based on an idea of what it should be. Sometimes love gets broken. I’ve loved people with my whole heart who managed to do things that broke that love down until it was gone. That’s a real thing that can happen. As we grow and change, our feelings do, too. That’s another true story. It doesn’t mean that forever love doesn’t exist; it simply means that it’s not the only kind out there.
We’ve also built these narratives about how relationships are supposed to unfold. First, there’s the “meet cute,” which mostly happens online these days. Then there’s the courtship. Eventually, people live together, get engaged, or in some way take the relationship to what is considered the next level. Then there’s marriage and children. But we all know that real relationships don’t fit into these careful stages and categories. This leaves out a human component with all of the variety that comes with humanity. We don’t always do things in order, and I don’t know where this idea of a courtship came from because it’s fairly nonexistent in the world of dating. Not everyone chooses to marry and/or have children. We’ve limited our definition of what love should look like, and it’s kept us from seeing what it is.
And what it is, is everywhere. If you just thought of Love Actually, you aren’t alone. I did, too. I nearly started singing the song from the movie out loud. But I mean it: love is everywhere. We’ve told ourselves that the only love that counts is the kind where we meet someone, and they stay with us forever. But all love counts. It does. Even the ones that don’t stay. They aren’t less valid for running their course or ending. Then there’s the love we have for friends and family, for our pets and our passions. We have lives filled with love, if we’re fortunate, and yet so many of us will sit and think about how terrible it is that we don’t have a soul mate love in our lives.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have loves that last. They may look different. They may not have that cinematic feel we think we’re supposed to have, but it doesn’t void them out. They’re still meaningful, and they still count. They don’t tell us that about love- that we’ll have so much more than we ever even count to our favor. They don’t tell us that we can be so busy chasing down this idea of a twin flame connection that we might just miss out on all of the epic connections we already have in our lives. They don’t tell us that we can go our whole lives so deeply loved and still have a relationship status that remains unchanged.
Love doesn’t fit into a neat box of what we think it should be. It is universal in the way that we are all a part of the human family, but love is as variable as we are as individual members of that family. They don’t tell us that. But it doesn’t make it any less true.