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It’s Valentine’s Day so we brought in our Love and Relationships writer, Katie to talk about, well, love. Be sure to chime in down in the comments section below! XO Candace
It’s Valentine’s Day!!!
Okay BARF that sounded a little more excited than I intended, but... it IS Valentine’s Day after all.
I know this can be a hard day for a lot of people. I myself have struggled on this day, and more generally with the fact that it even IS a holiday in the first place. But, I write about love... sooooo this feels like an appropriate day to drop a post on y’all.
I had actually been planning to write about something else entirely, and had even written a substantial amount of (what I thought would be) today’s post... but there was this other topic that’s been on my mind for a few weeks now. I figured I’d get to it eventually when the time was right, so I tried to focus on my initial idea. In the end, this one kept creeping in and saying “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!” so I figured it was about time I listened and ran with it.
I want to talk about love. Fitting, right? But this post might not be what you think. It’s about unlearning love.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to analyze and understand what I’ve learned love to be over the course of my life. How have I learned to DEFINE what love is? I’ve been thinking about it a decent amount over the past few years, but I don’t think I had the tools to really tease out the specifics until the last few months.
In case you missed it, there is something important in that last paragraph that I want to make sure we don’t lose track of:
Love is LEARNED.
Yes, that’s right. From the minute we pop fresh out the womb, we start learning what love is. We learn what it looks like. We learn what it feels like. We learn what the boundaries are. We learn how it’s expressed. We learn how to both give love and receive it. We learn ALL the time from ALL different sources. We learn from how our parents love us. We learn from how our parents love each other. We learn from our middle school crushes, from television and movies, from our friends, families and neighbors. And, of course, we learn from our own romantic connections.
I mean, that’s a shit ton of information - and we use it to define what love is. Whether you realize it or not, you have a detailed picture of what love means for you. And yes, implicit in this is that love can mean REALLY different things depending on who you ask. For some, love is companionship but a lot of independence. For some, love doesn’t involve sex. For some, love is eye rolls and distance. For some, love is emotional intimacy. For some, love feels really hard. For some, love is long embraces and a deep friendship. For some, love is none of these things, and instead is something different altogether.
That being said, I’ve been painting this picture of what love looks like for me based on all sorts information for the past 33 years. I’ve thought a lot about how to sum it up in this post with relative brevity (and have therefore taken some creative liberties to do so), but here it goes:
For me, love has been a tidal wave. A tidal wave where I’ve been standing on the proverbial beach and seen it coming, but DAMN has it happened fast. And It’s been so so big. It’s been beautiful, powerful and even intimidating. I’ve felt its power as it washed over me. It has consumed me. I have found myself in a prolonged and constant state of awe. It’s really been quite amazing.
But like… tidal waves also kinda suck, right? I mean for one, they knock you on your ass (to put it lightly). They crash into you and they turn your world upside down. Sometimes you figure out which way is up pretty quickly, but sometimes (and I’d argue, most of the time) you’re trapped under the rush of the wave, struggling to breathe and panicking as you try to find the surface. When you’re in the thick of the chaos, it can be hard to tell how long you’ve been trapped there gasping for air. Sometimes it’s brief, and sometimes it’s ages. And then inevitably, there’s that moment when the wave retreats. It fades back into the ocean like it was never there in the first place. But all that’s left where it used to be is complete and utter destruction. Buildings and homes flattened. Trees uprooted. Cars overturned. People you love washed away out to sea that were once part of your life, never to be seen again. It ruins you, and your world can never be the same afterwards.
Okay, okay, okay - that was some dark shit. But it’s honest, and that’s what love has been for me. Turns out, much of what I had learned love to be was ugly. It was the stuff I never wanted love to be in the first place, whether I knew it or not. I never wanted love to be lonely. I never wanted love to be a roller coaster. I never wanted love to be hostile, or anxious or distant. I never wanted love to be desperate. I never wanted love to be insecure. I never wanted love to be any of those things, but over the course of my life, that’s what it had become.
So what happens when the love you know isn’t the love you want? Here I was with this definition of love that I knew hadn’t worked for me, so I found myself in this interesting position:
I had to completely unlearn what love was, and start over.
And I mean start from SCRATCH yo. Like, completely decimate all my ideas of love so I could find out what the love I’ve always wanted looks and feels like. In many ways, this revelation felt pretty exciting. I felt empowered to know that I was building a new standard for my romantic connections, but… there was this other thing:
Because frankly, I was going into this shit blind. The words that came to mind as I started to think about redefining love were “staring into the abyss.” I mean literally just this black expanse where you don’t know which way to turn, and you’re not sure you’ll ever make it out. There’s a certain hopelessness that comes with embarking on a journey like this. Maybe it’s too big. Maybe it’s too difficult. Maybe I’ll never figure it out.
It’s hard. A lot harder than you’d think.
But I have good news! Namely, that what we learn love to be can change… without us even trying!
Yes!! Of course it can - with new data, right? Like I said, you’re absorbing information about love around the clock, and as you do that, your definition of love can evolve without you even realizing.
For me, it started about 6 months ago, when I tried something different. Well, tried someone different. And by different, I mean he wasn’t the tidal wave. He didn’t leave me upended and gasping for breath. He didn’t make me chase him. No, in fact, he was just there. Like, literally right there. Chillin. Ready. Sounds awesome, right? Well it was. But that doesn’t change the fact that it felt hard, which in itself was bewildering. I was still holding onto all those things I thought I knew love to be, and as time drew on it worried me that I wasn’t getting all those tidal-wave-type-of-love feelings. I was so so confused. I had a hunch that this was the type of guy I’d be hoping for all along (#shitblockingunicorn), so why did I feel so unsettled?
But days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. And all of a sudden I realized the tidal wave wasn’t there, but this other thing was.
It started as an empty cup. But it didn’t stay empty - there was a slow drip drop of water into it. So slow I didn’t even realize it was happening. I mean shit, I didn’t even know the cup was there in the first place! I didn’t know it was there at all… until one day it was full.
And man, that fullness was something so so new to me. It was tender and warm and delicious. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew it was there. I spent some time trying to figure out what this full cup was all about… until it overflowed. And then I knew - my definition of love was changing, and I hadn’t even seen it coming:
Maybe love isn’t desperation
Maybe love isn’t fear
Maybe love isn’t manipulation
Maybe love isn’t loneliness
Maybe love isn’t volatile
Maybe love isn’t a risk after all
Maybe love is healing
Maybe love is egoless
Maybe love is a slow burn
Maybe love is empowering
Maybe love is transparency
Maybe love is feeling so so safe
Maybe love is never feeling alone
Maybe love is never wondering if you’re #1
Maybe love is sharing emotional labor equally
Maybe love is knowing you made a good decision
Maybe love is wanting to be more like your partner
Maybe love is feeling relieved when they’re with you
Maybe love is never avoiding the hard conversations
Maybe love is helping each other without being asked
Maybe love is learning a new standard for friendships from your partner
Maybe love is never having to make yourself smaller to make things work
Maybe love is wondering how you ever made it all this time without them by your side
Maybe love is bacon at midnight
Maybe love is like sitting on my bedroom floor talking about work
Maybe love is too many cheese samples at Whole Foods
Maybe love is finally having some proper board game competition
Maybe love is that feeling I get when you (rarely) belly laugh
Maybe love is the way your eyes smile more than your mouth does
Maybe love is tall and tatted
Maybe love is blonde and bearded
Maybe love is you
Hey, happy Valentine’s Day. This one is for you. And in case this post wasn’t abundantly clear:
I love you.
Til next time YBCers. In the meantime, I’ll be busy figuring out what else love is… for me :)