“But love doesn’t make sense. You can’t logic your way into or out of it. Love is totally nonsensical. But we have to keep doing it or else we’re lost and love is dead and humanity should just pack it in. Because love is the best thing we do.”
– Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother
Ted Mosby may not have gotten a lot of things right, but he definitely knew what it is to love and be loved. Ted’s life-long journey at finding “The One” may have seemed forced and annoying at times; however, it definitely taught us a thing or two about love. One of the greatest lessons to take away from Ted’s tireless search for his soulmate is the fact that we cannot force ourselves to fall in love with someone who we think is the perfect one for us. The cliché that love arrives when you least expect it to, is, believe it or not, actually true to a certain degree.
Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License
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During my teens, being heavily fed on a diet of rom-com movies, silly songs about love, and books where the quiet and shy protagonist with a “cool” side to them always falls in love with the new kid in school with a mysterious past and a hidden, loving side to them, I was pretty much obsessed with the idea of love. More specifically, the idea of falling in love. Irresponsible pop-culture also taught me that the only way to feel complete as a human being is to find “The One” who makes you want to vomit out all the butterflies that have been taking refuge in the inner linings of your stomach. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Love doesn’t always have to arrive accompanied by a marching band; sometimes it’s that one song you loved listening to that suddenly pops onto your playlist after years and puts a hint of a smile across your face.
It’s difficult to describe what love really is, or how to recognize love for what it is. For me, it has always been determined by the actions of people, how they treat you and make you feel. We all fondly remember our first loves, don’t we? That strange feeling in the pit of your stomach (butterfly, is that you?) that is a lot similar to being sea- sick but isn’t really that. You get this feeling every time you’re around that person, especially when you make that disarming eye contact. It’s a strange and confusing yet wonderful and tender feeling.
For most of us who are well past our teens now, first loves are memories that we fondly look back on, and sometimes, cringe at. What was I thinking when I sent him that random text message and pretended that it was for someone else when he replied back?! We’ve all done crazy things to get the attention of our first loves, some of which we live to regret even today. But hindsight is a gift that teaches us a lot about ourselves. Today, I am a different person; someone who wouldn’t be attracted to the kind of person my first love was. Sure, if I run into him, then I’ll be nostalgic about my teenage years. But that’s about it. Of course, this doesn’t invalidate my past feelings in any way. Not every kid of love is meant to last forever; we’re constantly outgrowing our old selves and so are the people we once loved. Sometimes love is a memory of an innocent past and that’s okay too.
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Many a times, romantic love comes under the guise of friendship. What starts of as a casual friendship with someone you think is interesting can sometimes end up into you developing feelings for them. Indeed, it is important to be friends with the person you love. You need to first like someone in order to love them. Then again, just because you’re friends with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you will love with them eventually. Sometimes friendship is all we need, and that is, in no way, lesser or inferior to being in love with someone. But sometimes, it also blossoms into something deeper and tender unbeknownst to us. We don’t know how to recognize love and the romantic feelings that surface when we least expect them to.
I actually remained friends with the person I love for several months before either of us realized that there was something more to our friendship than just our shared interests in the same bands and TV shows. Personally, it wasn’t until he told me had feelings for me that I realized I might too. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from being in a relationship, it is the fact that it is important to be friends with the person you love/are attracted to. I myself have seen several potentially long- term relationships fall apart simply because the two individuals never took out the time to get to know each other first before plunging into the relationship. Having the same opinions about everything is not always an accurate parameter for compatibility. We must be able to like the person we love. On the other hand, we obviously don’t love every person we like.
Like I’ve said earlier, you can tell when someone loves you depending on their actions. When they remember to wake you up in the morning for your important meeting even though you didn’t ask them to; it’s love. When they go out of their way to get you your favorite ice cream and come to cheer you up when you’re having a bad day, it’s love. When you find yourself wanting to share every, insignificant aspect of your life with a certain person, it’s love. When you find yourself wanting to be a kinder and a better human being for someone, know that you are in love. It’s when you find yourself looking at them even when you’re both surrounded by people, and you’re not necessarily talking to each other or even in close physical proximity to each other. But you look at them and they look at you, and you just know it.
Greta Gerwig, in the film Frances Ha had aptly put this strange feeling into words-
“…it’s that thing when you’re with someone and you love them and they know it. And they love you and you know it. But it’s a party! And you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining, and you look across the room and you catch each others’ eyes. But not because you’re possessive or it’s precisely sexual, but because that is your person in life. And it’s this secret world that exists right there, in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say other dimensions exist all around us but we don’t have the ability to perceive them?”
Love doesn’t always have to make you feel like you just got off a rollercoaster ride. It isn’t always accompanied by blinding fireworks and an adrenaline rush every time you set your eyes on that person. Sometimes, love moulds itself into your life and becomes a part of it, and not the only thing to focus on. This is the kind of love that is sure of itself, that doesn’t constantly rely on grand gestures to prove its existence. Sometimes we may forget it’s even there, but it always comes back when we need it to. It’s a comfortable feeling, the way fuzzy blankets make you feel on cold winter mornings when you don’t want to leave the bed. This is the kind of love that you learn to appreciate as you grow mature and realize that relationships aren’t meant to be a task on your to- do lists. It is something that should ideally be effortless, and easy; and even when it requires a little work; you must want to do it not because you think you’re obligated to, but because you want to.
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Love manifests itself in the strangest of ways and in the strangest of times. We may go around looking for it everywhere, only to realize that it was right there all along. Sometimes, it’s right within us. Sometimes, the person who needs our love the most is not anyone else, but our own selves. It is important to learn to learn love ourselves before we go around trying to love others. My only advice to those looking for ways on how to recognize love would be stop looking for it elsewhere, and start looking for it within yourself first. Stop trying to rationalize abusive behavior and toxic relationships by conflating it with a twisted definition of love. When love comes knocking at your door, it isn’t supposed to leave you hurt and bruised and aching. It is supposed to lift you up, make you a better and confident human being. Love will never make you forsake yourself for it; if it does, then it wasn’t love to begin with.
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