They say not to judge a book by the cover, but alas, we all do it. Dolly Alderton’s hit seller “Everything I know about love” had me hooked on first sight. I couldn’t not buy it- and I am so glad that I did. This book has sparked some wonderful conversations and debates with my friends and made me contemplate, aptly, everything that I personally know about love.
I must highlight that this post is mainly about romantic love and touches on philautia (self love), but the book of course covers a number of types of love. I’ll reflect on these in a future post, but for now, enjoy my love ramblings.
“I am always half in life, half in a fantastical version of it in my head.”
― Dolly Alderton, Everything I Know About Love
My first recollection of being in love is from when I was around four or five years old. I was, very happily, married to George. George being a figment of my imagination. However that’s not to say that what I felt wasn’t real love, and in fact I still pine for that love sometimes; that was thus far the easiest relationship of my life. George never overstayed his welcome, never crowded me when I wanted some “me” time, as four year olds regularly do. He did exactly what I wanted of him and he said all the right things. My family and their friends all loved George, and they speak of him so highly to this day that I worry no man will ever live up to him. As so often comes with first loves, I also experienced my first heartbreak with George. I remember vividly the day it happened; we were on a family friend’s boat and the love of my life was tragically flushed down the toilet never to be seen again. It only dawned on me much, much later on in my life that I was of course the one who had “killed him off”, which is only slightly worrying. I never had another imaginary friend or husband again and George still lives on in my heart as a very important person in my life; irreplaceable.
Did George set a precedent for all the relationships that I was yet to experience? Probably not, no. I was only four.
I’ve learnt a lot about love and still, in some ways, know absolutely nothing about it. Each relationship I have had in my life has taught me a valuable lesson, no matter how wonderful or painful that lesson may be. My first ever serious relationship started when I was twenty one years old, and lasted for four years. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that the older I get, the more I am learning about myself and discovering all of the complexities and quirks that ultimately make me who I am. I am now twenty seven and still discovering things about myself that surprise me. I therefore now realise that during the period of this relationship, I didn’t really have a clue who I was or what I was doing. I became very much one half of a whole and lost the identity of being my own person. I don’t for one second regret being in that relationship because it paved the way for any future relationships I entered, and it was a wonderfully happy period of my life (the first few years, anyway). I look back now, though, and I realise that we were two very different people with very different values and ambitions. If we met now, I know that we might have found common interests as friends but I highly doubt we’d have fallen in love. I value that time and the lessons he taught me, but I do not regret the closing of that chapter.
As I mentioned earlier, I am still figuring out what exactly it is that makes me, me. I am still developing my own opinions and finding what I really need from a relationship to be happy. I hate to reference such a boring cliché, but I do truly believe that you cannot be happy with anyone unless you are happy on your own. To me, that also means that you must be happy with who you are, and know that you are the best version of yourself with or without a partner. Sure, we all want someone in our corner to back us and be our biggest cheerleader; someone to enjoy Netflix and chill nights with; a companion to travel the world with, but how will you enjoy any of that if you don’t enjoy it for what it is, and not just the company you experience it with? When you can finally be content with everything you have to offer, then you can have a healthy and happy relationship with another.
I know that this sounds like a single gal trying to convince everyone, not least herself, that she’s totally happy and okay not being with anyone, but I personally don’t need any convincing. Every relationship, as well as the time I spend out of one, enables me to explore what I want from love. I now know exactly what would fulfill me in a relationship and won’t settle for any less, because why the bloody hell should I?
Everything I know about love, I’ve learnt from a culmination of experiences, relationships, friendships, family, books and films, music… and yet there’s still a whole load of stuff I don’t know. The one thing I do know, however, is that you can’t expect anyone to love you unless you do. Oh and also, we should all strive for a relationship like Marshall and Lily’s in How I Met Your Mother.