Learning How To Love
When I was 17, my parents sat my sister and I down and told us, “We’re getting a divorce”. My sister burst into tears but I was unmoved.
It seems awful to say but I guess I saw it coming; for years, I had watched our parents’ marriage slowly fall apart.
Their divorce brought two particular question to the forefront of my mind: If marriage—the ultimate commitment of love—was so easily dissolved, does love really exist, and if it does, do I still believe in it?
Fast-forward a couple of years, and a string of failed relationships later, I found my answer to be a resounding yes.
If anything, my parents’ divorce helped me set the expectations of what I believe love should and could be.
How keeping the peace ruined the marriage
Contrary to what most would think, my parents’ relationship didn’t have an obvious ‘rocky phase’. It didn’t decline into a hot steaming mess, complete with screaming matches and giving each other the cold shoulder the day after.
In fact, my parents never fought, not in front of my sister and I anyway.
My mum would always say, “Love is give and take”. From them, I learnt love was synonymous with being accepting, accommodating, and learning not to disagree.
Towards the end, I can’t quite remember them having conversation much, save for Sundays when my dad would vacuum and my mum would mop, and they’d get the household chores done together.
After that, it was back to newspaper reading and laptop surfing, waiting for the next Sunday to clean the house again.
While they got the part down on choosing to love your partner even when you don’t see eye to eye, the silence they adopted in place of resolving their differences broke them apart anyway.
Deconstructing the idea of romantic love
Personally, I feel them letting go of their marriage was the best thing they could’ve done for themselves.
It was clear that commitment and responsibility was what sustained my parents’ marriage, not love. I’m glad my parents are happier separate than together, and found partners who love them.
Through them, I’ve learnt the standards of romantic love my parents held themselves to and tried to teach me are impossible, and will always remain an ideal.
If anything, having to deconstruct and criticise the idea of romantic love has made me believe in love more strongly.
I feel people get disillusioned with the idea of love because they place the ideals of romantic love on their partner, and get inevitably disappointed when the relationship doesn’t live up to these unachievable standards.
Understanding the shortcomings of romantic love made me realise love isn’t something you just ‘get’, it’s something you have to school yourself on.
It’s just like how I had to grasp fighting doesn’t always mean a relationship is toxic or broken, and how arguing in a constructive manner is just another way to say, “I still care about you and want to resolve our issues”.
I’ve learnt how love isn’t an all-consuming passion, and how it isn’t the answer to all. Neither is love never being attracted to anyone else, nor having no secrets from each other.
Relearning How To Love
Ultimately, love is creating your own solution to best develop an emotionally successful life with your partner.
Preferring to ignore the uncomfortable truths in a relationship is probably easier as it helps keep the peace.
But sometimes, creating a love to last through the decades means choosing to fight and having to go against our own understanding of what romantic love should be.
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