The Idea Of Being In Love Pervades Culture
From the time we are children, falling in love is sold as the ultimate fantasy in life.
In our culture, many of us idealise love. We see it as some lofty cure-all for all of life’s problems. Our movies and our stories and our history all celebrate it as life’s ultimate goal, the final solution for all of our pain and struggle. And because we idealise love, we overestimate it. As a result, our relationships pay a price.
—Mark Manson, bestselling author of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F***
Disney movies we grew up with like The Lion King sell this idea with catchy song sequences. I watched it as a child and subconsciously believed that the end goal in life is to fall in love and have a baby.
When relatives question us about our singlehood, the underlying message is the same—fall in love and do it quickly. Despite hours on Tinder and working hard on my dating game, I haven’t found The One.
How I wish I had Simba’s baboon advisor, as I would like to close the loop in the Circle of Life.
Love has failed us
Growing up, I hoped to find love quickly so I could escape my unhappy family. My parents argued constantly and I felt anxious all the time, fearing they would split.
While my parents stayed together, I know peers who have divorced parents or parents who got involved in adultery. There seemed to be a disparity between the idea of love and what we witnessed in our homes.
I often question my mum’s decision to marry my dad, and guess what? She did so to escape her family, the same reason I wanted to be in love.
Love disappointed me
My first two relationships ended up with my exes cheating. There was no magic carpet ride or any magic for that matter. I felt like I ordered the Big Mac with delicious flame-grilled patties in the ad, only to receive the cardboard-like version IRL.
While they were the ones who cheated, I now know that I gave up on them too because they stopped meeting my needs. I fell in love with what I hoped they would be, instead of who they were.
I was not in love with them, but the idea of being with them.
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Love makes us lose our better senses
However, knowing I constantly fell for the illusion of love doesn’t stop me from getting butterflies in my stomach when I meet someone ideal. I still dream of walking into the sunset with them, buying a condominium and owning a dog together.
But I have learnt not to be obsessed with this fantasy, because I end up doing stupid things to win over the person and put life on hold for some elusive fairy-tale romance to come true.
As we learnt from Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step of recovery is simply admitting we have a problem.
Love is a smoke and is made with the fume of sighs;
—William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
What love addiction is
I recently watched a documentary on Whitney Houston. While drug addiction killed her, it was her lover Bobby Brown who led her down the dark path of drugs.
Somehow, we think love is doing all you can to keep the person by your side.
This is categorised by intense high and low feelings over the person you so-called “love”. In extreme cases, as with Whitney Houston, she shut out the voices that encouraged her towards balanced and healthy living, and it destroyed her and her daughter.
In most cases, we struggle with a potentially toxic relationship that makes us neglect aspects of our lives that grow and mature us in balanced ways.
A co-addicted relationship is not based on healthy love, but on extreme positive and negative intensity. The Love Addict in particular may experience obsessive and compulsive feelings, thinking and behaviour with regard to the relationship, along with intense emotions including anger, fear, hate and lust and so-called love for the other person.
—Pia Mellody, Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love
I found Pia Mellody’s chart in her book extremely illuminating. Love addiction, while characterised with blissful lovey-dovey feelings that match those of pop songs, such as Ed Sheeran’s Perfect, is actually a toxic cycle.
To break the cycle, we need to work on ourselves instead of feeling like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be fitted into somebody’s life. But it won’t be easy because everything you know will tell you otherwise.
Learn To Love And Work On Yourself First
We live in a culture that promotes love as a cure-all but it always tells you love is found in somebody else. The truth is that loving requires practice; daily practice from loving yourself.
When you love yourself, you take care of your part of the equation. You can draw the line between healthy and toxic. It enables you to walk away from the cycle of love addiction while remaining healthily connected to others—family, a lover or friends.
You can then love people for who they are and accept their faults, without adhering to them in ways that might harm you.
I still get goosebumps watching Whitney Houston perform “All The Man I Need”. But I hope we can enjoy the music without living out the lyrics, because it ultimately destroyed her.
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Cover image by Ibrahim Asad / Pexels