The notions of love and freedom have gained a new meaning for the Millennial generation – they are often perceived as opposites, for once you find yourself in the realm of love, you need to relinquish your elusive “freedom”. Love is seen as this baffling, volatile force that is kept alive solely on the basis of being in love, with little to no hard work involved. Then it makes perfect sense that as soon as there’s a setback, this infatuation, or “crush” as we like to call it, fades away, and a relationship is seen as a cage.
Women often feel like this partly because of the strong patriarchal stigmas in their surroundings, or they simply meet the “wrong” guy for them. As a result, they lose faith and patience for the next one that comes around, and the vicious cycle continues.
To fall in love or not?
“Falling in love is easy. Falling in love with the same person repeatedly is extraordinary.”
― Crystal Woods
I remember the stories my mom told me about her early twenties riddled with her parents’ expectations for marriage and kids, because it was how things were done, no questions asked. Today, we face a slightly different scenario: we feel this unspoken pressure to raise a family and build a career, remain the strong, independent women we have fought so long to become and still devote ourselves to our spouses and children.
So naturally, we end up with a whole slew of deeply-rooted insecurities, and I know some of these have haunted me for too long: does he like me or does he perceive me as a passing fad, a fun but fleeting stage of his life from which he is eager to move on to the next one? Such a mindset has only prevented me from truly falling in love, and combined with the fact that at the time I wanted to continue moving upward on my professional path, it was a surefire recipe for relationship failure.
“All, everything that I understand, I only understand because I love.”
— Leo Tolstoy
Too many of my dear friends have expressed a fear of loving another, because they strongly believed that would ultimately jeopardize their self-love and care. And truth be told, we’ve all seen this scenario, and we’ve all thought the same thing: I never want this to happen to me. I always want to maintain my unique identity, keep nurturing myself and never let a breakup feel like losing my essence and my purpose.
Several failed relationships and a number of married years later, I can safely say that this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Genuine love in its purest form doesn’t allow for losing yourself. Your partner is meant to complete, contradict and challenge you, all in the sense of a mutually-beneficial partnership that supports positive changes within yourself. By letting yourself love another, you in fact love yourself even more, and by getting to know your spouse, you learn about yourself more every day.
To be loved
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
– Victor Hugo
Once you overcome the urge to hide your flaws (which you inevitably have, as do we all), and the need to put your ego first in every argument or disagreement, you will discover the beauty of being loved for all you really are. True, unselfish love that is based on kindness, understanding and reciprocity is a powerful state of being. My husband and I always have each other’s back, which is a rarity in these strange times, but also not something we were simply given, but it required learned.
It’s easy to savor your life’s moments of success and joy with one another. It’s in the moments of sorrow, disappointment, failure and when your deepest fears and flaws rear their ugly faces that your love shows what it’s made of. No setback can make genuine love wither and die, on the contrary. These challenges will make it stronger every time you overcome them, but only when and if you base your actions on mutual trust, support and most importantly, respect. And that is no easy feat.
Love is a practice
“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”
― Erich Fromm
In this fast-paced life of ours, our generation constantly searches for fast solutions. But love is the art of lasting things – a set of ever-changing, yet enduring emotions, attitudes and behaviors all summed up into a single name that inspires awe. It’s easy to get lost if you believe in a fleeting ideal, and smoke and mirrors.
However, if you let yourself reshape the notion into what it truly is – a practice – you will enable yourself to finally experience love in all its imperfect beauty and savor it with someone who is willing, nay, happy to share life’s tides and torrents with you despite the fact that you squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube and hog the blankets at night. Love will always find a way to put things in perspective.
About Isabel F. William
Body&Mind Balance Consultant. Lover of literature and philosophy, runner, and Tai Chi master. She believes that sometimes it is just enough to enjoy a really good book, smooth jazz and a cup of coffee to travel somewhere else.