Real Love Baby

Real Love Baby

As mentioned in our previous post, over the summer a few of our friends began reading Alain de Botton’s books and started asking, what is real love? His works unravel and demystify love, at points reducing it to a conscious choice, at others shining a spotlight on the stories we can create around something as simple as the way your crush eats a yoghurt. He highlights the amusing, mundanity of love and the expectations and roles we can project onto people.

And turns out, he has a huuuge readership. The topic seems to be gaining more and more attention, possibly ignited by the boggling situation a lot of modern relationship-seekers find themselves in, where no longer are we searching for someone who makes sense purely financially or in regards to societal status, now we feel that whoever we choose has to meet our emotional needs, be our intellectual equal, our lover, our best-friend, a co-parent - romantic love is now expected to encompass it all. Which sounds sliiightly unattainable.

SO I (Laura) have embarked on a quest to find real, romantic love and what it might look like. Is it tumultuous, intense and exciting? Is it comfortable, warm and monotonous? Is it just a dance between passion and predictability? Is it ever sustainable? Can anyone ever really know and love me?

Ill-equipped to answer this myself, I chatted to three couples who say they have found real love, baby, and asked them to tell me all their secrets.

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Cindy + Lewis, 36.

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How long have you been together?

Cindy: 4 months dating, 6 months engaged, 11 years married.

 

How did you meet?

Lewis: We worked together.

 

This piece was inspired by the conversation around real love, what does it look like for you guys?

Lewis: I first knew I loved Cindy because I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Real love means you sacrifice everything for the other one to be happy, of course this is mutual so you end up in a happy medium.

Cindy: Real love to me is partnership in everything. Having a companion and best friend that shares every high and every low that you may experience in life and makes it better because they are there. Love is a genuine knowing that your chosen person is there for you and with you always. Real love echo’s through you right into your soul.

 

Do you have to work at it?

Cindy: I don’t like the term work. I think like life, a relationship is a series of choices. If you love someone you are always very cognisant of how your choices can impact them. Because I love Lewis I consider him in both my small and big choices. When you genuinely love someone it’s easy. I find it easy to choose Lewis and our relationship and family. Humans are selfish. I think to have the best relationship possible you should always consider how your actions, inactions or words can affect the person you love. Self awareness and awareness of your partners needs is very important.

Lewis: I believe you do (work at it) because you can always learn more about your spouse as they grow as a human, with new interests, opinions and influences. We were told it’s like an education, you can always learn more and you should or life gets boring. You can’t go into a relationship/marriage expecting that person to be the same forever, they will change, as will you, and you need to do that together which sometimes doesn’t always go smoothly but the work is worth it.

 

What's one of the greatest myths about love/relationships?

Cindy: I think the myth or lie we tell ourselves is that our relationship will be better if the person we are with changes some external factor. For example if you’re with someone that’s aloof and doesn’t fully consider your needs or wants, that won’t change if you get married. If you are arguing or fighting often, having children will not change that aspect of your relationship. Often things you dislike will be amplified in marriage – not corrected.

Lewis: That love has no bounds, that it overcomes everything. Truth is you will never know until you experience hardship in your relationship if you can overcome the feelings of your heart. Can the deep hurt be overcome by the love that came before it? It’s a crucible moment. For some it’s much less, but maybe that just means you didn’t really love the person in the first place!

 

What would you say to someone who is searching for ‘real love’ ?

Lewis:
Stop searching. Live your life the best way you can and you will meet someone on the same path as you travelling in the same direction. Looking for love results in missed life opportunities.

Cindy: Know what you want in a relationship and significant other and don’t settle! While you wait for the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, truly live, travel, explore, work, challenge yourself. When the right person comes along you are a richer individual with amazing memories in tow. If you don’t find someone you want to give your all to, you have lived a life of fullness, built friendships and didn’t waste your existence waiting on someone that never came or didn’t live up to your expectations. You are responsible for your own happiness.

 

Anything else you wanna say?

Cindy: Have fun, be silly, laugh with each other and at yourself. Life is full of joy and love if we look for it.

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Annie, 26 + Sam, 25.

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How long have you been together?

Annie/Sam: 11 months.


How did you meet?

Sam: My older sister is a woman of action and decided to get involved in my love life. She got in touch with Annie’s sister who turned to Annie for advice, who chose herself for the blind date with me.

Annie: Basically the date went pretty well and we haven’t stopped dating since.



There’s lots of talk about real love rn, what does it look like for you guys?

Annie: Real love is being a good friend everyday, it’s being the other person’s greatest supporter and encourager. It has an outward focus – not just an inward one.

Sam: It feels like warm sun on your back. It looks like when you get a moustache and they like it.


Do you have to work at it?

Annie: Yeah, I think “working at it” is often perceived as being something negative. Of course you do have to compromise sometimes and put your own wants to one side but in the long run, if you both have each others best interests at heart, it’s going to be good.

Sam: I think it does take work but it’s more like DIY on your house than long hours in an office job. It’s the sort of work that’s satisfying to do because you get to enjoy what you’ve created in the present and in the future. You also get to do it with someone cool.

 

What's one of the greatest myths about love/relationships?

Annie: That it’s a game and that it’s complicated. If you have to keep things interesting by holding your cards close to your chest or faking your true feelings then I’m not sure you’re pursuing the right thing. Find someone that loves you for you and isn’t afraid to show it.

Sam: Yeah, that it’s complicated and dramatic. I think a relationship can look like anything you want, and if both people are shooting for the same target it’s not necessarily too difficult to achieve.

 

What would you say to someone who is wanting to experience "real love" ?

Annie: There is someone out there who is pretty great, who will probably pop up when you least expect it. Know what you want but make sure they are things that matter. Good looking people get old and fat too so pick someone who is kind, who makes you laugh without berating you, who isn’t too bothered about what people think about them, and who celebrates you for you and thinks your quirks are the best things in the world.

Sam: Keep your eyes peeled, and be intentional who you spend your time with, whether it’s a friend or a relationship. Go on blind dates.

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Matt + Kim, 23.

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How long have you been together?

Kim: We’ve been together for 10 years, kind of. We broke up for a year in Year 11  (which was actually pretty crucial to our relationship) and we’ve been married 7 months.
 

How did you meet?

Matt: We met at intermediate school when we were 11, and then started dating in our early teens. There was a bit of back and forth before we ended up together (Kim rejected my initial advances via Bebo private messenger but eventually came round to the idea of being with me).

 

This piece is inspired by the search for real love, what does it look like for you guys?

Kim: Mostly, I feel deeply known. I feel completely myself when I’m with Matt, it’s the safest and most comfortable place where I can just breathe and be, the way I can with no other person. I feel like an individual, but I also feel part of something bigger. I think real love isn’t always about feelings, though, but a choice to say ‘yep, this is my person, and I’m gonna love them and cheer for them, always'.

Matt: For me it’s about committing to care for someone beyond my capacity to be infatuated by them. When you’re in love with someone and have been with them a while, a large part of your relationship is actually just not that exciting or romantic. It’s still good, and is still punctuated by those traits pretty regularly, but it simply isn’t like that 100% of the time. It’s in those unspectacular times when it can be hard to not be a dick to the other person when you’re feeling a bit low yourself, or to refrain from making that hurtful/ill-timed comment when you’re tired. That unconscious desire to still be kind, have integrity, put the other person first and protect what you’ve made together is what real love is, I reckon.

 

Do you have to work at it?

Matt: Yeah. I think any couple that said otherwise would be lying. But that’s not a bad thing! It’s the most satisfying part for me.

Kim: I’ve found that the most work I have to do in our relationship is on myself. So many things that I initially believe to be issues with the relationship actually end up boiling down to my own past hurts, fears or insecurities that I haven’t dealt with. Being so close with someone means that you will inevitably project onto them, whether you’re realising it or not, so it’s important to be self-aware and look after yourself so that you can, in turn, look after the other person. No matter how much you work on your relationship, things won’t be able to change if you aren’t willing to first work on yourself. You have to have a lot of grace for each other, because everyone has those hurts and anxieties. You’re bound to hurt each other and get it wrong at times, but an attitude of grace and understanding should always come before criticism and emphasis on improvement – so that you both feel safe and loved for who you are first and foremost, even with all your ‘stuff’.

 

What's one of the greatest myths about love/relationships?

Matt: That you should pursue a relationship with someone you have a strong emotional connection with at the detriment of you or the other person. While I think it’s true you definitely need to hit it off emotionally early on to have any hope of it lasting, consideration probably needs to be given to how being with them will affect the significant priorities in your life and your mental wellbeing. If those things are coming at the expense of a love interest or even a full-blown relationship, I’d say that’s a really bad sign.

Kim: That it’s made up of big, emotional, dramatic moments. It’s the message played out in movies – that love needs to be exciting and turbulent and complicated and fiery. I think when we were in high school I used to just make drama in our relationship because that felt romantic – we needed to fight and make up in the rain, because Nicholas Sparks said so!!! I think people stay tethered to people that really hurt them because it feels like how love should be. I’ll admit it does play out beautifully in movies, but I can’t imagine a life of all that anxiety and emotional turmoil. In my experience love is actually pretty simple and comfortable and ultimately a good experience. It’s more about the small, everyday things than the grand gestures. It might sound boring in comparison, but it lasts.

 

What would you say to someone who is looking to experience "real love" ?

Matt: I’d say chiiiill. Because it’ll probably come naturally and unexpectedly, and no amount of fretting will change that fact. However I recognise that’s pretty rich coming from a guy who started dating the girl who’d eventually become his wife at 13, so I’ll just say this: don’t give up on the idea of real love, because serious, long-term relationships give you an emotional and mental security that’s worth pursuing. People have this idea of marriage or relationships being restrictive and stopping you doing the things you really want to do, but I’ve actually found it freeing to have someone in Kim that I know won’t abandon me over my flaws. I’ve made a lot of embarrassing admissions and confessed my weaknesses and anxieties to her and that’s been pretty liberating, actually, rather than limiting. It’s helped me be more authentic more regularly, which is obviously a good thing.

Kim: Someone else won’t complete you. None of this ‘other half’ stuff – you are already a fully whole individual. Also, and this is something I want to be better at myself, don’t take your other relationships for granted. Whether you’re single or not, your friends and family are so important. One person simply cannot be everything to you, and all the different people who you’re lucky enough to love in this life will enrich you so deeply. Hold them all close and put effort into them, too!

 

Anything else you wanna say?

Kim: Oooh one last thing – don’t compare yourself to couples on instagram, whether you know them or not it’s just a highlights reel.

 

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