Nicole Law offers insights into the world of dating and relationships.
I debated with myself for a good month before purchasing a particular book – Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn. I had read positive reviews and noted that it always seemed to sell out in a matter of days online.
I had an inkling from the title that many people were drawn to the last word – ‘love’, that inscrutable reality so many of us find hard to pin down. As someone who is actively considering the idea of a long-term relationship and what it entails, I was intrigued enough to press ‘buy now’.
I was not expecting responses to unanswered questions like “How do I know if someone is the one?” I lowered my expectations and treated the book simply for what it is – a book of conversations between the author and various people on the subject of love.
A key lesson I’ve learned not just from the book but from experience is that the idealism of romance eventually makes for disappointment as we hold people to an impossible standard of perfection in our minds. Love involves something more than romance …
The book itself was structured into three main parts – how we find love, how we sustain it, and how we survive its loss. The narrative the author draws from her conversations forms an unbroken thread throughout the book and covers the full range of relationships, from the romantic, to the familial, to the fraternal.
I found myself feeling an intense resonance with the conversations – almost as though I had had a similar conversation with friends the day before, but now I was pretty sure it was not just me who felt that way.
On the topic of finding love, Natasha mentions the ‘unbearable unknown’ of not knowing if there really is ‘The One’ out there waiting for each of us.
The word ‘unbearable’ accurately expresses the single years of many people, including my own. We would rather know up front if Mr or Miss Right is out there waiting for us. Or should we rather abandon the idea of knocking at the prized door called ‘marriage’ and channel our energies towards other pursuits?
But the dangling hypothetical looms over our heads and pressure can come from various sources: one’s family, social expectations to ‘settle down’, or even from a population crisis perspective of falling birth rates.
The temptation to give in to the online dating culture and commodification of the pursuit of love has led many of us down the road of signing up for this or that app, hoping that by a determined date we will come away ‘successful’.
In the process, we relegate friendships in favour of romantic relationships, when in actual fact much of the intimacy we desire can be found in close friendships.
I have always wondered where we can feasibly draw the line between friendship and love and it always leaves me confused. Is not a friend also one who loves us unconditionally?
And yet my own Christian faith tells me that marriage is always more: it is a bond created by God which cannot be broken, it is the emotional and physical union of a man and woman for love and life, for children. Yes, this is more than friendship and so a harder pursuit.
The idea of the romantic relationship seems to entail an element of exclusivity – a deeper sense of commitment to co-create a union with another person. It seems we can fall out with friends, but can’t the same be said for our romantic relationships? But in the latter case, the crash is always more painful. What does this have to tell us?
No human relationship is guaranteed to last – whether it be familiar, fraternal or romantic. With this in mind, I have realised that love is not really about ‘finding’ – it is about leaning into the relationships we already have and treating them as they are – finite and not our source of happiness.
Living our relationships with honesty and treating each person that we encounter with kindness and sensitivity is the first step to greater authenticity.
People can pass off as ‘attractive’ for their physical attributes or their witty one-liners. But what really attracts and intrigues me about someone is their authenticity and sincerity. By living in this way, a person makes him or herself vulnerable and yet, paradoxically, I discover a deeper strength here.
I’m still having conversations about love with friends, dwelling in this sometimes ‘unbearable unknown’ and have frequently fallen victim to self-doubt. Yet, I’ve realised the pursuit of romance starts to take on a real quality only when we shed our manicured facades, look over the table at the person sitting in front of us and start to see him or her with the softened gaze of love, which is not so much a romantic feeling as compassionate understanding
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