Turn on the radio or switch on the television set and it is fairly certain that within a couple of minutes, outside you’ll hear the “L” word being mentioned.
For centuries, songs, sonnets, plays, books, and poems have been written on the topic, and, of course, the last hundred years or so have seen this topic of penmanship transferred to the big and then small screens.
Love is – we are told – a basic and necessary ingredient of life, without which we cannot cope with life’s pressures and struggles, and yet it is also so often the cause of such misery of heartache.
What is this “L” at the centre of such consternation?
This “L”, of course, is “Love”. Let’s consider for a while whether it is really “all around“, and “all we need“.
There are many types of love and many reasons for loving. As well as the more conventional ideal of love – that of romantic and requited attachment – the average person will experience many connections in various outlets and circumstances as they attempt to make sense of life while bumbling through it the best they can.
Happily enough for most of us, the first love we experience is that of and from our families. A parent’s love is said to be ever-lasting, unconditional, and more dependable than any other type we are likely to experience later in life. Whilst it is not true in every case, it is a general rule of thumb that parents will do anything for their children, and they are the very last to ever turn their backs, whatever the reason or provocation. Indeed, a person’s outlook on life often changes when they become a parent, and the very reason for living becomes magnified several-fold due to the emotions involved in caring for one so dependent.
Other familial love can be just as strong and bonding of course, with sibling relationships being particularly important. Friendships between brothers and sisters can be especially rewarding, yet such relationships sometimes can be somewhat less than straightforward with the elder sibling frequently taking on more of a protective role rather than one of straightforward kinship.
What of that love we feel within platonic friendships, I hear you collectively ask? These can also be very rewarding, because not only are they relationships we have chosen for ourselves without the ties of genetics, but they usually come with a different setting or vibe, if you will, then that of the coupling of romantic partners. In fact, friends are often the ones we turn to when we have problems concerning our spouses or partners, as they are the ones who know us best and will treat us as normal entities and not put us on a pedestal.
Their advice (and words of admonishment, if necessary) may not initially always be welcomed, but they will be given in love and affection and will be honest in their reasoning and delivery. A lifelong friend is indeed a blessing, and if you are fortunate enough to have someone accompanying you throughout life’s journey in this manner then you are lucky indeed.
For many people though, the whole concept of “love”, especially at this time of year with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, is connected with that romantic attachment. To fall in love for the first time, it is said, is to really experience life for the first time. A partner to whom we are devoted and feel ready to give the rest of our life – in many ways – completes us but also changes us. The realisation that we have fallen in love with someone is a wonderful yet frightening experience – as everything is still new and the possibilities ahead of us seem endless, joyful and exciting.
The early “honeymoon” period (sometimes literally) of being “in love” will last varying periods of time, but inevitably things will settle down and the two star-struck lovers will undergo a period whereby they really get to know each other better – warts and all – and this is the crucial period for any coupling. Once a sense of structure and routine has been established, the relationship will invariably either go from strength to strength or else start to flounder.
There is no doubt that it takes effort, compromise and sometimes downright determination to ensure a marriage or partnership lasts the distance, but most would agree that these are more than worthwhile sacrifices to make in light of the advantages and benefits a happy relationship brings.
As pondered above, once we have experienced the emotions of “love” are we ever truly the same as people again? Also, how about the agonies that love can bring to the table? Surely there is nothing worse than experiencing either unrequited love or – even worse – the heartbreak of a relationship ending against your will. The sleepless nights, the loss of appetite, and the constant moping and daydreaming over the love that has been lost or not returned seem to make a mockery of the old adage. “It is better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all,” but these are experiences that most of us go through at some point in our lives.
Finally, what of possibly the most important love of all?
As Whitney Houston, amongst others, once sang, learning to love yourself is the most important love of all.
We must find time to appreciate ourselves and the people we are. Whilst self-improvement is commendable in many aspects, being constantly dissatisfied with our lot in life or what we perceive to be our character flaws or weaknesses is only going to end in negativity and unhappiness. We are all unique and have our own special skills and mindsets, so comparing ourselves either with other people or what we feel would be our ideal selves, is ultimately self-defeating and counterproductive.
Finally, as we go about our daily lives, we should take the opportunity to smell the roses a bit. Enjoy being alive and embrace all the challenges and curveballs the world throws in our direction from time to time.