There are two questions that most people will go out of their way to ask someone in a committed relationship: “is it love?” and “how do you know it’s love?” Now, those are very similar questions, and neither of them are easy to answer. How are you meant to describe something that is so often given the tag of ‘indescribable’? And by that same logic, how are you meant to know if you are in love?
But we’re obsessed with it; we can’t get enough of love. Advertising plays with us, tells us that a certain scent, coffee brand or holiday destination will fling us headfirst into a deep and meaningful romance with a perfect stranger we met at an apple stand. We are told that we need this to be beautiful and that to be elegant, both of which are necessary traits for anyone to attract a partner. Love has become a commodity and the people who control what you see know that; advertising trades on the idea of love as something that people need in order to feel whole.
It’s not hard to see that the main targets of these advertisements are women. You only have to look at the English language to see the favouritism inherent there; the ‘bachelor’ versus ‘spinster’ example is one of the most obvious, not to mention the habitual references in pop culture to wives as “the ball and chain”. Love is marketed to men as a conquest and to women as an escape from spinsterhood. This idea has seeped into the cultural consciousness and has lead to a demonization of ‘singledom’, leaving most people – especially young women – believing that they have no worth without a partner. This is complete bollocks. Your self-esteem and self-worth shouldn’t be reliant on another person validating you with a bunch of flowers.
So, not to be the proverbial raincloud hovering over the Valentine’s parade, but this idealised vision of love is just not the reality for most people. Falling in love may well be as easy as meeting a stranger and hitting it off after hours of staring into each other’s eyes over cocktails, but that’s just the film. It’s the first kiss, the first night together, the first wide-lens shot of matching ‘his ‘n’ hers’ toothbrushes standing side-by-side in front of the bathroom mirror. But what happens after the credits roll?
Relationships, if you’ll excuse the clichÃ©, are about compromise and working together to create something bigger than just yourself. It can be awesome – in the literal sense of the word – having someone around who thinks like you do and wants to spend time with you, in spite of the fact that you have an addiction to watching Jeremy Kyle in your pants when you should be working. As long as everyone in the relationship understands that the occasional problem arising between you is a part of the whole experience, you can have a lot of fun and be in love, despite what the box office might tell you.
You can’t go into a relationship expecting perfection; it’s not going to be problem-free, no matter how good you are for each other. But if you have the right attitude, that doesn’t matter. Look forward to the first argument and turn it into a debate; work together to come up with a solution. If you have a problem, talk about it, and realise that your life isn’t a Disney film. Because what makes a relationship amazing is that it’s real. If you do fall in love, you get to keep going after the credits.
And, if you remain single, you don’t have to share the duvet.