When my Elite Daily article, The Difference Between Needing, Wanting And Loving Somebody, was first published (the edited version here), it got quite a huge response online.
In the article, I offer an answer to the age-old question, "What is Love?" I was inspired to write about this topic at that time as a good friend of mine had just broken up with her fiancé.
"How do you know if you are still in love with someone, or if you're staying because of the familiarity?" she asked me over the phone. Even after the breakup, she wasn't hundred percent sure. "I know in my head that I don't want him as a lover, yet in my heart, I still feel for him. Why?"
So I tried to explain to her that what she's feeling isn't romantic affection, but the nostalgia associated with leaving the comfort zone that the ex-relationship provided. Just to be clear, I wasn't saying that my friend doesn't love her ex anymore -- just not romantically.
And it's not that my friend hadn't tried hard enough. In fact, she had tried all ways to fall back in love with her ex, but her efforts were mostly unfruitful. I was able to empathise with her as I myself had been through a similar situation before. For me, it was a torturous and painful experience. So I encouraged my friend to stick to her decision if that's what she thinks is right.
There was a lot of support for the Elite Daily piece. Many people liked the article and shared it on social media. I even received some fan mails for it.
However, there's also another group of people who disagreed with my points and said that the article was complete, utter rubbish. One commenter wrote, "Terrible advice!" One of the arguments that people gave was: "But love is a choice!" They argued that love isn't just a feeling, but also hard work and commitment.
Well yes, I do believe that love is an actionable decision. For the relationship to work, you have to choose to love even when you don't feel like it, or when your partner's being unlovable, or when life gets hard. Having said so, what if you are not happy in the relationship to begin with? Or if your partner isn't able to satisfy your needs and desires? Should you still choose to stay?
In another article I wrote, The Difference Between Dating a Boy and Dating a Real Man, I shared about a dear friend's experience with her ex-boyfriend. On one hand, he's the "ideal boyfriend" -- smart, good looking, successful and motivated. However in the relationship, he was also very temperamental. He would lash out at the smallest things. He also had unreasonably high expectations of my friend, which made her feel like she's never gonna be good enough for him.
Yet, my friend stayed with him. She tried to be patient. She would give him chance after chance. Whenever she's on the verge of leaving him, he would convince her that he's gonna change. "Let's try to work this out together babe," he'd say, and she would believe him. She believed that she would be able to make him a better lover, so she put up with the almost habitual emotional abuse.
My point is yes, love is a choice and it can be a whole lot of work. But sometimes that choice may not be worth the effort. This is why you need to be sure that you are working with the right person and towards the right goals. I like how blogger Mistress Moana explains it:
"I feel like relationships fail at an alarming rate nowadays, and it's because people are pushing them forward without taking the time to evaluate whether or not they're going to be happy with what they've found. We're in a big rush to hit milestones just to say we have. Is it more important to be married or to find your soulmate?"
Well, it doesn't matter whether you believe in the concept of soulmates or not. The point is, don't risk your happiness just because of your fear of change, or because of other people's expectations or whatever social pressures. You shouldn't have to sacrifice yourself to make everyone else happy.
Moving on, we also have those people who so frivolously throw around phases like "love is about giving, not taking," "love is about sacrifice" and "love is not selfish."
Here's my response: Just because you support such ideals doesn't mean that they exist in real life. They are after all, ideals. So drop that holier-than-thou stance. No human is perfect. Most of us do hope or expect some form of reciprocation for the love and effort we put into the relationship. It's only human nature.
I'm not saying that love can't be unconditional, giving or selfless. Under certain circumstances and to certain extent, I believe it can be. But to say that love is only about giving and sacrificing oneself, that's some self-righteous BS there.
Maybe in an ideal world, love can be free of any selfish desire or intention. But in the reality of our world, love can only be so up till a certain point -- and that's OK. It's the imperfections of each relationship that make it real. If everything is perfect, then there's nothing for us to work on.
Love is a choice -- a sacred one. If you believe that he or she is the right one for you, then you have to choose them, nurture them, and fight for them, no matter what life throws at you. But if you know that the relationship is causing you more hurt than joy, or is pulling you back instead of lifting you up, then you should really take a step back and start evaluating your options. Leaving somebody doesn't mean that you're a bad or selfish person. If you know deep down that you deserve better, or that they deserve more than your half-hearted love, then perhaps letting go is the right thing to do.