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love life: “We accept the love we think we deserve”


Love Life is Lip’s new fortnightly column for all things love, relationships, and getting along, brought to you by Camilla Smith. 

I’ve heard that love is a disease, an extreme of feeling very much like madness. It blows in from some distant, tropical climate (I’m sure) and is infected by a germ of so deadly a nature that it would cause you to stand there, shaken with sobs, all for the desire of a boy with brown, curly hair and deep, blue eyes (extremely specific). No, but really. Once you’ve caught it, how do you get rid of it? What if you need to forget you love someone in order to move on? Is there a magical potion that will sap your feelings away? (If only there was).

The delights of love are many; it is capable of creating immense pleasure but it can also make us suffer the tortures of the damned. (Not an exaggeration). I’ve spoken to people who, when they came to the end of a relationship, became so worn out by the extremity of their suffering and loss that the prospect of loving anyone again was simply too difficult to contemplate, at least for a few months. But few people give themselves up to a life of solitude forever*, foregoing living new experiences simply because they are too afraid to invest in another person again.

Here’s the thing: it is entirely possible to recover. Past failures should never be a reason to shut ourselves off from fully experiencing the relationships that follow. Doing such a thing screams of low self-esteem. It means treating ourselves unkindly and unfairly and it would also be doing a disservice to the new, exciting people you may meet in the future.

The fear of falling in love again is often just a defence mechanism allied to that little thing we call rejection. It is the fear that if you invest your feelings in someone you might not get the love you deserve in return. Rather than trying to avoid pain, we must accept that every relationship has the potential to hurt us and comes with the risk of pain. By all means, walk away when you see someone isn’t worthy of you but never avoid investing because you are paranoid or scared.

This doesn’t mean that you should throw yourself recklessly into the pursuit of love. I think that a little caution is beneficial – especially when you feel yourself becoming attached to someone (mostly a lovely but a sometimes scary feeling). Being careful is not the same as not investing fully because you don’t want to go falling madly in love with someone who’s just in it for some kind of short-term pleasure or just a casual fling. That is the perfect set-up for getting hurt, trust me, I know (ooh, this is exciting. I might just reveal something personal!).

The emotional lessons we take from failed relationships are different from the logical ones. The emotional lesson here is: ‘never invest because you’ll get hurt’. While we can’t change the past or completely reverse emotional damage we can change that lesson to a more empowering one. Like all other failures in life, a failed relationship can be a huge learning curve and a preparation for future, more fulfilling attachments. It’s up to you to choose which it will be.

And, yes. I did quote The Perks of Being a Wallflower… Such a seemingly sentimental quote but it’s so true, right?

*Of course, there is nothing wrong with solitude if that is what you want but there is also nothing wrong in desiring the intimate company of others. (What’s all this footnote business in a column about relationships? How pretentious. What a git. Jesus).
Join Camilla next fortnight on Lip for her next instalment of Love Life, in which she will be taking a look at that age old dilemma: should you remain friends with an ex?

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