When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to fall in love. I vividly remember getting frozen yogurt with a group of girl friends when we were in middle school and one of my friends saying, “Guys, how excited are you to fall in love?” The rest of us couldn’t help but giggle at the silliness of her statement…but we all felt an undeniable rush of excitement over the prospect, and nodded in agreement.
I didn’t fall in love until many years later, when I was a junior in college. I had some false alarms before that, but it’s only when you experience the real deal that you are able to recognize how far off the mark everything else was.
I loved him with all my heart, with every fiber of my being…and let me tell you, it was nothing like the movies. While he loved me very much, there were too many other variables that stood in our way and the relationship was always strained and on the brink of implosion. We had maybe a month of being drunk on love…and then almost a year of pain and problems. I didn’t understand, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. The challenges and differences aren’t supposed to matter…it’s supposed to all just work itself out and then you make promises of forever and you keep them and of course, a happily ever after is the expected and rightful reward for making it through the storm.
The last thing in the world I ever anticipated was for my one true love so abruptly fall out of love with me…and in love with someone else. It left me broken, jaded, and utterly confused. Was it not really love? It sure felt like it, but true love is supposed to last forever, isn’t it?
I’d say just about every person on the planet is seeking, or trying to maintain, lasting love. The problem is most of us have longstanding, firmly ingrained, highly unrealistic ideas of what love is supposed to be, and feel frustrated when reality falls short.
No one would deny that love is a beautiful, transformative experience, but at the same time, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of what it actually is. Here are the top five biggest misconceptions about love:
1. It’s Supposed to Be Difficult
The predominant depiction of love in movies and on TV is that it’s supposed to be a challenge, something you fight for at all costs and don’t ever give up on. While this certainly makes for good entertainment, it’s not a realistic portrayal of love.
Relationships do take work, but falling in love (in a healthy way) is a relatively effortless process. It’s not filled with hours of analyzing what he meant when he said XYZ…or feeling a sense of impending doom at all times…or making these grand sacrifices and compromising who you are for the sake of the one you love. Who can forget the final scene in “Grease” when Sandy ditches the poodle skirt and sweater set for second-skin black leggings, an edgy bomber jacket, and a cigarette between her lips while Danny literally falls at her feet, overcome by pure lust and a need to have her right there in the carnival fun-house.
This is not what love looks like! When someone truly loves you, you will not have to mold yourself in order to fit with them, the pieces will naturally click.
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The drama so often associated with love usually only applies to unhealthy relationships, ones that result from infatuation, obsession, or unrealistic expectations, rather than a genuine connection. A healthy, loving relationship is one where two people can be their authentic selves and look at what they can give to the relationship, rather than what they can get from it. Both people complement each other and are able to give what the other needs, and happily receive what their partner has to give. You should never have to fight for someone’s love, or plot ways to make someone love you. When it’s real and genuine, it will flow easily and effortlessly.
2. Love Conquers All
From music to movies to literature, everywhere you turn in mainstream media you hear love is all you need, love conquers all, love lifts us up where we belong, and I could go on and on. Love is for sure a beautiful thing. Love is also necessary in order for a relationship to last, but it’s not enough. Sometimes two people just don’t fit, it’s unfortunate, but it’s just a fact.
The reason most people are so jaded is they stay in relationships that aren’t working for way too long. They try to be what the other person needs, they try to make it work by any means necessary, they try with all their might and wind up broken and defeated. You simply cannot shove a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t matter how many ways you try, you will never be able to make it fit.
There’s this idea that if you love someone enough, it will just work out. But sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean your love wasn’t real, it just means that there were other factors at play and as a result, it just couldn’t work long-term.
While love is very powerful and capable of conquering some things, it isn’t always strong enough to conquer others, like different backgrounds, values, goals, visions for the future for example. Most of all, love simply cannot conquer incompatibility.
3. Only True Love Lasts
Picking up from where I left off in number two, an important truth to realize is not all love if meant to last, sometimes it’s just part of the journey. Loving someone does not mean they are the right person for you. It doesn’t guarantee you a happily ever after. More often than love leading to marriage, love leads to heartbreak…and the heartbreak can lead to growth..and this growth can lead to another love, one that can lead to a lasting marriage.
I have loved several wrong people in my life. While some of those experiences left me with a lot of shattered pieces to put back together, time has shown that none of those guys were right for me. It doesn’t mean the love we shared was flawed or not enough, it just means that we weren’t right for each other.
The sad fact is most relationships end with bitterness and hate. One or both people leave the relationship thinking they were owed something, and they blame the other for not following through on this unwritten promise. If we could all just realize that love does not guarantee a happy ending, we would be able to move forward much more easily, and would be able to start a new relationship with an open heart, rather than one shrouded by pain and disappointment.
4. You “Just Know” When It’s Right
One of the biggest misconceptions about love is that you “just know” when you find the “right one.” The mentality frees you of all responsibility in your love life… you don’t need to work on yourself or prepare for love, just go about your business and someday the right one will drop into your life and you’ll just know.
In order to fall in love with the right person, you need to be in the right place emotionally. If you don’t find love from within, you will never be able to let it in from the outside. No one likes to talk about this part though because this takes work, and the idea of some perfect person just entering your life and being the other half of your circle, the yin to your yang, is just so much easier, and far more romantic.
In order to correctly identify the right one for you, you need to know who you are. You need to know your values, your boundaries, your fundamental needs, your wants, what you can compromise on, and what your absolute deal breakers are. When you are in this place and the right person comes along, the one who understands you and sees you and connects with you and can give you what you need in a relationship, it will feel right and you will just know.
It’s also worth noting that love is something that can grow over time, it’s not always instant fireworks that erupt as soon as your eyes meet. A lot of the time women reject perfectly good guys after a few dates because they “just didn’t feel it.” I’m not saying you should settle, but I am saying you should adjust your idea of what love should feel like. I know plenty of happily married women who almost didn’t give their now-husbands a second date. I’m not saying love at first site can’t, or doesn’t, ever happen–it does, I’ve seen it–but it doesn’t guarantee you a happier, more fulfilling relationship. It’s just another means to get to the same destination, one that can be just as easily achieved slowly.
MORE: 5 Signs He’s Not The One
A lot of the time we reject the guys who would be good to us (and for us) because we are not yet in a place where we can receive true love. Instead we feel drawn to the guys who are unavailable and get caught up in trying to prove our worth and show him we’re good enough. This toxic dating style happens when you don’t feel worthy of love on some level…and going after these kinds of guys validates that notion. The funny thing about the human mind, whether you realize it or not, is it’s always looking to validate beliefs, no matter how damaging said beliefs are. If you think no one likes you, your mind will ignore all the evidence that you are likable and will hone in on only those specific incidents when someone rejected you.
A big part of preparing yourself for love is