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I feel like there’s a lot of talk about what love is, and how to know when you’re in love with someone (which is funny, because you would think that you can tell), and how to know whether it’s “wrong” or “right”. And when it is wrong, it’s easy to get all poetic about it, and that’s often where we trip up, because there is unfortunately something enticing about the wrong kind of love.

The thing is, the way I’m slowly starting to see it is that this “wrong love” isn’t really love at all. I’m not saying it’s just lust or more surface-level than even that, I just mean love should feel healthy. So maybe it’s the kind of thing where you know what you want when you know what you don’t want. Maybe what we should really be figuring out is what love isn’t.

Love isn’t unrequited

Okay, so of all the types of love drifting out there this notion of unrequited love is one of the most complicated, most messy, and sometimes the hardest on your heart. Liking someone who doesn’t end up feeling the same way is kind of an inevitability. There’s this show that makes a long speech about it, and it kind of explains that love is just dumb luck, and some of – if not most of the time – you’re simply unlucky. (FYI the show I’m talking about is called Sex Education, it’s on Netflix and you should definitely watch it – even if it’s just for Asa Butterfield.) The point is, this kind of situation is bound to happen to everyone at least once in their life. It can feel rough; it can make you question yourself (even though it shouldn’t) and you can end up wasting a whole lot of your own time feeling bad for no particular reason. It’s just dumb un-luck. So, in an attempt to save you pain and time – even if this seems harsh – I want to remind you now, this isn’t love. It just isn’t. Love, by its nature, is reciprocal. Unrequited “love” is a toxic combination of infatuation and imagination. It’s the kind that feels intoxicating to inhale but the side effects will leave you dizzy, and it’s just not worth it. Like I said, real love doesn’t feel one-sided, and you shouldn’t settle for any less.

Love isn’t a questioning of your own self-worth

Unrequited feelings definitely aren’t the only cause of self-doubt and insecurity. Granted, some of this probably comes from our own deep-rooted anxieties and have nothing to do with the other person at all. But this other person should help combat those feelings, not add to them. If you find yourself feeling constantly not-secure (or extremely insecure as well) around this person, or just generally in the relationship as a whole, you kind of have to think why. Obviously, you’ll have blips about how you feel about yourself, but you should feel stable enough in the love you share with your partner to know that it’s constant. Love definitely doesn’t make you as a person (as in, it shouldn’t be the aim of love to make you feel complete), but as cliché as it sounds, I guess it shouldn’t be something that breaks you either.

Love isn’t part-time

This is where love and like really start to differ. It’s hard to like someone all of the time, because people just aren’t that perfect, and everyone has annoying quirks or times when they’ll piss you off. But I guess when you choose to love someone, that’s what you treat it as. It’s a choice you make, and therefore, it isn’t something that should be part-time. And vice versa, it shouldn’t feel like that either. I don’t know if you’ve seen Good Will Hunting, but Robin Williams makes this long speech in it about how the quirks of a person, or the parts that aren’t the shiniest or prettiest or even the best, are what make that person the right one for you. You love them because of all the things that other people may not like, not just in spite of them.

Love isn’t a fight

It seems that we are fed information about love from the moment we can understand what words mean. This constant, commercialized influx often makes for an unrealistic portrayal of love. And yes, often this refers to the no-flaws-having-Notebook-Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams kissing in the rain — kind of unrealistic. But the flip side to this are the kinds of relationships we are shown where the couple always seem to be arguing or fighting, and generally seem pretty bad for each other…but it’s considered okay, because they’re “in love”. The reality is, this is why a lot of movie couples wouldn’t actually last if they were out here living in the real world. Because all of that fighting and arguing, whether it’s external, or an internal push and pull of your emotions, it’s not sustainable. It weighs, and that kind of love maybe won’t fizzle, but it’ll surely burn out.  

Love should not feel like you are constantly fighting for someone or even for something. I’m not saying it should always feel easy, but if you feel like you’re holding on to someone because of love, you may actually be holding on because you’re afraid to let go.

When you’re choosing someone to let into your heart, you’re looking for someone who’s going to keep you feeling light, happy and safe, even when the world is hard. Most importantly, love is not someone who is going to let you or your heart, sink. A simple test is this: ask yourself, is this so-called “love” hurting you more than it’s helping you?

Anna Young

Stony Brook '20

Hi! I’m an Exchange Student from England, here at Stony Brook for a year abroad! I’m a junior, and my major is Drama and English.
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