We’ve let the mood of love take over this week’s blog posts—first, we taught you how to create your own DIY Valentine’s Day card and now, our starry-eyes have turned to musings on the language of love. And who better to talk to about words from the heart, than Natasha Lunn; features editor at Red magazine and author of the bimonthly newsletter Conversations on Love. Here, Natasha writes a commentary on what we can learn from the world’s most prevalent writers on the topics of love and romance.
‘’A few words assembled in the right order can change the course of a life. That’s certainly how I have felt ever since I first fell in love with certain writers and looked to their words for guidance and solace. When I felt lonely, I would read Cheryl Strayed. When I felt as if I would never find love, I sifted through the lyrics of Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You in The End. And when I was heartbroken over a relationship that, deep, deep down I knew was never really right, I would read Heartburn by Nora Ephron and know that someday I would laugh about the fact that he told me, “I just don’t think you are the One,” over French fries and lukewarm white wine.
‘’And that’s one of the reasons why I have started investigating love, one interview at a time, via an email newsletter called Conversations on Love. Because I think that stumbling across the right words about love at a certain moment in your life can not only bring comfort, but can also change the decisions you make along the way. With that in mind, and because it’s Valentine’s Day, here are five writers who might just change the way you see the love in your life.’’
- Cheryl Strayed
The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.
One of the hardest things about being in love, I think, is giving your partner the space to grow and change—and trusting that they will give you the space to do the same in return. It can be unnerving when you think you know everything about someone, and then they change or you see them differently. What we know is reassuring; confronting newness takes courage. So, this paragraph reminds me that true intimacy is not only about accepting change, but looking for it too.
Don’t ever stop digging into what your partner cares about, what they desire and fear, and what they want their life to be. And most of all, don’t assume that everything about them will remain frozen in the shape of who they were when you first fell in love.
- Esther Perel
It’s hard to feel attracted to someone who has abandoned her sense of autonomy.
One thing I have learnt from the conversations I’ve had in the newsletter—and also from my own life—is that it’s so easy to lose your sense of self in a relationship. Even the strongest people I know have found themselves squishing their personalities into a different shape, or letting the things that were once important to them (friends, hobbies, work) slowly drift out of their lives when love moves in. As Perel explains, it’s so dangerous to lose your sense of autonomy in a relationship, not only because it makes the other person less likely to love you for who you truly are, but also because it takes a lot of hard work to find that autonomy again. Hold on tighter.
- bell hooks
We fear that evaluating our needs and then carefully choosing partners will reveal that there is no one for us to love. Most of us prefer to have a partner who is lacking than no partner at all. What becomes apparent is that we may be more interested in finding a partner than in knowing love.
I first read this bell hooks quote when I was single, and it reminded me that it was better for me to be alone than to choose a partner purely for the sake of being in a relationship. The funny thing is, when you finally decide to take more interest in knowing love, and evaluating what you really value in a partner, more often than not love will find its way to you.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
Once the realisation is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
One of the worst clichés about love is the idea that somebody is “your other half”. What rubbish! Because, as Rilke points out, true love relies on both partners understanding the other as a whole person, seeing them as an individual with their own desires and needs outside of the relationship. What could be a more beautiful act of trust than allowing someone you love to have the space they need to be an individual? As humans, there will always be distances between us. We should try to see the beauty in them.
- Sharon Salzberg
Cultivating loving kindness for ourselves is the foundation of real love for our friends and family, for new people we encounter in our daily lives, for all beings and for life itself.
We spend so long thinking about how to love other people, often we overlook the longest and most important relationship of our lives: the one we have with ourselves. The more I delve into the topic of love, the more I understand how difficult it is to love others until we truly understand ourselves. After all, as Salzberg says, showing ourselves kindness is the starting point for how we love others. And ‘self-compassion is a muscle’—don’t forget to flex it.
Natasha Lunn is features editor at Red magazine and writes a bimonthly newsletter called Conversations on Love. Subscribe here or follow @Conversations_on_love on Instagram.
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