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What love really looks like

By Catherine Luciani '15

March 6, 2014

The following article was inspired by the popular “Modern Love” column published in The New York Times. Here, a Hamilton College student discusses her own perspective of and experience with romance in the contemporary age. If you’re interested in contributing your own “Modern Love” style piece, please contact spec@hamilton.edu.

Love is imperfect. I find that this is never really taught, but learned—more often than not, the hard way. Love is not what the Disney films of our childhood or the rom-coms from the 80s, 90s and today portray. Love is gritty, raw and has to be worked at constantly. This is not a bad thing because love is something to fight for and, to quote The Office, “Couples fight. And when you fight you know the relationship is still alive, but it’s not until you stop fighting that you realize it’s over.”

Believing in true love and soulmates or a love that makes your life brighter and fulfills a part of yourself is not wrong; I still believe in a love like that. But it is not good to believe in a perfect romance without flaws that appears as though nothing can touch it; such an ideal is unachievable. We are not all Beyoncé—we are not “flawless”w—and because of that, the love that we feel and show has flaws as well. But love is beautiful because of its imperfections. That’s what gives all of the little moments and gestures meaning.

I remember, when I was younger, seeing my parents and wanting to find a love like they had. It seemed like my dad was a knight in shining armor, my mom the princess, and we all lived in a sparkling castle. I don’t recall seeing them fight that often. I interpreted their marriage as happy, magical love.

I still want the love that they have, but now, I want it for completely different reasons.

I can’t recall the first time I ever heard my parents fight, but I do remember when it started getting more and more frequent. Their fighting would get louder; they would say things to each other that I knew they didn’t mean and  then slam doors in each other’s faces. Sometimes they wouldn’t make up for a few days afterwards, and that scared me. I would silently witness these arguments that most often started over the tiniest things and feel like everything was falling apart, that no one else’s family could be like that.

There was a time when I thought they might even get a divorce, but when I asked them, their reactions surprised me. It was as if the thought had never crossed their minds. Both of my parents told me that although they fought and knew how to press each other’s buttons, they still loved each other very much, and wouldn’t give  up that love for the world. It was in that moment that I realized how frustrating love can be, but how it is also not something than can or should be easily let go.

It is easy to expect too much from love or from your partner, in spite of everything you learn, because when you’re in it, you want it to be that perfect, ideal love. When I first fell in love, I thought immediately that nothing could tear us apart. So when something intangible did start to form between us, I didn’t want to accept it. I saw other couples around us that emanated the image of true love, and it made me jealous. I wanted to show everyone that we too were capable of that dreamlike love. But treating a relationship like that, and comparing it to others’, it became like a crystal—something that should be put on display behind glass because it is too fragile to take out.

That’s why love should be treated as real; it is not like it is in the movies. No couple shows their love in the same way either, but that doesn’t mean they love each other less; they just have a different way of communicating it. If you know you love someone, the only person who needs to know that is the other person. Looking back on my first relationship, I can see the moments when I wanted more than I was getting, and wanted it to be like a fairytale love. What I should have done was look at what I had and been thankful for it.

True love is the unique and intimate communication between two people who aren’t materialistic about it, and aren’t afraid to face its imperfections or work through them. I look at my parents now, who just celebrated their 26th anniversary, and I appreciate that I have them there to remind me every day what love really looks like.

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