You're Not in Love, Not Less of a Person

February 27, 2020 4 min read

We’ve all had deserting friends. You know the ones, a new relationship and they disappear for a while, or forever. Presumably lost to a blissful eternity of coexistence. If you’re in a relationship it’s all "why didn't they text back?!" And if not, it’s all “am I going to be alone forever?” Sometimes it seems like all anybody can think about is love.



We ‘fall’ in love, we get ‘swept away’, we ‘lose ourselves’. Whilst love can be intoxicating, these verbs fail to include effort and autonomy. Beyond that, there is a promise of escapism, our suffering will be swept away. In viewing romantic love as a solution, it’s tempting to put discontent down to lack of love. But suffering could also come from expectations of love itself.


Romantic love is central to how we measure the success of our lives. Amatonormativity, coins Elizabeth Brake, is “the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal”. The cost is that other relationship types, asexual, single, nonmonogamous people, or even friends, are devalued. It also means divorce and break-ups are seen as a failure. Thinking, as Dan Savage contests, that ‘til death do us part’ is more valuable than the quality of the relationship. The romance myth makes us more likely to stay in an unhappy partnership because we’re so lucky to have found someone.



Putting romantic partnership on a pedestal also means wanting all our needs to be satisfied by one person. Esther Perel proclaims, “We want our chosen one to offer stability, safety, predictability, and dependability…and we want that very same person to supply awe, mystery, adventure, and risk.” We want partners to be our friend, sex god and saviour. Basing so much of our story on relationships, we’re bound to look in that direction for self-worth too.


According to Heather Havrilesky in What If This Were Enough? Digital culture makes it hard to experience personal worth, despite encouraging messages to do so. Hustle porn says wake up at 5 AM and go be successful, holistic gurus want you to know yourself and feel satisfied. Our desires, anger, pride, even humanity becomes a sickness to cure in the name of empowerment. “A century ago, survival was the main event” she points out, “Longing was an accepted part of existence. Today, the inability to achieve happiness is treated as a kind of moral failure.” We suffer more when we punish ourselves for wanting.


Falling in love, getting married and settling down are all valid choices. But you are not any less of a person if you don’t want a slice of that pie. Maria Bello defines modern love as “whomever I love, however I love them, whether they sleep in my bed or not, or whether I do homework with them or share a child with them, love is love”. Amatonormativity is not a universal goal. With queer time being celebrated as the new ‘adulting’, life milestones are shifting from 'tradition' to include different family models and the goal of self-actualisation as well. 


There's this idea that we can fulfil desires and stop the longing. By doing so, our worth will feel more definite. But that’s an illusion. We are not definite, feelings and needs change from moment to moment. Trying to feel satiated by any one thing, especially romantic love, is to resist our messy, beautiful humanity. I’m not saying it’s wrong to want love. But don't fear taking stock of what you do and don’t want that to be. Knowing if your desires don’t look the way they ‘should’, nothing is wrong with you.


Olivia Rose
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