…thoughts on love as Valentine’s Day beckons.
Ladies and gentlemen, another Valentine’s Day is upon us! I often wonder why there must be a single day dedicated to the celebration of love? If love is what makes the world go round, why don’t we celebrate it every day? What exactly is the fuss about Valentine’s Day? As far as I am concerned, it is just one huge celebration of consumerism. Many companies cash out simply by convincing people that they need to break the bank to buy the best gifts or create the best experiences and prove that they love their significant or hopeful others, and that’s the gospel truth!
One would have assumed that Valentine’s Day would provide an opportunity for people to seek and understand the true meaning of love. Alas, the true essence of love is often lost which leads me to one of the greatest existential questions ever asked: what is love? When we say “I love you”, what do we mean? What are the implications of that declaration and what are the expectations that come with it? What does it mean to fall in love?
The media has deliberately influenced how we view love. Fairy tales about Cinderella and Snow White, Mills & Boon and Harlequin Romance books, the ever-present Hollywood romcoms, and many of the popular music artistes all present love as romance: that feeling you feel when you feel your feelings for someone feel right. The storylines are always familiar. Boy sees girl. Boy is intrigued by the way girl looks, probably by what she is wearing, how beautiful she looks, maybe even her mannerisms. Boy hasn’t even uttered a word to girl yet, he immediately falls in love! Boy decides that he must have girl, him and him only, or else, he will die or react in some illogical way. Something along the lines of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story or should I say Sidi and Baroka (or Lakunle as the case may be)? Even Nollywood isn’t left out in promoting these tropes. At the end of the day, many, if not all of these stories, typically end “happily ever after”: boy gets girl (or girl gets boy) and the world continues as it is but we all know life isn’t a fairy tale, don’t we?
And then, there is the case of unrequited love, which very few people speak of, quite an unpleasant experience for some. How can I love you, give you everything I hold dear, but then you say you don’t love me? How can you know that I am pining for you but you refuse to acknowledge my love? What could even make matters worse is when the object of our affection is in love with someone else! Such cruelty!!! This situation has often led to instances of obsession where one party can go to any lengths to ensure the other person accepts their love, even to blackmail: a case of “if I can’t have you then no one else will”.
Loves purest form, in my opinion, is that expressed by God to us: unconditional, giving expecting nothing in return, placing the needs of others ahead of self, assuming the best of all, can we replicate this kind of love? Love is not just a feeling but a series of pre-determined, consistent actions and many people have a challenge with expressing it. We have unknowingly become used to showing love the way we prefer to receive it and this often causes discontent and disconnect in relationships. One person is sure she is doing the most to keep love alive while her partner is wondering if she loves him at all. Weird right?
Reading Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate helped me realise that we all express and experience love in different ways and each way is valid to the individual. One should discover how their partners prefer to receive love rather than love them the way one prefers to be loved. To be honest, loving anyone is hard. We are hardwired to focus on ourselves and our needs: what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, and love demands that we should love people no less than we love ourselves.
As we celebrate this year’s edition of “consumer love”, let us also remember that we do not need to wait for one day in the year to buy a gift or create an experience that expresses our love. Rather, let us remember that every day offers us an opportunity to love and be loved. Love is you, love is me, and together, if we show more love, life can be better and that is the way I see things today.