“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love.” This is one of the many beautiful quotes from the late, great John Lennon. It is from Lennon that we heard such incredible, and impassioned efforts to achieve world peace. We can hear this through the Beatles’ song, “All You Need Is Love” but we can also see it clearly in the image the world still holds of John Lennon even after his death. We idolize him and his portrayal of love as the solution to all of the world’s problems; yet, this idea, this mentality is what made him such an awful person. I know you’re probably thinking I’m way off base, but he admitted to beating both of his wives, numerous women he had dated and Lennon also abused his son. How is this possible?
There are a lot of reasons but I am going to discuss what I see as the main concern in his story, and a concern that extends beyond just John Lennon. We spend too much time learning and teaching “love is all we need” that it actually promotes unhealthy relationships.
Now, The Little Mermaid was my absolute favorite movie growing up. When I was 13, and I repeat 13, I asked for a mermaid tail for Christmas. But, as much as I love the fantasy of mermaids and underwater kingdoms, it is a perfect example of how we have been brainwashed since we were kids to think that love is the ultimate goal. Take, Ariel, for example: she wanted anything to be a human and find true love. So much so, that she bet her entire life that she could fall in love in just three days. And, if she did, she would get to live “happily ever after” and ride off into the sunset and all of that jazz. Basically, her life would be perfect as long as she could make Prince Eric fall in love with her. Now, I may lose you all here when I analyze this; yes, I am aware it is just a children’s story. But, when I tell you I sat in front of the TV and watched this movie for months on end, I am not kidding. And, when you’re a child, your brain is basically unfiltered. You learn from everything around you. I learned that love is the only thing necessary to be happy with someone. And you all did, too.
Okay, now what about the entire Rom-Com genre of movies. As a self-declared cynic, my number one question after sitting through a movie like 10 Things I Hate About You or She’s the Man is: what happens next?! You have the romance, the chemistry, the passion; but, like most of us who are currently or have been in a relationship before, you know that’s not all there is. And especially for those of us who are no longer in a relationship, you definitely know that’s not all there is.
Let’s look at one of the most classic love stories of all time: Romeo and Juliet. Now, there’s a reason that Shakespeare didn’t write a sequel and decided to kill them off at the end and I am willing to bet money that it has to do with this discussion. What happens when Romeo and Juliet sit down and have a thoughtful discussion about, kids, for example. In the words of Shakespeare himself, “...violent delights have violent ends.”
There is no master rubric designed to map out the components of a healthy relationship. But, we can all rattle off some other important pieces to the puzzle: respect, trust, loyalty, compassion, communication... Even look at one of the most notorious unhealthy relationships: Chris Brown and Rihanna. After Chris Brown beat Rihanna in 2009 and pictures of it went viral, the world was shocked when she decided to go back to him shortly after. Years later she was asked to reflect on their relationship and her response to that controversial decision was, “I thought I could change him.” She stayed with him even after physical abuse because she was in love with who she thought he was. When he turned out to be someone else, that love didn’t go away, but it made the relationship toxic. When we start to lose sight of these other elements like trust and respect, we allow ourselves to be unhappy. And what are we all doing if the end goal isn’t to be happy?
This brings up another concern of mine with the way we glorify love: when we don’t learn that it is not the most important factor that goes into a happy and healthy relationship, we view the decision to leave as a failure. When we view ourselves as failing when we choose to leave someone who is making us unhappy, even if we love them, it can make everything 100 times harder. Not only that, but it also makes it more difficult for victims of abusive relationships to leave at all. We should be praising the people who have the strength to say, “Love isn’t enough and this isn’t working for me anymore.” If we keep glorifying love and use it to justify all of our detrimental decisions, we are teaching victims to stay. We are teaching them that it is okay to be unhappy as long as you love someone. We are justifying everything we should be against.Love can make you feel incredible. There’s not doubt about that. There has to be a reason why there are so many songs, movies, and books about this one topic. It happens everywhere, in a million forms, to everyone. From one of my other favorite childhood movies, not so surprisingly also about mermaids, “it’s the closest thing we have to magic.” But, it can also destroy us if we let it. The moment that we surrender ourselves to this concept that love is something that will never let us down, we are preparing to always be let down. There is so much more in a relationship than love. There is so much more to life than love. So, in response to John Lennon, a lot more matters than just love.