A few years ago, when I began writing a book about love (appropriately titled Real Love), one publisher told me, "The love market is saturated." I thought about the aisles at major bookstores devoted to self-help books about how to get a relationship, fix a relationship, stay in a relationship. I knew what I wanted to write would be different
If you look in a dictionary, you will find love defined as "intense affection," "romance," "adoration," "strong attachment," and "personal attraction." A day like Valentine's Day encourages us to keep these definitions of love at the foreground of our understanding, but thinking of love exclusively in terms of pop cultural definitions keeps us from experiencing it more directly, more organically.
Above all, we often don't realize that we can redefine love—by ourselves and for ourselves. We can choose to recognize that pop songs and romantic comedies give us a version of love we are used to and perpetuate myths about what love is and is not. But despite these myths, we can explore an infinite world of possibilities and experience love in a more essential way—for ourselves, for friends, family members, and romantic partners and even for life itself.
Below are some of the most common myths about love I encountered over the past few years of research and writing, in talking to hundreds of students about what love meant to them. While recognizing that these are, in fact, myths (and not universal truths) may not bring immediate comfort, there is great power in identifying false beliefs. Only by recognizing them as such can we then choose to write our own stories about love.