What is love?

Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.

If you watched my November Favourites video you’ll know I’m having a bit of a crisis, specifically a crisis about love. I mostly blame Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, Essays in Love by Alain de Botton and Ansari’s Netflix Show, Master of None. 

But this isn’t something that has just happened recently because of two books and one TV show. There were TED Talks and films that set my brain cogs into chaos trying to understand love and more specifically how I feel about love.

To be honest, I’ve never been scarred by love. My parents are still together after 30 years and I was brought up in a stable loving family. My grandparents are also still together after over 50 years and they still like each other enough to travel the world together! I have had my own share of heartache and heartbreak (giving and receiving) but my last serious relationship and the last person I said “I love you” to was 5 years ago now. Also, Facebook just informed me he got married, so cool. I’ve not been in love since but I have been in infatuation (which isn’t healthy fyi) so I’ve had a lot of time to think about love whilst being out of it. Not sure if that makes me more of less qualified.

First of all, Esther Perel… 
I think watching her first TED Talk is what fuelled my desire to know more about love and understand relationships. This talk is about long-term relationships but even if you’re not in one it’s so interesting! It’s about that balance between stability and security and mystery and novelty.

Esther’s more recent TED Talk, Why Happy People Cheat, is also fascinating. I’ve never really thought about cheating this way before and I like how she doesn’t shame people who cheat. She just talks very intelligently about the topic and is a straight-forward-no-bullshitter.

Helen Fisher
I watched her TED talk ages ago. It didn’t have the same epiphany/revelation that I had after watching Esther Perel’s first one but it must have stuck somewhere in my brain because I recognised her name when Aziz Ansari cited her research in his book. Helen Fisher looks at the brain and studies the madness of love.

Romantic love is an obsession, it possesses you, you lose your sense of self, you can’t stop thinking about another human being… And the obsession can get worse when you’ve been rejected.

She talks about her new research into why we fall in love with one person and not another. Then two years ago she did this talk about just that research. She splits people into 4 categories of a driving hormone: dopamine (explorers), serotonin (builders), oestrogen (negotiators) and testosterone (directors). According to her research, explorers and builders are attracted to people like themselves but negotiators and directors are attracted to the opposite. I’m pretty sure I’m an explorer and when I think about the people I’m attracted to they also have explorer tendencies so it makes sense to me. But then I am a sucker for a personality quiz.

Late Night Drunk Texts
Last night I was texting an old university friend and I think he’s also having an existential crisis about love so it’s nice to know I’m not alone. For #relatability I thought I would share with you some of our messages.

I mean I love having freedom right now to do whatever I want, whenever I want. And I think that’s what I crave right now. But at the same time, I love having someone I want to hang out with and so forth.


I want someone to go and see a film with, and someone to go for a meal with. All of the relationship bits but without the deeply romantic notion.

Fucking millennials, am I right?

I would describe myself as a fickle, hopeless romantic commitmentphobe.

See kids, we really can have it all.

500 Days of Summer

I love this film. I think it’s a wonderful deconstruction of the manic pixie dream girl and brilliantly shows how it’s not healthy to base your affections on the idea of someone rather than the actual person. This is something that has particularly been rattling my brain recently. Why is it that when we’re not in love with someone we can see them for who they truly are? But when we’re in love with someone we see them for who we want them to be? WHY?!

And on that note, before I start rocking slowly back and forth, I leave you. What do you think about love? What are you favourite books/films/TV shows/TED talks that get you questioning love? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. I’ve not written the blog yet, but I’ve been meaning to for a long time, perhaps now is the time! I was listening to the atomic kitten track “whole again” some time ago, listening to the lyrics it says at one point:
    “if you see me with another man, laughing and joking doing what I can,
    I won’t put you down, ’cause I want you around,
    ’cause you can make me whole again.”

    Got me thinking, that’s a really messed up situation to be in, you are with another man thinking about how someone else is the one who can make you whole again!

    Then it occurred to me, what IF the song was not about another person, but about the part of you that you lost some time ago, the part of YOU that you stopped loving. Our self belief (or self loathing)

    OMG, what if ALL love songs were actually all about learning to love YOURSELF?

    Yup, I blew my own mind at that point and have never listened to a schmaltzy love song in the same way ever again!

    Can it really be that the most important person we need to learn to love on the whole world is ourselves?!

    After all, how can anyone else love us, if we don’t even love us?

    We need to make ourselves “whole again” 😀

    (yey, that’s my blog post sorted! Thanks Hannah!)

  2. Hey, Hannah! so, i’m in a “long” term relationship, we have been together a year now, so for me that’s a log way… sometimes i think about all this idea of what am i doing? why don’t i just keep crying about all those suckers who made me feel so bad before my actual loving partner? (cause that felt good, right?) , or why don’t i just go travel alone and have freaking times with lots of cute boys and more relatable people? And then i think, right now, in this precisely moment i want to be with this guy, it’s the moment i say, i really didn’t expect anything from him and i’ve got a surprise every time, having a meal, sharing bed and watch tv, chating about books he likes or drawings that i love… those kind of things i realize i wouldn’t have that with someone i didn’t care for, so in that case that would hurt not being with that someone, you know? meh i don’t know, i’m kind of a lot in love, so that brain must be writing this in a confused, weird, morning time.- Who knows what the future holds for all of us- Love to you!

  3. I’d love to have someone to watch a movie with and eat dinner with. But I think if I’d spend a lot of time together with someone that would mean I enjoy spending that time with this person… so the chances are big that I’d end up having feelings for this person. Unless they’re friends … but couldn’t you do this already? You have plenty of friends no? So aren’t you technically saying you want a relationship but are afraid or just tired to go through the possible mess that comes with it?
    (Not trying to confront you or saying you’re wrong or anything like that, Just feels like you want to say more there but you don’t)

    Liked the Ted talks, though I have no idea how I would ever react on a partner cheating with me. I can’t even imagine at this moment that I could cheat on anyone which doesn’t mean I never will. Gave me something extra to think about.

    Interesting topic! I like your vlogs/blogs and I’d love to read/view more!

  4. I’m procrastinating, so, why not talk about love?

    I’m going to try to keep this short and obviously this is all imo so there’s like a 99% chance it’s wrong 😛

    So I’ll start with what you said/asked.

    “This is something that has particularly been rattling my brain recently. Why is it that when we’re not in love with someone we can see them for who they truly are? But when we’re in love with someone we see them for who we want them to be? WHY?!”

    Let me rephrase what you said. “Why is it [when we don’t have strong feelings for someone] we can see them [with less bias]? But when we’re in love with [them], we see them [“differently”]

    You already know why. When we care (especially that deeply) about people we make exceptions for them, we make excuses, we also “let them” do the same for us. It’s an unspoken agreement. Our view of people is always going to change based on how close we are to them fortunately or unfortunately.

    I want to mention that this is actually the great thing about love. If you talk to people that have been in love for long enough, they have probably settled into an area where they have (roughly) reasonable expectations of each other. This unfortunately only can happen over time.

    Preachy time: Probably something that IS important to ask during a relationship of any kind is HOW is my view being shapeshifted by my own biases/insecurities/wants/needs/etc. and which of those expectations are reasonable and which aren’t. Those are the best things probably to discuss with whoever. (Easier said than done. I know.)

    I think that’s enough for now.

    To your ending questions… I spend my life “questioning love.” I’ll let you know when I find an answer that can be described with words 😛 You do the same.

    I have a good number of favorite books/tv shows/etc. that resonate with me, but probably the two that resonate the most deeply are “Never Let Me Go” and “Into The Wild” (Both are both books and movies and are amazing).

    god speed!

  5. Hi Hannah and company!
    So I’m young (23), and I just got married 3 months ago. Before dating the Sven, I don’t think I experienced love. There definitely was some infatuation and crushes and what not in my even younger years, but it wasn’t until I’d been with the Sven for a few months that I realized this was different. It took a few more years to realize that yes, I wanted to keep this human long-term.
    Point is, I do think it’s quite hard to tell ‘simple’ infatuation from ‘complex’ love, and the process to understanding what’s what is different for everyone. Long-term relationship love is fantastic and comforting.
    I also find it a bit weird that people get twitchy about ‘being able to do whatever they want’ whilst single. In my personal experience, I’m only as restricted as I want to be. Hang out with friends? Go dancing? Sit on the floor and do nothing? Sure–so long as I communicate what I want and see what he wants. Yes, there are times when one of us wants to go somewhere and the other is like “but couch,” and obviously that takes some negotiating, but assuming you have a healthy relationship it isn’t this arduous thing.
    tl; dr? Yay love. Be with someone who lets you do you. [unicorns and rainbow explosions]

  6. Stages of love…..
    The so called ‘honeymoon’ stage, full of sex, exploration, sex, wild outings, sex, nights in, sex, drunken antics, sex, meeting the family, sex and SEX! Everybody enjoys this stage because your emotions are so hightened and everything is full of each other and how wonderful you both are. His stage always leads to the……..
    ‘Rocky’ stage: because emotions are so hightened, rows happen about reply stupid little things, these rows become more often as you start to realise that that person who you thought was perfect starts to fall short of your ridiculous expectations (why do we have those?!?). BUT people still love this stage, because of the roller coaster emotions (us humans do like emotions!) and this is the stage where the relationship either makes or breaks. People can spend ages or very little time in this stage before they get to the……..
    ‘Comfortable’ stage: this is where you may have the occasional row, but it’s no biggie and your over it before it really started. Still sex but it’s not the exciting, discovery sex of the first 2 stages. It’s the fail safe sex that you know works and you feel comfortable in. This stage normally produces a proposal/moving in together/children because your pretty sure that this person is compatible with you and your life (which is now ‘out’ life) and you can’t imagine or want to be with anyone else. *Note* break ups at this stage hurt the most, but are the ones that shape you. This eventually leads to the………
    ‘Forever (maybe)’ stage, you’ve made the big commitment (in whatever form you have taken) and you’ve built your life and set its course with this person. No going back now without massive complications (hence affairs) and heartache.

    Stages of love by me.

    I’m currently at the ‘comfortable’ stage but I’ve played with the first 2 stages throughout my teens and early twenties. Love is love and it takes many forms, but usually follows these stages. Don’t stress about love because these stages don’t have an expiry date, have fun with them!

  7. I’m really glad to see you wrote about this, because I’ve been thinking a lot about the same things recently, even though I’ve never been in a romantic relationship. I’ve always believed in the concept of one person for your whole life (likely in part due to monogamy being stressed so strongly by my religious parents), and while I still like the idea of one true love, I’m starting to wonder if its at all realistic. I watched Master of None last month as well, and the ending really had me questioning my ideas about love and romance.

    I have just started college this fall, and I have never been in a romantic relationship, or even a casual dating one. In the past there were people I thought I was in love with, but in hindsight they were simply unhealthy infatuations, I’m mostly okay with being my myself, since I have been and am most of the time. I think I function pretty well being my myself for the majority of my time, while having a close (platonic) female friend to talk to and hang out with at times. I think having friends usually fills the need for someone to go to movies and spend time with, at least for now.

    But while being by myself with a few friends has worked out so far, its been feeling pretty lonely lately. I find myself wishing more and more that I was dating someone. I don’t know if this is because all my friends are dating people, if I really would be ready for a relationship, or if I’m just sexually frustrated. I understand that I’m young and in college, so any dating relationship I have would probably be more casual, but could I get invested enough or too invested if it isn’t long term? Is there a point to a relationship if there’s no long term prospects? If it is a long term relationship, how the hell would I be able to handle that while managing everything else that I’m currently fucking up in life? I’m sure I’ll be okay being single until I’m able to figure stuff like that out, since I’ve survived so far. But for now I’m stuck between thinking I want a deep romantic relationship while wondering if its even a realistic idea.

  8. Love is all very new to me. I only just had my first crush (infatuation? fandom?) this year. I’ve never been in love with another person; the person I like does not return the feeling (which I understand, logically). From what I experienced this year, I would agree it’s a kind of obsessive madness. Why it happens, though, I don’t understand. I’m asexual, so I really never thought it’d happen to me at all. It’s strange to want someone else in my life. (It’s stranger still to know it will never happen with that person.)

    I never had any interest in romance or love before this happened to me this year, so I have no books / films / songs that I can reference and say I like them for what they have to say about love. I did enjoy the movie Prelude to a Kiss (Meg Ryan, Alec Baldwin). It’s a really beautiful movie. I’m not sure what it’s saying about love, though. I got love of life out of it more than any romantic love idea. I guess I should watch it again and see if that has changed for me! Perhaps I should go back and watch a lot of the movies I’ve enjoyed in the past and see if I get something different out of them now.

    Thanks for writing this! Reading this does make me feel a bit better about what I’ve gone through this year. 🙂

  9. Hey Hannah,
    I identify myself also as an hopeless romantic commitmentphobe, but 3 years ago things kinda aligned in a way that I ended in a relationship with a girl I really loved like no one else. I think that due to my commintmentphobia I was really afraid to lose that relationship (that doesn’t make sense, does it?) and when she dumped me last year I suffered a lot more due to that condition. I am still emotionally attached to her dispite the fact we don’t see each other since the breakup.
    Recently read Kreutzer’s Sonata and it has lots of different perspectives and ideas about love and marriage, also it’s geniously written, really recomend it.

  10. I think we can easily fall into the pressure that we have to love, kinda the same one that makes us feel like we need to be happy and that’s it. I think we have to allow ourselves to look to love ourselves and to find love in things and in other people, but if we do not find it’s okay for us to keep looking if we want to and if not it’s okay too. I feel like the thing to live a little better is to not pressure ourselves too much, because there is a lot society puts on our shoulders already.

  11. Hi Hannah
    For me love is about putting the other person first – caring more about them than you do about yourself. There’s a kind of annihilation of self in love, not in a bad way. It’s like a merger, where you give up being “me” and become “us”, better and stronger for the union than you ever were alone.
    The best summation of love I’ve read is a poem by Simon Armitage:

    Let me put it this way:
    if you came to lay

    your sleeping head
    against my arm or sleeve,

    and if my arm went dead,
    or if I had to take my leave

    at midnight, I should rather
    cleave it from the joint or seam

    than make a scene
    or bring you round.

    how does that sound?

    I’d rather rip my own arm off than wake you if you were sleeping? That sounds pretty much like love to me.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog!

    1. A very interesting blog Hannah, thank you and as ever you made me think 🙂
      I’m quite timid when thinking about love to be honest it’s never something I’ve had experience with (infatuations, failed dates, crushes and unrequited love a plenty though!). I find it ever so puzzling and confusing why I’m attracted to the people I do. I have no idea, I’m probably the least qualified person there is to talk about these things!

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