Love. From being very small we have seen an ideal, a pure love, represented in fairytales. However, it neglects to notice that one persons poison is someone elses paradise? What if poison is a necessary part of paradise? The aching desire to love and be loved is seen, in its way, within all things. It’s a fundamental human desire. To aspire to only ‘good’ or the fairytale of love is to fall short. Relationships are more complex. This piece is written to highlight the importance, the necessity, the complete indispensability, of the darker side of love; the times when faith is almost lost and your love hangs only from a tendril of a spiders web.

It is these moments of bleakness which allows love to be so strong. This is shown in it’s greatness and magnificence which timelessly endures, through history and through whichever events or obstacles unfold. As Alain de Bottom notices ‘How quickly all the advantages of technological cilivisation are wiped out by a domestic squabble.’

Although amusing, the persistence of the romantic relationship is highlighted: It has occurred consistently throughout history- and has continually been punctuated by puerile disagreements not matter how adult, current and advanced we like to think our societies are. These disagreements are as necessary to a relationship as rain is to the garden. You can’t really enjoy it whilst it’s raining, but its the rain which makes it so beautiful.

Only this morning we argued over the gradient of a hill and the subjective ease of cycling up that hill. This subjectivity in two stubborn people resulted in my partner stoically, almost righteously, holding his ground where I began to start shouting, yelping almost, in my complete frustration of not being heard. But how true, you marry the person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. Whatever the subject of a domestic squabble it merely demonstrates the delicate art of annoying and being annoyed. If a relationship was continuously ambivalent you will lack the passion, the power, the appearance of feeling which makes your partner stand out. I, personally, have never met anyone who invoked such anger and frustration in me. However, these emotions are the counterparts to compassion and admiration. Without the extreme of one trait (in a negative sense) how would you hope to achieve any semblance of an opposing trait (either in you or your partner)? In Newtons third law of physical motion he was accurately describing the romantic relationship where for every action “there is an equal and opposite reaction.” .

It is also true that too much rain, too much squabbling or opposing reactions result in a relationship which burns out, or is drowned. If the unhappiness outweighs the times of joy,  rather than accentuating them, if one of the parties becomes a shadow because the other has greedily stolen all the light, then perhaps it was never love to start with. Though our journeys across Europe we have seen romantic love manifested in many ways. Interestingly, we have seen patterns of love which are reflected in the relationships of our peers or of those represented in films and books. We have seen relationships where whirling cauldrons of maligned forces result in bitterness and hurt- regardless of location of age. The outcome of this snapshot on a relationship seems to be of collapse or of endurance. With torrents of rain flooding your home, you either build a raft or you drown. Where the couple have endured, we see years of companionship forming a solid and fulfilled existence. Perhaps they even have time to re-decorate their raft.

However, relationships are too diverse, too elaborate and too dynamic to pigeon-hole into ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ At first look, the fairytale perspective on love is ‘good’ but this is just a facade, a quaint ideology. ‘They lived happily ever after’ merely tells a story of oblivious insubstantiality. To know happiness you must endure hardship. A relationship which has only shallow joyfulness will never grow to give the depth and stability to tackle new and challenging terrain. The hardship of love is like the building of a scaffolding, it provide a frame on which you can shape, build and evolve your love. Seamus Heaney writes it beautifully:

‘So if my dear, there sometimes seems to be

Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall

Confident that we have built our wall.’

But to build these walls you need to have the correctly sized bricks, evenly mixed mortar and the bloody awkward rocks that simply get thrust aside for you to trip over later. You can’t have the sweet without the sour. Individuals or partners without their idiosyncratic foibles result in a relationship flatlining. When an individual has lost his or her partner it isn’t the normal, well-rounded attributes for which they grieve – it is the annoying quirks which made you feel. It might have been anger, frustration, or perhaps even a hint of hate- but at the end of everything, when you reflect, this is what makes it real. Its what makes you real.

A relationship without these fluctuations (however terrible they seem at the time) will result in boredom, unfulfillment and eventual decay. However, with a tapestry of small disagreements, occasional malalignment of ideas and misunderstanding creates a depth of knowledge and connectedness which allows a relationship to flourish. Simon May, author of Love.. A History, calls being in love ‘ontological rootedness.’ Its the feeling of being at home; despite its problems, its draughts and creaks, its the place you feel safe.

So today, we should hail the domestic squabble and pay tribute too our partners’ unnecessary and irksome habits. Have faith in your wall and varnish your raft in the knowledge that love can endures through all things. Welcome the rain, taste a little poison, and build your aspirations beyond the fairytale. AM

  1. beautifully put wifey! I love this MIgnon Mclaughlin quote and have had the opportunity to realise it´s true many times !
    A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
    Hail the domestic squabble – did you make that up? Hope this finds you in a blissed out, loved up moment – or otherwise! The thing is just to keep on rolling go easy step lightly, stay free – joe strummer said that!
    lovin you both massively – i said that!

  2. laura said:

    This is a lovely piece – especially ‘With torrents of rain flooding your home, you either build a raft or you drown.’

    My husband and I are following you on our bikes across Europe to Australia, leaving this September, and I’m enjoying watching your progress so keep posting and good luck!

  3. A wonderfully thoughtful and thought provoking piece. Lovely to have an honest account without the polish but which is still ultimately, to my mind, positive.

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