When you read an article, you’re effectively synthesizing the words based on how they relate back to your life. You project what’s going on in your world onto the page (or screen) in front of you. You adopt the storyline and apply it, merge it, twist it to align with that you’re familiar with.
You’ve just been through a difficult breakup and want to find words that articulate the weight in your heart. You’re in a long-distance relationship and need stability. You want someone to commit and can’t understand why your almost-partner doesn’t value you.
The love you project on to that (web)page in front of you is romantic. You immediately relate articles to your experience with romantic love, as opposed to familial or platonic love.
It’s the most immediate connection because it’s the least constant love. As humans, we’re naturally more aware of what we perceive as ‘lack’ than we are what we have. That’s why sincere gratitude is so powerful (and rare).
And romantic love is the one most apt to waver. It is the love you feel least secure in. It is the love that never seems guaranteed. No marriage or promise or certainty of forever matters much when you’re 10 years down the line looking back on how disillusioned you were.
You don’t spend hours a day worrying if your mother or father will text you back. You know they love you – even if they aren’t with you anymore. It’s a love that is guaranteed – not in that it should be taken for granted, in that it’s permanent.
The same is true for the platonic love in your life. The love you have for your best friends, and they have for you, is a love you trust completely. Their love is like a sibling’s.
So when you see a piece on love – you click, wondering how it will relate to your romantic relationships. You click hopingthe words will describe your situation or provide the insight you need. And even if the article doesn’t relate to your love life, you assume the writer is referring to theirs.
Often I read an article assuming the writer is discussing a romantic interest, only to realize halfway through that they’re talking about their love for a brother, a best friend, or a parent.
Even if the writer is directly referencing a romantic interest, maybe the form of love they’re describing relates to you in a different way.
In this piece, for example, the writer is talking about someone she loves, or has loved, romantically. But that’s not how it spoke to me. It reminded me of my father. The love the writer describes perfectly sums up my dad’s constant support and ability to see the good when I’m so consumed with the bad. It’s a love I’ve felt when facing health concerns similar to those the writer references. Yet to me the words, “you would do anything to take it on yourself and leave me painless,” symbolize parental love.
And isn’t that the beauty of it all? Isn’t that the best thing about the articles we read? That we can all read the same words and experience them differently. That our human experience can be so connected while simultaneously diverging.
Don’t be upset when you read an article and claim you’ve never experienced a love like that before. You have. You’re just looking for it in the wrong place. You read about unconditional love and question why you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend who shows you that love. Instead, think of all the people who do show you that love. Trust that you will find it romantically too, one day. Find the words that most perfectly describe the kind of love you want to experience and save them.
Consume those words and know that someone else will understand them in a different way. Appreciate that. To find words that can tap into parts of your being and uncover love that you rarely acknowledge is gift.
The best words can free you from an emotional cage brought on by heartbreak. The best writing can take the place of the apology you needed, but never got.
What else can those words do for you? What other types of love can they nurture?