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Relationships • Mature Love

True Love is Boring

Our archetypal images of true love skew heavily towards the dramatic and the intense: someone on their knees protesting eternal fidelity, a couple embracing passionately while enemies bang at the door, star-crossed lovers embracing in a rain storm as lightning streaks across a slate-grey sky. 

Yet some of the more persuasive and quietly true images of love come from a different mood and place.

William Scott, Still Life, 1973

For example, a lover who parted only half an hour ago from their partner takes their seat in a train carriage and, careful not to disturb other passengers, gives their beloved what they call ‘a little ring.’ There isn’t anything to say, how could there be after so short a time, but when one is properly intimate with someone, when one’s life is enmeshed at all kinds of levels and has been for what feels like a very long while, not much needs to have happened before a minor yet decisive need to be in touch arises. And so the lover might say nothing more consequential or content-heavy than: ‘I’ve found a seat by the window, and it’s quite empty’. And at the other end, the partner, standing in a kitchen by the sink or in the park by the duck pond, might in turn say: ‘That’s lovely, I hope you get to read your book. I just sent that email to Ahmed.’ Later on, this same couple might have a short conversation about what each one had for their lunch. And then another twenty minutes after about their respective levels of tiredness or how the small cut is doing on one of their right hands.

Love properly understood entwines us deeply with the day to day experience of another, much of it entirely boring to the wider world but deeply redolent of commitment and of mutual daily care for one’s small trials and joys.

We associate love with grand occasions. But it’s in the steady accumulation of discrete elements – perhaps over decades – that it reaches its apogee: a person who remembers another’s need for some lip balm, someone who keeps in mind a sore bit on their partner’s leg or the particular sort of raisins they like and who is happy to know that they found a pleasant table to sit at not too far from the window.

This tenderly takes us back to the best moments of childhood, when someone was also on hand to enter imaginatively with us into the details of existence, when we didn’t need to hide our vulnerability or pretend we were someone braver or less sensitive than we were – and we thereby slowly understood what love was.

Love can be bewitching in its overtly sensational dimensions; it is arguably a greater privilege to enjoy it in its routine dimensions, to have found a lover who doesn’t especially want to jump off a cliff with us or serenade us at a balcony but who would be so pleased if we called them up to tell them that we’d just eaten a peach or safely arrived at the next station.

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