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We sing of it in our songs. We see it in our movies. Most (if not ALL) of us in one way or another wish to find it in life. Some of the biggest selling books of the past few years are about people finding it in the most unlikely of circumstances (Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey). Let’s face it: our generation is obsessed with love. And who can blame us? The need for Love/Belonging ranks third on Marslow’s hierarchy of needs, right after physiological needs and safety needs. In other words, right after we fulfill our basic survival and self-preservation needs, the next thing we naturally do as humans is to seek love. And with the sexual revolution in our immediate past and with information about relationships all around us, I’d say we’re pretty well equipped in that quest.

That’s why I find it so surprising to learn that divorce rates seem to be rising around the world.Marriages also seem to be lasting a hell of a lot shorter than they did back in the day. More people claim to be unhappy in their relationships than ever before.

For a generation so fixated on love, we seem to really suck at it.

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The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize a couple of things. It turns out that the decks are kinda stacked against us from the beginning, because most of us enter relationships that are doomed to fail.

Because you see…

1.Your idea of Love is Wrong.

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Do me a favor and click this link real quick.

For those of you too lazy to click that, that is the Urban dictionary definition of “Effort shock”, which is a variation of the term “sticker shock”. Simply put, sticker shock refers to the phenomenon of picking up stuff in a store only to find out that the price of the goods is much higher than you thought. Effort shock, in the same vein, is the “shock and dismay one encounters when discovering how difficult it really is to accomplish a [long term] goal.” The term was first coined by the Senior Editor of that comedy website that I just can’t seem to stop quoting. So what does this have to do with love?

Quite a lot, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Lisa Blum, who believes that our culture, education and even our parents do not prepare us for the fact that even good relationships take a LOT of effort to maintain. According to her, “…[a good relationship is like a garden]; it’s a beautiful thing but you wouldn’t expect it to thrive without a whole lot of labor and TLC.”

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“Or else the weeds of despair will grow and choke your souls.”

Most of us simply do not know how difficult real love is to find and maintain. We’re told from birth about how life is hard and how, in order to make money or find a good job, we have to ‘hustle’. But at the same time we walk around thinking the exact opposite of love. A lot of people I know believe that one day, they too will “find love”, and so they sit around waiting for it. When they do meet someone, they expect the relationship to go smoothly. Sure, they expect the occasional argument or two, but overall they expect these little qualms to just sort themselves out. We are a society that will send out a ton of job applications to various companies and actively follow up on each of them, but we’ll passively sit at home and wait for Mr. /Mrs. Right to waltz merrily along. And I’m not even talking about the fact that we seem to be entering relationships at a lower age than ever before, I’m talking about the fact that most of us enter these relationships not knowing just how fucking hard they are. Our generation simply doesn’t know what ‘love’ really is.

And I don’t blame us, because…

2. Pop Culture Screwed Us Over.

It’s a known fact that ours is a generation that was raised by pop culture. Most of us learned what we knew about the world beyond our immediate surroundings from movies and video games and novels. Hell, when I was five I had never even crossed the border to Togo before, but I thought I had a pretty good idea of what America was like.

It was full of car chases and exploding terrorists.

And it’s the same thing with relationships: I know for a fact that few African parents sit their children down and give them an honest and useful lesson in love and relationships. Most of us learned what we know from movies, books, peers who got THEIR knowledge from movies and books, etc.

For example, ask any random girl what her idea of an ideal man is, and nine times out of ten the answer you’ll get will be something like: “I want a man who’s tall, dark, handsome, well built…” Now, let me make this clear: I’m NOT saying there’s anything wrong with wanting a man who’s six-foot-four, has rock hard abs and so on. My point here is WHY so many of today’s girls want that man. If you ask them why, the usual answer you’ll get is, “I want a man who’ll be able to protect me, make me feel safe etc.”

Now, if we were living in caves 10,000 years ago, that would be a very decent reason. After all, survival back then depended on whether your man would be able to go into the woods and hunt down a wild beast for dinner. If he didn’t, you and your kids would starve. He would also need to be able to fight off other members of the tribe who would want to carry you off and gang rape you. But survival today does not mean the same thing. Nowadays, being physically imposing doesn’t really count for shit. (That mugger who wants to rob you carries a gun. Good luck.) So why, then, do we still have that image as our image of the perfect man?

Do me a favor and cast your mind over any of the many telenovelas showing on T.V today. Choose any one that has a male main character who’s romantically involved with the female lead. Got it? Good.

Now describe him.

99.9% of you just described this guy.

It’s the same with any fairy tale with a Prince Charming. Hell, flip through any Harlequin romance and describe the man the main character ends up with. They’re basically the same guy; Movies and books have been feeding us this idea of a perfect man for a long time. Girls have been trained by books and movies to subconsciously desire the tall-dark-handsome man, the same way 2 Chainz trained modern guys to want one thing and one thing only for their birthday.

So what else has pop culture trained us to want?Well for one thing, we’ve been fed with an unrealistic picture of love.

Let me explain.

In movies, the hero ALWAYS gets the girl of his dreams. It doesn’t matter what happens in the course of the story, you know that the hero always ‘gets the girl’. And if the hero is female? Same thing. She winds up with the most desirable man in the story. And if that man is emotionally unstable (abusive, a player, a drunkard, etc.)? It doesn’t matter either, because at the end of the story she always tames him. She changes him, and then they live happily ever after.

This is why so many women stay in abusive relationships; they see life as that movie. Deep down they believe that one day the guy will change. How could he not? After all, the Beast changed for Belle. In their minds, they’re Belle and he’s The Beast. It’s the same thing for guys: we believe that it’s our portion in life to wind up with any girl that we want. Didn’t Neo get Trinity? And in the story of our life, are we not The Chosen One? That’s why when a girl rejects a guy the guy usually feels resentment toward the girl (“She’s such a slut. The bitch.”). We feel like we’ve been wronged. We don’t see it as the girl simply exercising her right to choose whoever she wants. That doesn’t fit with the story we have in our heads.

I’m not saying that movies are evil for feeding us this story. Heck, it’s my dream to be a writer/movie maker in life. Movies aren’t evil. After all, it’s their job to entertain us, make us feel good. Nobody wants to go see a movie in which the hero gets up every morning and masturbates. That’s real life and if we wanted real life, we wouldn’t go see a damn movie in the first place. My point is that our brains can’t distinguish where fiction ends and reality begins.

Some of you might claim that what I’m saying is full of shit. After all, you’re fully aware that movies are fictional. There’s no way you take what pop culture feeds you seriously. You’re an adult. You think and reason for yourself.

And yet when the movie ‘Jaws’ came out, hundreds of people piled into boats and hunted sharks nearly to extinction.Scientists say the worldwide population of sharks may never recover. All these people ‘knew’ that Jaws was scripted. They knew that in reality there was no ‘man eating shark’. But they killed thousands of sharks anyway, because of a movie.

It doesn’t end there: Shawarma sales increased sharply after Tony Stark mentioned it in “The Avengers”. A lot of women even live by relationship advice they heard in a movie (*cough* 90-day Rule!).

And then there’s my personal favorite: (If you click on no other link in this post, click that one. Trust me.)

The point is we humans are really terrible at discerning fact from fiction. More specifically, we’re terrible at keeping fiction from seeping into our everyday lives. A lot of us even subconsciously believe that one day love will happen to us like in a movie: We’ll meet Mr./Mrs. Right, and when that happens, we’ll instantly know. It’ll be love at first sight.

Which brings me to my next point:

3.Love Is Not An Event.

…aka Love at first sight is not a fucking thing.

One of the most famous lines in movie history is in the film Jerry Maguire. Toward the end of the movie, Tom Cruise’s character – the titular Jerry Maguire – delivers a long winded speech to Dorothy about how he loves her. She shuts him up and then says: “You had me at hello.”

It’s one of the most romanticized ideas of all time: Two people – each completely unaware of the others existence – cross paths one fateful day. Their eyes meet. Sparks fly. They both know in that split second that they’re right for each other. It is amazing. It is fate. It is love at first sight.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who doesn’t believe in love, or romance. It’s just that the idea that you just see someone and fall instantly in love is misguided at best. But a lot of people I know seem to believe in it; a lot of times I hear (from both guys and girls): “If I don’t feel it at the first instant, then it’s probably never going to happen between us.” They seem to believe that unless we instantly develop strong ‘feelings’ for somebody in an instant, we are never going to. Why is that?

My theory is that we live in a time where we’re used to getting everything instantly. Look around you. A few years ago, when you wanted to get in touch with someone who lived far away, you wrote a letter, put it in the mail, and waited weeks for a reply. Now? We’ve got instant messaging (iMessage, BBM, Whatsapp, etc.). We get our news delivered to us as it happens. Virtually nobody watches football matches unless they’re live, because if it’s not the chances are we already know how it ended.

See where I’m going with this?

We’ve been conditioned from birth to expect everything right NOW. In my opinion, that’s why ‘love at first sight’ holds such an appeal to us. Think about it. If we can have instant coffee and instant messaging, why can’t we have instant love?

“You had me at #HeyBoo.”

Am I saying I don’t believe that sparks can’t fly when you meet someone new? Absolutely not. I firmly believe in ‘strong attraction at first sight’. Some of my most fulfilling relationships began that way. But love? Nah.

Because how can you tell that somebody is right from you just by seeing them once? You can’t. You know virtually nothing about the person. Is he abusive? Does she whine and bitch at the least provocation? What are his hobbies? Does she keep the heads of boyfriends past in a heap in her basement? You. Don’t. Know.

And don’t think that spending a couple of weeks/months with them is enough either. When you go out to meet somebody new, you spend hours making sure you look good. On the date, you make sure you’re on your ‘best behavior’. Now think about this: the person on the other side of the table does the exact same thing. Truth is in the early part of any relationship, the two of you are basically actors, if even on a tiny level. And that’s natural; you want to make a good impression. But that is not love, no matter how much it might feel like it.

Oh, and one more thing. Scientists discovered that when humans are in the presence of someone we’re highly attracted to, the brain releases the chemicals Serotonin, Adrenaline and Dopamine. You might recognize them: they are the chemicals that stimulate pleasure in the brain, start us sweating and get our heart racing. Serotonin in particular tends to ‘render us temporarily insane’. Now here’s the kicker: these are the same chemicals released in the brain by Nicotine and Cocaine.

In other words, ‘Love at first sight’ is not Love at all. It’s a high.

“I love you, man.”

So what then is Love? This brings me to my final point.

4. Love Is A Never-ending Process.

How many of you have ever tried to lose weight? Remember how, in the beginning, you were all gung-ho and excited to go? If you’re anything like the millions of people who resolve to lose weight every day, you spent the first couple of weeks exercising, eating right, drinking lots of water, etc. But then, after busting your ass in the gym for a month, you check your weight and realize that you’ve only lost a few pounds. And you find out in the worst way possible that one tiny binge causes you to gain a lot of that weight back. That’s when it hits you: if you really want to lose weight you have to keep exercising and eating healthy. You’ve got to bust your ass forever.

Love is like that.

Practice makes perfect, no? This is true in every area of live, including ‘Love’. Heck, especially love. Because the truth is that you may see love as something that will eventually wind up in a Happy Ever After, but that’s not the case. Just like learning karate or learning how to be good in bed, love requires constant practice.

I won’t lie to you: it can be really hard at times. But love is the difference between cutting somebody out of your life when they offend you and forgiving them, accepting them again treating them the same way you did before. Like nothing ever happened. (NOTE: This does NOT apply to dangerous/abusive behavior. If your boyfriend beats you, walk away from the relationship. If your girlfriend constantly disrespects you in front of company, it’s probably best to start looking for a new girlfriend. Also, some people simply aren’t worth your time. Move on. I expect most of you to be sensible enough to make this distinction by now, but then again you never know.)

There’s no perfect person. Everyone has flaws, including YOU.

Remember how I said that marriages lasted longer back in the day when we really couldn’t choose our partners. Some people were even betrothed from birth. Others married people they had never even met before (arranged marriages). And yet still their marriages lasted longer and they reported more satisfaction. What’s the point? That we shouldn’t be allowed to choose who we spend our lives with? NO! The point is love, like everything else, is LEARNED. You can learn to love someone, even somebody you never met before. Miss me with that ‘He/She just isn’t my type’ or ‘I don’t know why it’s just not working between us’. If you want to, YOU CAN make it work. If you don’t want to, that’s fine. Attraction is instant, Love is a process.

“I cheat because I can’t help myself.” Shut the fuck up. You’re not an infant.

“But Nyameye, how long does it take to love someone?” you ask. “A day? A week? A leap year?”

How about a lifetime? Because, in my opinion, even a lifetime isn’t enough for two people to fully get to know each other.

But that’s okay, because unlike working out to get in shape, the process of learning to love someone can be awesome. The ‘end-product’ is nice, but I’ve found that the real gems – the little moments that make life worth living – lie on the way, hidden in plain sight.

The question is: Will you make the decision to look for them?

Think about it.

Creidit: Nyameye


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