30 Ways I See Love Differently At Age 30

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One writer revisits books, movies, songs, and her own experiences to form new perceptions of love.

Writing about love is daunting. It really is.

To paint an accurate illustration of the way I felt when I first began tackling this topic, I ask you to envision me—a skinny, uncoordinated white girl measuring all of 5'3"—facing off with Shaquille O'Neal on the basketball court.

The entire scenario is silly and farcical, and that's exactly how I felt trying to form accurate conclusions about love, a force that is much like a giant on a basketball court. It's towering and intimidating and has the capacity to undo me. The challenge was intriguing, however, so I couldn't say no.

As I started brainstorming everything I’d learned about love over the short 30 years of my life, I quickly recognized that in pondering the mysteries of love, I was actually placing myself in the company of others who had sung and written and theorized about it. As I listened to their music, read their novels, and watched their films, the insights I gained helped shape my own. They bore witness to my experiences and gave voice to feelings I couldn’t otherwise articulate. 10 Most Romantic Movie Moments

I share some of them with you here, intermingled with musings of my own. 

1. Make a list, but don't let it rule you. It can be helpful to make a list of things you want in a romantic partner, and it can be equally helpful to throw that list away. Love asks that we remain open, and always ready for surprise.

2. Love doesn't require perfection. "There were so many presumptions that I'd allowed to be built into my own mind about what a wife should be. I thought she should be a show-stopping cook and a brilliant entertainer, a nonstop quick wit, a wild thing in bed, an effortless nurturer... but, if I can be honest, my grandmother was none of these things and she still enjoyed one of the most legendary lives and marriages that I've ever seen." —Kristine Gasbarre, How to Love an American Man  Poll: When Do You Say I Love You?

3. Be realistic. "In generations past, there was far less talk of 'compatibility' and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for... In other words, some people in our culture want too much out of a marriage partner." —Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

4. Let go. "The more I let people be who they are, instead of cramming them into what I need from them, the more surprised I am by their beauty and depth." —Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines 7 Beauty Myths That Are Damaging Your Love Life

5. Men are not from Mars and Women are not from Venus. Contrary to popular belief, I don't buy the idea that men and women come from different planets. We both live here on Earth, and in spite of a few rudimentary differences, such as personal interests, or ways of approaching the world, I see more similarities between the sexes with every year that goes by.

6. Even the toughest of men have a soft spot somewhere on the inside. Take, for example, the words of Charles Bukowski, who wrote extensively about booze and whoremongering, and then one day wrote this:

"There's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
Then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die.
And we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?"
—Charles Bukowski, "The Bluebird." "Like Crazy:" Why Long-Distance Relationships Don't Work

7. Love requires courage.

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