What It Means When People Say 'All's Fair In Love & War'

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All Is Fair In Love And War: Meaning & Origins Explained

It's highly unlikely you'll make it through a decade or two of life without experiencing someone shrugging as they say, as though it's a given, "All is fair in love and war."

But what does that even mean?

After all, when repeated too often, even the most inspirational sayings run the risk of losing their impact and significance.

When you’re hoping against hope to find and fall in love with your dream man or woman and yet another well-meaning but seriously annoying person says, "Don’t worry. The right one for you is just around the corner," or, "You’ll meet the love of your life when you least expect it," it's facepalms all around.

And when someone breaks your heart and your closest friend or family member says, "Welp, they say all's fair in love and war" — it's understandably enough to send you over the edge into a full-fledged tantrum.

Where did the saying "All is fair in love and war" come from?

As explained on educational resource site Classroom, "The earliest known origin of the sentiment 'all is fair in love in war' is found in poet John Lyly's novel 'Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit,' published in 1579. The novel recounts the romantic adventures of a wealthy and attractive young man, and includes the quote 'the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.' The first know appearance of the quote worded 'all is fair in love and war' is in English author Francis Edward Smedley's 1850 novel 'Frank Fairleigh' about the life of a schoolboy."

What's the true meaning of this infuriating saying?

When people casually use this phrase, they're usually trying to justify their own bad behavior in the romantic arena.

It could be a single woman who's dating a married man, a not-so-close friend you just found out is dating your bestie's recent ex, or you to yourself when you're considering dating your ex-boyfriend's brother, but a person who calls on this turnkey phrase is doing so to excuse themselves form any form of repercussions.

They should be immune to relationship karma, they believe, because they are simply sticking to this universal "truth" about love and relationships.

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Personally, I'm not buying it.

Yes, there are those who take the perspective that this phrase means only that love knows no logic and sees no race, gender, or financial status.

But by and large, here's what experience has taught me people get wrong about what "All is fair in love and war" means — and the truth about how things usually play out.

You can't love recklessly and get away with it.

When you think of love in these terms, you are conceptualizing love as a competitive sport. You're saying that it’s OK to cause a few bruises and break a few hearts in your quest to find your one true love.

Like many things in life, this saying is subjective and can be interpreted in many ways. But when people use it as an excuse to behave badly, things rarely, if ever, turn out well.

No one ever wins a war.

Love and war typically require the involvement of at least two parties.

Love is easy when things are going well, as it's easy for both people to take credit for their contributions to the relationship, but it's when things get tough that love is really tested.

No one wants to raise their hand and admit they started a war or a fight, and it's important to remember during the lows in a relationship that most arguments and conflicts are caused to some degree by both people (abuse and domestic violence excluded, of course).

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And even more important to note is that wars have no winners.

The sooner you can identify and acknowledge your role in a fight with the person you love, the sooner you can both put your egos aside and focus together on finding a solution to the problem.

The meaning of fairness is subjective.

What's 'fair' in love and war is subjective and dependent on a person's values.

While others may not agree, some people think it's perfectly "fair" to consider men or women to be "free game" whether they're single or in a committed relationship.

And you may not agree, but your boyfriend or girlfriend may think it's "fair" to bring up past arguments to support a new one.

It's important to acknowledge that other people's version of what's fair can be valid, even if you don't accept their definition within your own system of values.

When it comes to both love and war, logic doesn't always come into play.

Relationships can be riddled with gray zones and unchartered territory, so we all need to forge our own map through the journey.

RELATED: What "Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind," Means According To 1 Corinthians 13, Bible Scripture

Iona Yeung is a dating and relationship coach who works with single women to identify their roadblocks in dating, attract the good guys, and communicate from a space of love and clarity. Visit her website for more information, or download her free mini-course on how to attract healthy love.