College does a pretty good job at teaching us how to solve for the slope of an equation or find the derivative of a function. However, what we as students never learn about are relationships, love, and knowing what is best for you in these matters. Nobody ever sits you down and gives you a rundown of what a happy and healthy relationship should look like.
How do I know if the choices I make are good for me and my partner? Is there a right or a wrong answer? Am I supposed to just intuitively know when I meet the one? How do I look past ideal media representations of what love is and come back down to earth? How do I discuss and facilitate conversations with my close friends about love or looking for love?
These are all the questions that are never answered in any of our textbooks, which is why I need your advice and so do many other budding lovers out there. How do we best navigate our friendships and relationships? As much as we are looking for love, I think we are also looking for a slope equation to really understand and compute the complexities of love.
—Learning to Love
This time in our lives is one of immense learning and change, crammed into a tiny window of three to five years. Just as we have to come to terms with writing papers tailored to professors’ demands and caring for ourselves so many miles away from our childhood homes, we have to begin understanding things bigger than our current chapter. Things like love. It can be frightening to hack at the tangible, and here you are, aching to understand this abstraction of abstractions. Let me soothe you with one truth first. There are no deadlines when it comes to deconstructing grand things like love.
You ask a lot of questions before confronting the core of your worry: How do we best navigate our relationships? Before we dive into your concern, let’s assess our expectations. It saddens me to admit there is no point-slope form when it comes to the complexities of love, but don’t we obsess over love because it contains more multitudes than math alone can tame? You can’t figure out the whole grand truth of an emotion so boundless it exists everywhere — between parents and their children; people and their pets; lovers and spouses; and friends. Even between you and your first real, shuddering crush.
What can you do, then? You seem determined to know enough about this mysterious, ubiquitous force that you can protect your own heart and guide your friends in their own journeys, and I applaud you for this desire to understand. This is a strength, and it can help you in navigating all your relationships.
We feel the most loved when we are the most understood. The warmth that blooms inside you when your roommate suggests a movie night after they realize you’re feeling down, or when your mom knocks on your door while you’re three hours into a study binge and bears a bowl of cut up fruit, is a reaction to knowing someone understands you. Further, it is a reaction to knowing someone cares about you.
That isn’t to say a healthy relationship means anticipating the others’ needs all the time. Rather, what it means to love someone best requires a third facet. Understanding and caring about others falls short when it isn’t communicated. We’ve all seen relationships brimming with potential or seemingly perfect long-term relationships fall through because of faulty communication. Person A knows Person B cares about them and understands them, and vice versa, but communication fell short, and then things fell apart. Perhaps A needed these facts verbalized more, or B needed them converted into actions. Sometimes, it isn’t enough to just know.
This isn’t news to you. You wrote to me because what you know isn’t enough. You want to hear more of the truth you seek. You want to feel it click within yourself. But I am not an Oracle, nor am I a professional navigator of this well-traveled river of the human condition we call love.
The bad news is I can only offer you the three variables in this equation that I am familiar with: understanding, caring and communicating. The good news is you have your whole life ahead of you to find the others.
I believe in you.
Got a question? Ask Aroog here.
Aroog Khaliq is a junior from Overland Park studying English and psychology.