Making sense of a four letter word 'love'

[Book extract] True love can be healed. It reinvents itself. It revives.

 |  5-minute read |   14-02-2018
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Love is an empty house you move into. Love isn’t always a good home. Homes have dark corners, awkward spaces and places you are just not willing to go to for reasons you cannot fathom. Homes can stay unfamiliar for years. So can love.

When we move in with love, it changes its colours.

In the beginning, we like love to look good. We assume that if we make it appear great, it will be great. When that doesn’t happen, it feels like a dark, heavy secret.

Love is a laggard. It doesn’t always turn up on stage according to the script. It goes missing, leaving the rest of the actors to improvise awkwardly.

Love doesn’t do its homework. Love procrastinates. Love goes off to pick up its phone in the middle of a conversation. Love sneaks a look at its mobile notifications, as soon as it sees you approaching. Love is an ungrateful, entitled brat.

Love likes togetherness. Love underestimates how much space it seeks. It needs bus rides and highways. It needs distance to sustain itself. It needs to breathe, to run, to go away, so it can return to safe embraces.

The truth is, love can be aloof. Love doesn’t always know how to be intimate. You may hug it and hold it tight, but it forgets that it needs to shift on the bench and make space for you. Your allegiance can stay one-sided for years. In our personal spaces, some of us are threatened by the love we feel. We resent the fact that we don’t feel love like we expected ourselves to. What is wrong with us?

Love means dealing with differences. Accepting contradictions. Learning to listen without relying on words.

In love, you become the keeper of each other’s memories. He will tell you about the uncle who bullied him – and then forget about it, leaving you to deal with the offensive man when he comes visiting. He will tell you about crushes and heartbreaks. You will tell him about the trees in your childhood home and the cake your mother used to bake on birthdays. Love is a repository of childhood stories.

love1-copy_021418113624.jpgMy Daughters’ Mum: Essays; Natasha Badhwar; Rs 273

One of you will be the dreamer. The other will be fantastic with logistics. One will assume charge of getting all the details right. The other will ask, "Why are we always late everywhere?" One of you will write deeply embarrassing Facebook posts. The other will be a WhatsApp enthusiast. One will thrive in clutter. The other will always wipe the bathroom floor dry. One of you will get along fine with plumbers, electricians, carpenters and subziwalas. The other will be an intolerable, ill-mannered, defensive, lazy fool. Both will frustrate each other. Love makes us weary.

One of you will be better at waking up the children kindly and tucking them into bed at night. It will take years to realise that roles can be switched. It’s quite simple.

You will develop a good-cop-bad-cop reputation without realising it. It will hurt when you discover that one of you is always viewed as hateful, while the other wears a halo.

Remember to reverse your positions in time. Don’t wait for the other’s permission.

In love, you will learn to ask each other for money – you will be angry and disappointed and afraid. One of you will have a healthier relationship than the other with finances. You may love money by spending it; he may love it by keeping it close. Money is the third party in your romance.

When in love, you will trust each other. When in love, you will be suspicious. This will stun you. Step back. Trust has to be earned. One of you will have trust issues.

In love, you will watch each other fight losing battles. You will want to rescue the other from obsessions. You will be judgemental. You will tear each other down. You will bask in reflected glory when the other wins. You will feel left out. Love makes us uncomfortable.

Love demands patience. He may be no good at being ill. He may get cranky and hyperactive, refusing to admit that all he needs is rest. He may have no clue about how to deal with you when you are ill. He will keep forgetting that you are in pain. Instead of being gentle, he will yell at you when he discovers the medicines you have stashed away, long after you were supposed to have taken them.


Your weakness triggers anxiety in the lover. It makes him feel vulnerable—and vulnerability must be stomped. A simple fever becomes a raging volcano rumbling beneath a household. You take it personally. How can you not?

Love takes years to get comfortable in its skin. Love has childhood issues.

Now, put everything back in a box and shake it till the bones rattle. The doctor recommends a good shake-up in her prescription for love.

The most significant phase of marriage and love is when the two of you become separate persons again – with your own rhythm, priorities, angst, pleasures and passions; with your separate dreams to fulfill. It is scary. You will wonder if the love is over.

True love wants the lover to be truly liberated. True love has abandonment anxiety. True love can be healed. It reinvents itself. It revives.

Love demands diversification. Love more, love others, love in new ways. Rediscover kissing in new places. Find new destinations for yourselves to keep your love alive.

Love is a decision – a choice you make again and again.

(Excerpted with publisher's permission.)

Also read: How Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s speech at the UN changed the history of Pakistan


Natasha Badhwar Natasha Badhwar @natashabadhwar

The author is a columnist and a film maker.

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