What is Love?

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, the topic of ‘love’ is all around us. Whether it’s cards filled with idealistic slogans, or restaurants offering cosy dinners for two, we’re bombarded with images of happy couples, romantic ideals, and hearts and flowers. But this got me thinking. What is love? Is it something that just happens? Is it down to luck? Or is it something we have control over?

As a rom-com writer, people often assume I’m a hopeless romantic, and I spend my days existing in a dreamy bubble, wearing floaty dresses and watching Meg Ryan movies. . . Well, maybe the last one! But surprisingly, I’m not overly romantic. Sure, I have a passion for shoes, sticky toffee pudding, and I wanted to be Doris Day growing up, but like many people I often find myself disillusioned by the world at times, and saddened by its cruelty. And the chocolate-box ideals of marketing campaigns can jar with the realities of the real world.

We can all get swept away by the idea of a ‘Happy Ever After’. But achieving it isn’t always easy. Why? Because life isn’t easy. It can be filled with heartbreak, illness, and bereavement. But maybe the ‘Happy Ever After’ seems sweeter and more deserved if it comes off the back of a sad event. When I think about my favourite books and films, they’re the ‘bitter-sweet’ stories, where the hero/heroine has to fight for their happy ending. I’m glued to the screen or page, willing them to succeed, over come the bad-guy, dump the wrong-guy, and head off into the sunset with the good-guy… or girl, depending on the story.

Because let’s face it, ‘love’ is about so much more than ‘boy-meets-girl’. It’s about family, friendships, and how couples stay together once the initial spark has faded. I’m not going to pretend I don’t feel a flutter when Chris Hemsworth appears on screen, or when I read (for the umpteenth time) the scene in Persuasion when Colonel Wentworth declares his love for Anne Elliot – I’m only human, after all. But true love is about the little things.

There’s a great book I read a few years back when I first started writing rom-coms, called The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. In it, he says…

Love is a constant challenge. It is not a resting place. It is a moving, growing, living being. It requires working together, whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness. Two people at one with each other, by being at one with themselves. To love somebody is not just a strong feeling. It is a decision, a judgement. A promise. It is one of will. Otherwise, how can a person promise to love or commit to forever unless it involves judgement and a decision? In order for love to last, it requires practice, patience, sensitivity and faith. And to have faith requires courage. The ability to take a risk. The readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. To be loved, and to love, needs courage.”

So, that’s my answer. Love is about kindness and compassion. It’s being supportive and loving through the good times and the bad. It’s about doing something which might never be the stuff of blockbusters, but might just brighten someone else’s day… Of course, if it also involves a large box of chocolates and a dozen red roses, then so much the better.

I’m a romance writer, after all. x