Being Alone vs Being Lonely

Do We Need Romance to be Happy?

By: Lum Triny

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With the recent celebration of Valentine’s Day and desperation during Desperation Day (Yes, it’s a thing, Google it), something inside me stirred – as it does at least once a year – and that’s the sullen feeling of being alone. Of course, many people can relate to this; but to what extent and how similarly do we feel this way? 

One person’s definition of loneliness could be the feeling of carrying their pet into their room, only for it to immediately walk out.

Someone else would associate loneliness with sitting alone in a crowded restaurant at night, every table filled with lighthearted chatter and laughter while they stare blankly at their plate.

Another person might interpret loneliness as spending Valentine’s Day sulking on the 3rd floor of the college building as they watch their peers giggling with roses in their hands. And the only way to drown out the dreaded feeling of being left out is by listening to their heavy rotations on Spotify.

And yet even with these examples, you probably have your own interpretation of those scenarios which would differ from others.

How often have you heard someone utter the words “I want a boyfriend/girlfriend”? A desire so heavily expressed to the point where it has become a glorified universal meme. However, have you ever thought about what that statement means? 

From a surface level point of view, the phrase is commonly used when you see something romantic happen right before your eyes, whether it be a scene in a movie, book or even an advertisement. On the other hand, maybe you’re just listening to The Weeknd and want someone to break your heart so badly just so you can relate to his songs more. But deep down, do you actually want that?

The argument of ‘love’ is so often discussed and talked about that everyone has heard every opinion in the book. Some say that love can come in the form of friends, family and self. Others say that romantic love is the only type of love that matters. A number of  realists claim  that “love is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed” (if this is what you think, all I wanna say is, who hurt you?).

The words ‘love’ and ‘lonely’ are often, if not always, used to contradict each other. Although I agree that ‘love’ can be used in many contexts, why do we in this day and age, only emphasize romantic love as the solution for loneliness? 

It’s no secret that romantic love has been shoved down our throats by the media, with the “true love saves the day” narrative being the backbone of many songs, movies and books. For example, the whole of Taylor Swift’s discography pre-2012 (still bops tho) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) where the Hulk is unable to think straight and will destroy everything in his path!…..except for his lady-love Betty who is the only person that can curb the ‘monster’ that he is. When this concept is constantly dangled in front of our faces, it’s bound to brainwash us into thinking a certain way about what love means.

Based on literally almost all of the successful books, movies, cartoons and anime, the protagonist without fail has a love interest that writers desperately push them towards. Or when there is no romantic narrative involved, the fandom ends up finding two compatible characters to “ship”. We tend to bind ourselves to certain characters that we relate to and want them to be happy, and the only time we see them happy is when they’re in the same frame with their romantic interest. In our eyes, we are the heroes of our own lives, so when we don’t have this romantic love, we don’t see ourselves as being happy or victoriously headed towards a happy ending.

What we crave is not the actual romance, but the sense of stability, unconditional love and long-term positivity that comes from a romantic relationship. If you’re looking for someone to give you all this, then you’re headed straight into a lion’s den. Your significant other is not an object you use to make yourself feel good. They’re complex people who want a partner, not a burden. When you start associating certain people to these roles, to be responsible to make you happy or to be the source of your happiness, the backfiring effects will leave you shattered into more pieces than you were before.

Personally, I think love comes from what we choose to surround ourselves with. There is love in the bond between people you know, there is love in hobbies, in the food we eat or the clothes we wear. What ‘love’ is to me, is loving myself. This is how I curb the clawing feeling of loneliness. When you start to dress yourself in the clothes that you feel comfortable in, when you get to eat your favourite food or when you surround yourself with people who make you confident in yourself, the loneliness you feel in the dark corners of your heart will dissipate because you have yourself and that’s enough.

When you start to change your perspective towards yourself, you will find that everything else changes around you. The scene in the restaurant will feel less lonely and more peaceful, knowing that you have a personal constant entertainment while you enjoy your food after a long day; or the scene during Valentine’s Day in college will make you feel happy to see love being celebrated (and that chocolates and roses are gonna be on sale the next day).

The only person that will always be a constant variable in your life is you. So once you start taking care and focusing on yourself, the romantic side of things will come in due time (that is, if you’re still looking for that when the coolest person ever is staring back at you in the mirror.)

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