by The School of Life
Love is about learning: it’s about finding the humility to let someone we trust, respect, and admire teach us to be better. Likewise, our partners should mutually learn from our own teaching.
We love children immensely, despite their foibles and tantrums? Why are we so merciful and forgiving of children and not adults?
Though we may think of love as a feeling, it is indeed a skill we craft over time.
I’ve watched School of Life videos on YouTube since high school and thought this book would be a good addition to my library (given my current stage of life, ahaha!)
I’d recommend this book to my friends who are a) looking for relationships, b) just starting out in a relationship, or c) in a committed relationship. It’s good to have foresight and education on what to expect from relationships (for those who aren’t in one now). This book allows us to reframe how we think about our roles, attitudes, and expectations on a long-term relationship.
I’m now a lot more realistic on what to expect from a relationship. When I was younger, frankly Disney princess propaganda on relationships did me no justice. This book helped me reframe a relationship as a series of day-to-day challenges two people should negotiate.
Qualities like humility, forgiveness, and tolerance are crucial for a relationship to work out. Before I read this book, I underestimated these characteristics, but now I see them as necessary.
Teaching and learning are essential for any relationship. I used to be a big fan of “Don’t try to change someone” in a relationship. Frankly this is bad advice. We as humans are dynamic, and we should never underestimate our ability to change and grow for the better. Change comes from feedback and education, and who better to be our source of feedback and support than those we love most.
And yet, as we shall see, accepting a role for learning and teaching in love belongs to one of the fundamental principles of mature relationships.
The task of growing up is to realise with due humility the exaggerated dynamics we may be bringing to situations and to monitor ourselves more accurately and more critically so as to improve our capacity to judge and act on situations with greater fairness and neutrality.
The person who is truly best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste, but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently and wisely; the person who is good at disagreement.
This book fundamentally improved my ability to reframe how I consider relationships. By far, the biggest takeaway for me is that I should think about a long-term commitment as an opportunity to change myself and the other person for the better. It’s about learning through advice, feedback, and challenging times.
Romanticism at its core emphasizes following what in Arabic we call Hawa. This word roughly translates to “fleeting desire,” but it also means “wind.” Winds are themselves spontaneous and unpredictable. To truly build strong relationships, we should ignore our Hawas, and instead focus on the work, commitment, and skill it takes to build a good relationship.
This means investing time and energy, and also (and this is something I need to work on more), tempering anger and frustration at the other person. Why is it that we are perfectly cordial and polite to strangers and colleagues but often expose our darkest sides to our loved ones? This stems from their familiarity with us and our expectations for them that they will forgive us. But this dichotomy in our behavior leads us down the path of destruction and toxic relations. Even in our personal lives, we should learn to be calm, temper our Hawa-derived feelings, and instead focus more on the practical.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when the author relates a relationship to running a small business. Both take initial struggle, motivation, and discipline for their success. They need educating their members, feedback sessions, mentorship, and room for growth. If we treated relationships more in this light, we’d be much better at nurturing them into their fullest potential.