On matters of the heart…

A few days ago I was perusing my saved drafts over the last few years, and I came across something that would have been quite a fitting post for Valentine’s Day. Let’s resurrect that post, shall we?


Many Sunday evenings ago – in fact, too many to count – I had the pleasure of listening to Alain de Botton deliver a talk on love at the Sydney Opera House. I am a fan of Alain de Botton, and have been since I read Status Anxiety a few years ago. (Friends have told me that I  “rave” about him, although in my defence, I maintain that “rave” is a rather subjective take on me discussing his books in a highly animated and enthused way haha) It is hard to not be a fan if you have come across his work, his talks, his writing, and his books – he is intelligent, charismatic, witty, and articulate in presenting his thesis on different topics in life. I must say, however, that love was not the topic of my personal choice, but I didn’t want to pass up on an opportunity to hear him speak.

And I’m so glad I didn’t! Alain was incredibly engaging and the talk was both funny (in an oh-gosh-this-is-so-true-*cringe*-why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-before way) and also quite enlightening. I personally really agree with his views on a lot of things, so perhaps it didn’t come as a surprise that I agreed with his views on love too, and the impact of Romanticism on shaping and moulding our understanding of love today. We place such a strong focus on finding “the One”, as if finding the “right” person (the one and only ONE right person in the world) will unlock the mystery of love, put an end to our fear of lifelong loneliness, and enable us to  live happily ever after. But finding someone is only really the start of love, and Alain argued (quite strongly, and very convincingly) that the real challenge is to make a relationship work over time.

“Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

This quote probably best encapsulates the essence of his talk, his book The Course of Love, and his article in the New York Times “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person“. Making a relationship work requires, amongst other things, greater self-awareness, and greater tolerance, understanding, compassion, and respect for one another. Compatibility is therefore something that you build over time, with conscious effort and a set of conscious decisions to cherish and respect and love one another.

Personally, the premise of the talk, book, and the article really resonates with me, and I’ve shared the article with quite a few close friends and colleagues. I don’t know how I feel about the click-baity headline (c’mon!), but what I find most interesting is gauging people’s receptiveness to reading the article. It generally ranges from “interested and willing to engage in the content” to “somewhat interested” and “will ignore and never read”. The headline is definitely a bit on the confronting side, I admit. Perhaps rightfully so? #oopsiwentthere

What are your thoughts on this?


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