Most of us, at some point in our lives, have heard a great piece of advice about love. Perhaps it’s something from your mother or father, a grandparent, a mentor, a friend, something you’ve read — a piece of advice that has stayed with you and has helped you in finding love, understanding love or staying in love. It’s the kind of advice you repeat to yourself during difficult moments, or find yourself re-telling your friends.
I wanted to hear more of these stories from other women, all sharing those key moments from their lives. What simple piece of wisdom or guidance resonated with them, and why was it so meaningful?
On Learning From Heartbreak
When I was 16, the love of my young life (yes, Joe B., this means you) dumped me. Sobbing on my bedroom floor, my mother, who was, and still is, head-over-heels in love with the same man for 51 years, sat down next to me, put her arm around me and said, “There are a lot of fish in the sea. “ I clearly remember wailing, “But, I want this one.” She said, “All things happen for a reason. You will find the perfect person who loves you as much as you love him, and you’ll look back on this and laugh.” While I couldn’t understand then that you need to love someone who loves you back, I get it now. Twenty years, three children and a dog later, I’m still married to the man who loved me back.
On Staying In Love
My mother, Ingrid Teichner, always said “to love is to be happy with.”. I always felt this to be a simple and beautiful phrase that removes crazy expectations from relationships and keeps perspective on love so simple.
I also believe in giving more than your partner. Never calculate— just keep on giving. This is a sure recipe for happiness! Especially if both lovers give more on each side!
–Aviva Drescher, philanthropist, mom and TV personality.
On Finding Love
My grandparents died before I was born and my parents are deceased and never liked anyone I dated, really. So, I go by the rule of the litter box. Don’t marry anyone who won’t help with the cat litter box when you are away, busy or when you are sick. The couple who served as my polestars for love shared litter box tasks (and everything else).
That is my advice to myself in midlife, seeking love. The litter box is the litmus test for love and compatibility. Now the question is, will I listen to it?
–Elizabeth Cohen, author of The Hypothetical Girl.
“I always thought that love was about desire — being with someone, holding someone, feeling someone. But it isn’t necessarily. Love can come in lots of different ways and lots of different guises.” That’s the British artist Tracey Emin in a May 2012 BBC interview. She’s talking about her experience as a single woman artist nearing 50, but it’s a great reminder for all of us, no matter our relationship status or age. Not only can love be found everywhere — in an idea, an experience, a lover, a friend, etc. — but it’s like compound interest: the more you have the more you get. The trick is being open. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”
–Kate Bolick is a contributing editor for The Atlantic. Her first book, Among the Suitors: On Being a Woman, Alone, is forthcoming from Crown/Random House.
On Self-Worth In Love
The most important piece of love advice I ever got was this: “Treat yourself like a prize.” The strange part is: I can no longer remember who first passed on the wisdom. (In my mind, it’s some sexy woman-of-a-certain age with five ex-husbands, smoking a Virginia Slim 100.)
But the real identity is lost to me. Even so, the advice has stuck in my head all these years, and I still recite it to single friends who seem to have trouble making romantic relationships stick.
The point is not that you should act arrogantly or as if entitled, but that, if you act as if you have value in the world, others are more likely to treat you that way. In the hetero world, this means letting the guy pursue you. Which is to say, not calling too much or being too accommodating to his needs. Conversely, if he fails to call, hold your head high and walk away. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still think that, in the early days of a relationship, the onus falls on the
–Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels including What She Saw… and, most recently The Pretty One.
My dad said something which has never left me in my 14 years of marriage, “You only have to answer to yourself. No one is living your life except for you. If you can live with this man don’t let others influence your decision. And always remember that this man is the father of your children.” And I have always relied on this advice.
The best advice I ever got about love was from my grandmother, right before I got married. She said, “Marriage goes through cyclical phases, it’s almost like the movements of planets. Sometimes you’re so close, the two of you, your orbits are in synch, and sometimes you move so far away from each other, you feel you’ll never reconnect, never reenter each other’s orbits, you’re too far apart. The trick to marriage is having faith in the reconnection, waiting for the inevitable closeness again.” This was in 1994. She died a couple of years later. My marriage lasted 12 years. I never forgot this advice; we moved far away from each other many times, and I waited it out, and sure enough, we came back into synch again. And then at the end, we moved too far apart to ever reenter each other’s orbits, out of each other’s fields of gravity, and that’s when I knew it was over.
–Kate Christensen is the author of six novels including The Epicure’s Lament, the PEN/Faulkner award-winning The Great Man, and The Astral.
My parents have been married 35 years. The best advice about love I got from my father, Michael Rockland. He told me that when a married couple fights, no one wins. This advice has helped me realize that if I fight with my husband, getting in little digs doesn’t matter, because it hurts us both.
–Kate Rockland, author 150 Pounds and Falling Is Like This
I think the 13th Century Persian Poet Rumi sums up love so eloquently. He wrote: ‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’ The way I interpret this that when it comes to love, you can’t give or receive love unless you love and respect yourself. If you feel you are worthy of love, then you can fully love. It sounds so simple, and yet we know how hard loving ourselves can be. But I’ve seen miracles happen when people work at this… everything from relationships, career, raising kids, running a home, becomes more joyous. And yet the only thing that’s changed is the relationship you have with yourself.
– Maureen Connolly, Executive Editor, KnowMoreTV
On Self -Reliance
I have been wracking my brain about this idea of “Mr. Right.” Love is a tricky area. One thing that has been on my mind lately is the way media, television and film portray women. The values that have been promoted since the advent of the moving picture have sent a message to women. In commercials, women are most often in a kitchen. Men are most often at an office or on a couch. What these messages deliver are pretty obvious. In television and film, the primary conversations that woman have revolve around men, dating men or how to better date men. Male characters’ conversations are often about catching bad guys. Again, these messages are pretty transparent. Advertising is purposeful and manipulative. Millions to billions of dollars are spent on how to sell a costumer something they don’t need to buy, or portray an image they don’t necessarily want to subscribe to. When I was a young person and having a hard time dating, my mother would say, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find your Prince.” I have come to a point in my life where I realize that she was right, but, as corny as it may sound, the Prince is me.
I have been through many wonderful love affairs; I have been through divorce and near-death illness; I have traveled the world and been on the covers of magazines. Through all of this, I have come to understand that I control my ultimate happiness. I am the reason that I am still alive. I am the reason I will continue on. All this may sound super new-agey and self-possessed, but I can’t help but fall back on that old maxim, “happiness comes from within.”
-Jennifer Sky is a former model and actress. Her first e-book is forthcoming from The Atavist.
On Having Support
The worst relationship I ever had was also the most important one of my young life, in that I learned more about myself from that year-long ordeal than from any other. I was 18, and as often happens with first love, was completely blind to the fact that I was being manipulated and taken advantage of. My mother knew, of course, and while she could see the eventual train wreck at the end of that relationship, she let it happen because she knew I had to feel that hurt, face his betrayal and manipulation, and stand up for myself in the aftermath of that injury to my heart and ego. I’m sure she warned me in many small ways, but she never stood in the way of what must have been, from her perspective, an excruciating progression from infatuation to heartbreak. When I’d finally had enough, and I ended the relationship once and for all, she sat on the floor of my room as I tearfully exorcised my pain by cleaning out my closet. Again, I don’t remember what she did say to me that day, but I treasure what she did not say, something I don’t know that I would have been able to keep to myself. She sat there as I cried and helped me put clothing in bags for donation, and never, not once, did she say”I told you so.
So often, the best relationship advice is the advice that’s passed on from mom to daughter, from one friend to the next, from father to daughter. Understanding each other’s stories helps us to understand our own.