With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it should come as no surprise that today's lesson will be about love. What might be surprising is that the most important lesson I’ve learned about love actually comes from … You.
That is, “You” as in the Netflix show. The series is a psychological thriller that follows Joe Goldberg, an unassuming young man who becomes dangerously obsessed with the women he dates. Joe wants to be a good guy, and he truly seems to think that he is, but because he is so prone to obsess and idealize the women he claims to love, he is always disappointed when they don’t live up to the person he built inside his head. More often than not, this disappointment causes his actions to spiral into a series of dark events with deadly consequences.
But hey there, you, don’t run just yet. The most important lesson I learned about love didn’t come from Joe, it came from Marienne Bellamy, a woman Joe becomes obsessed with in season three of “You.” In episode 10 of that season, she imparts a crucial piece of advice to a woman she suspects is in an abusive relationship:
“[I]f there is ever ... even for a fleeting moment ... a tiny voice in your head, and that tiny voice is saying ‘I deserve better,’ listen to her. That's your partner. That's your real true love. And if you betray her long enough, you will lose her.”
Most of us want to fall in love, and how could we not? Most of media's “Happily Ever Afters” center around relationships. The princess gets the prince, and vice versa.
There is this underlying sense that a relationship is supposed to complete you, and if you are not in a relationship with “The One,” you are not whole.
This narrative is supposed to make romance appear as a prize or an enhancement, but I’ve started to think that this narrative leads us to be complacent. After a prolonged time being single, you might start to believe that something is wrong with you. Or, at the very least, that you’re lacking in some way. If you come to take on this mindset, you’ll start to think that since love is so amazing, you should accept it from any person that will offer it.
Even if that person doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve.
Even if that person’s character is not very admirable.
Even if that person repeatedly asks you to compromise on your values or principles in order to make them happy.
This mindset of complacency is profoundly damaging. At best, it encourages young people to accept a life of discontentment. At its worst, it encourages them to stay in relationships that are toxic or even abusive for the sake of feeling “loved.”
Having never experienced love myself, I won't claim expertise. But I know what it’s not — and it is not something that should make you feel as if you are contorting yourself and your values for the sake of another person.
When Marienne gave her advice to the woman in “You,” she was reminding her that being loved is less important than remembering that you are already someone worth loving.
In the wise words of Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.” Take the time to know and love yourself to the point that you simply cannot and will not accept any mistreatment, because that would be mistreatment to your innermost partner and first soulmate.
I acknowledge that we are inherently social creatures, and it makes absolute sense that most of us feel an innate desire to love and be loved. I just need you to know that that love should never come at the expense of being your authentic self. No one is perfect. In a relationship, you will always have to give a little, but you should not feel as if you must give up everything that makes you, you.
A healthy relationship enriches and supports your growth. It doesn't erase your individuality. It's about loving and being loved for who we are, flaws and all.
Don’t give up on love. Just don’t let the prospect of any love at all make you willing to lose yourself, your true partner.
You are amazing, and you deserve someone that can fully appreciate that.
Happy Valentine’s Day, You.
Joy Agwu is a senior at Pasquerilla West, originally from Bowie, Maryland. She is pursuing a degree in philosophy with a minor in constitutional studies. In her free time, she finds great pleasure in consuming media and reflecting on the deeper meanings behind the content she encounters. Whether you have recommendations for TV shows, movies, podcasts or any other form of media or if would like to further discuss an idea presented in a column, feel free to reach out to her on Instagram @JoyfulJoyousss.