In a world of instantaneous gratification, do we expect the same of our relationships?
In an always-on, always-busy world, author Fionnuala Kearney says it’s important to take stock of the people in our lives that really matter, and to make time for them.
I remember when I was younger, and a little bit more naive, believing that relationships worth having should be easy – that love, if it existed, would be easy. With a few more years under my belt, I now believe that nothing worth having is actually easy. Relationships are hard. The ones worth having are hard and, indeed, the ones not worth having even harder.
My Mam, who unfortunately died this year, used to have this saying: “You don’t fall in love, you climb in love” and during my teens and early twenties, I would have sneered at her cynicism. Nowadays, I hear myself quoting it to anyone who’ll listen.
As a writer, I’m fascinated by the intricacies of relationships, the nuanced subtleties that either make them work or not. I love to peel away the layers and look at what’s going on underneath. It can be bonds with lovers, siblings, parents, friends, pets – what is it that make them work? The easy answer is love and that’s true. Let’s face it, we can’t have a loving relationship without love, but what makes the love remain and stay true? What is the difference between a relationship with real longevity and one that fizzles out?
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but as a woman of a certain age, I can look at love and life and see things in a clear, almost John Lennon-like fashion. “Imagine” if we could communicate what it is we’re feeling without the noise getting in the way. I often think if dogs could talk, their conversation would be so much less complicated than their owners’. They’d reach into their vocabulary, look at you with love in their eyes and just say it – say whatever it is that needs to be said, honestly and succinctly. In our human world, it’s often a lack of clear and honest communication that’s responsible for love dying.
Most people think they communicate just fine with their partner, yet would readily admit, when pushed, that perhaps they’re not always the best listeners. True listening is a tough thing to master, something I’m still learning. I’m as guilty as the next person of assuming I know what a loved one is saying and replying to them before they’re even finished speaking. Learning to listen is something we could probably all benefit from having lessons in – it’s different from simply hearing words, isn’t it?
We live in a world of instantaneous gratification and perhaps sometimes expect the same of our relationships. Our mobile phones mean we’re in constant touch with the world and the need to not miss out on emails, text messages, and social media has meant our phones almost have to be surgically removed from us. I’m completely caught up in this maelstrom myself, guilty of being permanently exhausted by the constant presence of a Really-Important-To-Do-List. Life is busy and there are more times than any of us care to admit that our priorities lapse.
But it is only loving that matters; those special people whom we live with, the ones we can’t envisage living without. Listening to them, talking with them, laughing alongside them. And as I write this piece, I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing up at 6.30 on a Saturday morning working! This can surely wait a few hours? Surely, I should climb back into bed and hold my husband’s hand, tell him I love him because much as I love my work, and I do, I love him more.
So, I channel Bronté and because “Reader, I married him”, I went back to bed.
The Book of Love by Fionnuala Kearney (HarperCollins, approx €13.99) is out now.