There is a general sense among many that learning about love and how to love comes with experience, which comes with time. Expressed graphically, it would look something like the drawing below.
The question becomes, then, what is the difference in this amount of experience? Is the amount of experience gleaned from ages 20 to 30 significant? I think many would say yes, but is it always? Is that true enough of the time that we can claim that those that are 30 have a significantly deeper knowledge about how love works? Could we say with certainty that a 30 year old has a greater likelihood of saying “I’m in love” and actually being right?
Does age even correlate with love at all? Older people tend to claim that they know more about love, having experienced more, but there is also the claim that children know more about love than anyone because their conceptions of love are untainted by prejudice and societal expectations. There are tons of “children’s definitions of love” articles floating around the internet, and many of the kids’ definitions seem to fit love better than we believe our own definitions could. So is the graph something like this?
If children have some sort of innate knowledge of love, and adults do, but teenagers don’t, then does this mean that we lose our knowledge of what love is? Does this mean that we go backward before we can go forward?
There will always be those that claim that there is “an age,” that young people don’t know what love is, and that being able to fall in true love only comes with experience and heartache. And those people might be right some of the time. But I’ve seen 20-year-olds that are undeniably in committed, real relationships, and I’ve seen 50-year-olds that wouldn’t know what love looked like if it walked up and introduced itself.
I think the graph looks more like this.
I think knowing “enough” about love to guarantee that you’ve found it forever is asymptotic. It’s a standard you can never reach. As you get older, you might gain more knowledge and get closer to “enough.” But if you can never reach it, how do you know when to stop trying? How do you know when “enough” is actually enough? You don’t.
If we knew when enough was enough, we’d never actually learn anything in the first place. No one would ever enter relationships, because they’d be afraid they didn’t know “enough” about love. And by never entering a relationship, they would never learn anything and thus never get any closer to that ideal of “enough.”
Love is about going in head first and hoping for the absolute best. Love is not about backup plans or what-ifs. Many times, this journey without an exit plan is wondrous, joyous, and life-changing.
But not always, and this seems to be regardless of how much you think you know. If you were to plot everyone who’d ever experienced heartache and how much they knew about love, I think you wouldn’t see a pattern. There are twenty-somethings who get married and stay together for a happy seventy years until they both perish. There are also those who wait until they are in their thirties or forties and get divorced soon after. Life doesn’t discriminate based on experience, and while it can be said that those that are older have a lesser chance of falling into an unhappy relationship, I don’t think that holds constant.
When it comes down to it, who are we to judge? Love appears to mean many things to many different people, and so what looks and feels like love to me is not only indescribable to someone else, but probably looks and feels really different from what you might consider love.
So, who gets to say the F-word? Anyone who wants to. They might not be “right” in our eyes but as long as they have the right intentions, “enough” may be enough for them.