Healthy lives for young people
Relationships

Love: is it really all about putting someone else before you?

Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, tells Anna that love is putting someone else first. Our guest blogger, Sophie, explores this further.

Olaf the snowman

Remember Olaf, the cute snowman from Frozen? We all “aww”ed when Olaf sat down in front of the fire – ready to melt – and told Anna that ‘true love’ meant putting someone else’s needs before your own. We’ve all heard messages similar to Olaf’s – with the crux that if we love someone, we’ll think of them before we think of ourselves.

It sounds like a really lovely, selfless thing, right? I think so too. But at what point does this motto stop being kind and well-meaning, and turn into something else entirely? I’m not saying Olaf is secretly a bad snowman with terrible motives (he’s adorable) – what I mean is that while this idea is sweet, it also has the potential to be taken and twisted and turned into something damaging.

Amara and Josh

Let’s take Amara, for example. Amara isn’t a real person – as far as I know – but I have created her in my head and I want to tell you about her, because she’s great. Amara is 16. She’s been going out with Josh for almost a year and they seem like THE perfect couple. Josh looks a bit like Louis Tomlinson when you squint, and he always turns up to surprise Amara at school and walk her home. It looks really romantic.

At first glance, you might think Amara was a pretty lucky girl. You might even be a tiny bit jealous of her. But inside, she’s starting to feel like things aren’t quite right. She’s seen all the films and read all the books, so she knows that relationships are all about putting someone else before you, but sometimes she wonders why she doesn’t feel that in response from her boyfriend. “If I have to put Josh’s needs first,” Amara thinks, “Why doesn’t he put mine first?”. It feels like everything in their relationship is centred around what Josh wants.

When she told Josh she wasn’t ready to have sex, he sighed and reminded her that somebody else would be. He’s older – only by a year, but Amara knows he’s a lot more mature than her. He’s told her. He’s also told her stories of the girls in his year at college – about all the stuff they’ll do – and Amara knows she’s got to keep up.

So she slept with Josh. She’s still sleeping with Josh. Sometimes he asks her to do things she’s not comfortable with, but he’s told her that this is what normal adult relationships are like. She trusts him, but she can’t help feeling sad afterwards. Why is she always tired? Why is she so stressed?

If Josh wants to watch a movie, they watch a movie. If they go for a meal, Josh chooses the restaurant. If Amara says she’s tired, Josh still turns up at her front door, to “surprise” her. At first she was drawn to his confidence and how much attention he showed her, but now it’s getting too much. Amara feels drained. She’s followed the rules, so what’s going wrong? She thought love would be different to this.

Putting yourself first too

How could Amara feel happier in her relationship? I reckon she’s hit the nail on the head – if Josh had the same Olaf-esque intentions, maybe things would work out differently. But I think we can all agree that Josh isn’t the snowman we hoped he would be. At this point, I’d hope Amara would talk things through with her friends and family and begin to spend time with people who value her. Bye bye, Josh. You can head to your favourite restaurant…ON YOUR OWN.

Luckily, Amara’s not real, so we don’t need to worry. But there are plenty of people who are in her situation, so what are they supposed to do?

The way I see it, if you’re always trying to look out for someone and put their needs before yours, that’s great – if they’re doing the same for you. If they are, logic says you’ll probably meet somewhere in the middle. There might be times where you’re giving a lot more, but there’ll also be times where they’re giving a lot more, instead. As long as you’re both on the same page, that’s okay.

And sometimes, there’ll be the occasions where you think “Actually, no, that’s not right.” I can think of times like that. Times when someone’s asked too much of me, and I’ve had to say “No. I’m not going to do that.” It might feel like a relationship-ender with some people but with others it doesn’t stop me loving them or wanting them in my life. It just means I don’t feel that what they’ve asked me to do is okay. And the ones who’ve really cared about me have normally said “Oh. You’re right…I’m sorry.”

Love is…

I am obsessed with Disney. I absolutely adore it, to the point where I happy-cry when I see pictures of Mickey Mouse and plan my entire year around my trip to Disneyland Paris. It’s my happy place. My boyfriend, Russell, isn’t really a Disney fan at all. He didn’t watch the movies growing up (WHY?!) so he says they don’t feel nostalgic, plus he doesn’t really like films with singing in them, which kind of renders all Disney films unwatchable for him (apart from maybe Finding Nemo or Pirates of the Caribbean). But the thing is, Russell does watch Disney movies with me. Quite a lot.

Olaf would be happy about that, right? I reckon so. But for every Disney DVD in our ‘to watch’ pile, there’s one of Russell’s DVDs placed snugly next to it. Our relationship isn’t all about me, or all about him – it’s somewhere in the middle. It isn’t perfect, because nothing is, but we share a common goal of wanting to make the person we’re with happy – as well as a sense of what’s okay and what’s not – and I think that’s why it works.

What is love? That’s a toughie. We could spend all day deciding. There are different kinds of love and different views on what it all means, but I’m pretty sure I know what it shouldn’t mean. It shouldn’t mean making someone else’s happiness a priority if they don’t do the same in return. It shouldn’t mean that someone else comes before you to the point where you’re unhappy or your own needs aren’t being met. By all means be an Olaf, but don’t let yourself melt. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that being an Olaf means you don’t matter. You do.

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