Love, actually?

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Is age difference a problem in romance?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 25, 2015

It’s not surprising to see an older, wealthier man fall for a younger woman, yet such an occurrence often still reflects a sleaziness that causes our society cringe. The situation is cruder when the man divorces his wife of 26 years to be with this much younger woman. There are many cases to draw examples from, but I’ll point at the most recent one involving my childhood hero and actor, Rowan Atkinson.

Atkinson, famous for Mr. Bean, Blackadder, and his scene-stealer in Christmas classic Love, Actually, was involved in a swift 65-second divorce proceeding, separating on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour.” I always wonder about the complexity of marriage: the leash wives have on their husbands and the secret lives husbands have away from home. It makes me wonder what “unreasonable behaviour” within a marriage even means. Because how can we truly know how two people behave when they are alone? This type of classification makes me look down on people who can’t keep a marriage together. It makes me judge them poorly. How can I trust someone who breaks promises and behaves unreasonably? How can I trust someone who is so easily tempted by what we can only define as lust?

It’s so easy for people at the perimeter to point their fingers at someone like Atkinson, even in 2015, saying that he is just swapping old for new. Who doesn’t want something new? However, when it comes to being in a committed relationship, that type of behaviour is most certainly unreasonable. Then again, what if we look at it from the view of happiness. Over half of all marriages end in divorces today… how unreasonable is that? Should we really be criticizing anyone for the complicated choices they make regarding love? I say no.

It is both an act of courage and cowardice to pursue a romantic endeavour and to leave a committed relationship. It digs deeper into the person. You are not a student, you are not a doctor, you are not a writer, or whatever occupation you have—deep down, you are those you love. I do agree that people make mistakes in the realm of marriages, but I don’t believe people should be judged poorly for them. They took a chance at love and that should be admired.

My problem is the pedestal people put the status of marriage on, as if it’s some kind of achievement. I think it’s that type of perspective that makes it hard for so many people to “love.” Love shouldn’t be like tightrope walking across a skyscraper. Any slip up will be met with death. It should be a journey with many encounters. It should be a journey made with a partner. And should the partnership change, it’s just the way it is. It’s a part of it.

So should age ever be a problem in romance? I don’t think so. When it comes to consenting adults, they should just enjoy each other while they have time. While age is just a number, our time on this world is running out. So share it with the people who matter and leave the ones that don’t. You, just like Mr. Bean, will have to make that decision yourself, no matter how ridiculous and unreasonable it may seem.

All work and no love

Illustration by Ed Appleby

How to balance work and relationships

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 17, 2015

There are two key channels in life that we are all sailing through simultaneously. One is the career path we have chosen. On this route we are empowered to catch the wind and ride as far as we can undaunted. The other channel finds us embarking on a journey for love and companionship. Our attitude on this trip, however, is much different. We dock occasionally, testing the waters here and there, uncertain when we’ll reach our destination. As you can tell by my longwinded metaphor, the success of work and love are two separate achievements, both of equal importance. But how do you attain one without losing sight of the other?

While some believe that people should keep work and love separate, I don’t believe that is true. A healthy relationship is built upon support, and a thriving career requires that too. The two channels feed into each other. The time you spend working and the time you spend with your loved one should be interchangeable. It should be teamwork. You and your partner should have careers that feed into each other’s lives; both of you should be passionate about what the other does and sail the same course.

Men are often praised for not bringing work home, but in today’s world what does that really mean? It means keeping a significant portion of the day hidden away. Your partner should be there to encourage you when you have an assignment due, or if there is an opportunity for promotion. It’s a competitive market and having someone on your side is irreplaceable encouragement.

With that being said, dedicating time to your romantic partner is equally as important. While accomplishing work or showing up on time is imperative, time you have away from the office, kitchen, studio, and the like should be portioned appropriately. Here is where you can help your partner better their situation. Help clean, make dinner, or even do some repairs. Life can unravel when there is nobody looking out for you, so do your best and pick up some slack when your partner can’t.

Life is not all sunsets and paycheques. Work is work and relationship is work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. I’m not going to tell you the type of person to date or the kind of job to have, but if you want a fulfilling life, it’s better if the two channels intersect occasionally. Find a partner that cares about your job and find a career that your partner is passionate about as well. Only then will you find true balance between work and love.

You can’t level up in love

Illustration by Ed Appleby

Why we shouldn’t determine end goals for relationships

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 3, 2015

When we enter a relationship, it’s easy to start fantasizing about all the possibilities. We all have our own reasons for developing a romantic bond with another person. Perhaps we want to get married, have children, and live a fated life. That has been the traditional route for romance for many generations, but the mentality for many is less about mutual growth and more about levelling up in the game of life.

More and more I’m seeing couples treat their relationship with the same undertone as someone talking about their career. If marriage is simply a promotion, to me, it’s incredibly disturbing. Sure, a wedding is a wonderful party where grandma is invited, but with all respect, it does not symbolize adulthood or ultimate satisfaction.

Relationship milestones should not be determined by a single night of partying, wedding rings, and cheesy vows; it should happen organically. First dates, first kisses, buying new furniture together, and surviving an argument are examples of milestones, but are rarely celebrated because a relationship is exclusive. Only two people would have experienced it. It’s not something to brag about. It’s not something to prove.

If you enter a relationship with the objective of getting married or having children, you’re imposing milestones for your own life and not necessarily for your partner’s. Such behaviour can rather create ultimatums or cause you to live in a dysfunctional partnership.

Sometimes a romantic relationship can feel like a blessing, sometimes it can feel like a compromise, and other times it might even feel like a sacrifice. If you love a person, but you feel as though the relationship needs to move to the next level for some reason—be it moving in, getting married, or having children—then I beg you to reconsider. Although people may look at you as if you are some sort of pariah or failure for not achieving those outcomes, don’t fret because outsiders don’t know shit about your relationship.

Don’t let other people control how you behave with your loved one, because different people have different values. And you and your partner must figure out your values together without the interference of friends, families, co-workers, and even critics like myself. I don’t know how two people behave when they’re alone together; all I know is that if you enter the first date, answer a personal ad, or kiss someone with the intention of achieving some “life goal” you’ll be gravely disappointed. Building a relationship is the goal. There is nothing more but the moments you share together. You will never be able to level up, so feel satisfied in the moment.

What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me

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Maybe you’re born with it, or maybe you fake it till you make it

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Previously published in The Other Press. Feb 4, 2014

I’ll admit it: I’m still not sure what this whole love thing is all about. I understand others’ interpretations—you know, the Shakespearean sonnets, the Nicholas Sparks novels, and that scene from Up—but what is love, and why am I so skeptical?

I have been told that I have the same range of emotions as a well-functioning blender (nobody actually said that) and that my excitement level can often reach the point of mild elation. I’m not the kind of guy who categorizes feelings or even acknowledges them. I mean, I feel hungry, tired, and cold—but can I feel love? Is it like a chill that runs down my spine when I hear about a traffic accident? Is it like the anticipation of pain as I prepare my lips for a hot drink? Or is it just something I haven’t experienced yet?

Like every other child growing up, I was taught to love my parents unconditionally. I guess I love my mom and dad, even though 90 per cent of the time they are the worst company. They gave me life and in return I offer my love. But love can’t be currency, it’s not something you exchange with people for goods and services and life. Can anyone put a value on love? I sure hope not. Even the thought of myself doing something for love disgusts me. I hope love doesn’t collar me up and pull me along on a leash like a lovesick puppy. Then again, how do I give something that I don’t even know I have? Or receive something so abstract? Where does this love thing come from?

I thought I had it before. Yes, I too have lied about my love for someone. In fact, I’ve done it multiple times under different circumstances. And I can’t promise that I won’t do it again. The thing was, I knew I was lying the whole time, but how did they know? I think people can see the lovelessness in others when they lie about something like that. It’s the same way people can see that I can’t grow a beard or that I’ve been up all night. As much as love can feel like an internal thing, it seeps up onto the surface, like a woman’s glow when she’s pregnant, or an ailing man’s cancer.

Love can be something that just happens, but I also believe that love is something we earn, like trust or respect. But how does one earn trust, respect, and love?

You can’t force it—that much I know. To agonize over love is to overwater a flower, drowning the plant in your own insecurity. No, love is more like a weed: it can grow in the most trying locations, flourish with little assistance, and spread with great conviction. I remember the old saying “if you love something, set it free,” I guess that’s like blowing dandelion seeds and watching them catch in the wind and parachute down. “If it returns, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t.” That thought scares me, because commitment is terrifying. Love by that definition sounds so permanent, yet daunting. It leaves me feeling hopeless. If that’s the case, do I even want love at all?

Of course I do. The same way I want a warm blanket, a feeling of security, and a sense of wonder. As humans, there are no greater risks than admitting that you truly love someone; to take that emotional leap of faith and to really open the seams into our souls and let another see all the turning gears that are powering us—or at least me since, after all, I am robotic. Perhaps I require some reverse engineering, or maybe my love is still up for beta testing. I’ll wait. I’m not worried.

The Report Card: Public Displays of Affection

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 Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 4, 2014

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Public displays of affection, or PDA as the kids like to call it, is scornful, repulsive, and shameless; at least that’s the current cultural attitude. Yes, PDA is as tactless as bragging about your good grades or wage. But why should showing your affection toward someone be condemned? Publicly displaying your affection for someone can be as inoffensive as a handshake or a hug—that is, if it’s done with class.

Pass: In social settings

Why should affection be confined to the bedroom? Romance should be breathable wherever a couple goes, especially in social settings. Every couple, like every individual, is different, and generally people behave differently in public than they would alone. Obviously not every couple will be the mushy-gushy kind, but if your significant other is too embarrassed to direct any emotional or physical affection in your direction when you’re with a group of friends, I would be wary.

I’m not saying that there needs to be a passionate embrace during all your social excursions, but a community that embraces the love of two people is one that will foster affection, instead of repression. If your relationship is strong, but your friend circle constantly criticizes the loving way you behave with your partner, barriers will be created and unwritten rules will be established.

Many foreign cultures embrace PDA as if it’s their birthright. European and Latin American countries are renowned for their romantic customs. It’s not uncommon to walk down a promenade and see a pair locking lips and holding each other passionately. There is nothing wrong with that, and the fact that North American culture sees a problem with two people in love outdoors is a real knock on our zeitgeist. And as meaningless as it may sound, we should reevaluate our “Get a room” mindset for the sake of love.

Fail: On social media

However, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are not the places for you to express your love towards another user. There are other platforms out there for you to communicate intimate thoughts, but social networking sites should not be one of them. Sure, there are the dating sites like, PlentyOfFish, OKCupid, and eHarmony, but those are designated dating sites with specific purposes. Still I would imagine those who’ve used dating sites would also eventually move to a more private means of corresponding.

Here are the reasons why I think posting lovesick statuses, tweets, and Instagram photos are a bad idea. First off, there is something artificial about social media. It’s a place where you show off the brightest side of you or a place where you vent. Facebook can often feel like one big circle-jerk, and by putting your affection online, many will see that as an attempt to seek approval. After all, it’s all about getting those “likes.” Your relationship is more than just others’ “likes.”

Secondly, love comes and goes, lust comes and goes, and blind infatuation comes and goes—but regrettable status updates and pictures last forever. You can delete them off the Internet, but you cannot erase your persona from people’s minds. You don’t want to develop a reputation as a psycho who is emotionally unstable and throws all their love successes and problems online. Facebook friends and Twitter followers aren’t your real friends—they can’t really help you, but they can sure troll you.

Lastly, you’ll put your partner in a strange and awkward position when you post about them. There is nothing worse than seeing an enthusiastic girlfriend’s status and the boyfriend with a lackluster response (oh, that’ll end well). Internet personas are different and they should not be confused with real emotions. Spoiler alert: real emotions are the ones you should focus on.