Love, set it free.

Dear Pogue,


Nowhere do we find more said on the subject of love than in contemporary music. It seems every other song that appears wants to tell about love of one sort or another. Amongst these are some deep insights and profound thinking, none more so than Sting’s utterance:

If you love someone, set them free.

This is the salmon swimming upstream if ever there was such a thing.


Well, spend an hour listening to songs. It won’t be long before you start to recognise the common theme of possession. I want you, I need you, I can’t live without you…it’s all there. A narcissist’s playbook. Then if the singer is not wanting to possess she is wanting to be possessed. So Sting’s comment flys in the face of pop culture’s love philosophy. But who is correct? Is love about need and possession or is it the opposite?

I am going to attempt an answer but I will have to hedge my bets and say both.

You see, love does not come fully formed as much as we do not come fully formed. Love evolves, grows, matures if it is allowed to do so. But the issue is, and contemporary pop culture bears witness to this, many people look no further than possession and believe that if this is achieved then they have found love in all its glory. Their needs are met and in a limited sense there is some truth here. Let me give you a picture. If love was the ocean they are standing ankle deep believing they have experienced the ocean’s fullness.

Are they in love?

Yes. There will be emotions and shared moments. Excitement and desire. But do they realise there is more, so much more? Emotions can recede as the parties get use to the relationship, taking our significant other for granted. Excitement finds its way to something else, a new thing that feeds the appetite, a fresh desire. Then relationships begin to become defined by common space or they wither.

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing.

Anais Nin

Love is a wonder. A source of joy and pain. Like a book whose pages need to be turned in order that the whole story can be revealed and we are the ones who choose to turn those pages. We could find a place that we like and stop there. We could move on to another story. It happens. The choice is always ours and as much as we call this “our story” for romantic love can never be “my story”, I cannot allow you to turn the pages alone and expect that we will progress. That said I must allow you the freedom to move at your own pace to master each stage, learning at every level as an apprentice skipping a lesson does so at her own peril. I must allow you freedom as you must me.

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

Louis de Bernieres in Corelli’s Mandolin

Inherent in love is patience. So love asked the other to wait until we are caught up. Till we have both learnt the lesson. Have you ever tried to learn something while the other hoovers over you impatiently? If learnt at all it is seldom well learnt.

Give me space and freedom and I will honour that. Without a doubt love is bound with freedom. As much as a caged lion is a cameo of the beast it is intended to be, so love denied freedom is a lesser emotion. Lovely to look at maybe, but devoid of essence.

It is in the fact that love can be set free and, after flight, return, that marks it as love. Oh, I hear you say, “But it could be dependency not love that causes it to return”, but it is in how it returns that love is recognisable. Vibrant and brimming with life, full of new adventures and insights, ready to share. At once at ease, attentive without being submissive, satisfied in the company it now keeps.

I fear that this is a love never known by the many because, the initial delight of touching it has veered into the need to possess it, fearing that to do less will result in loss due to any of a number of things, the most feared, the most haunting being feelings of inadequacy. So, we need to be sure of ourselves to progress this endeavour. Maybe the person who said “If you can’t love yourself, you can love no one else” was right?

Yours, learning to love myself better,


2 thoughts on “Love, set it free.

  1. I like the quote you include by Anais Nin, all of them but mostly that one. My sister and I were talking about how selfish possession is when it comes to love, brought on by the entertaining ‘Flower Crew’ – a Korean series that depicts it properly. I know the hype that comes with belonging ‘my girl’, ‘bae/boo’ and I’m all for it. Let them know what they mean to you but it can be so stifling in a way, discouraging other people to step out into growing facets of themselves, I think so anyway.
    I agree the only way to love others well is to first love yourself. (Long comment😅, I hope you don’t mind)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It’s really nice to get your comment and I absolutely don’t mind. I’m going to have to write a post on loving oneself I’m thinking, if only to help me understand it.


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