5 Popular Love Quotes That Might Promote Toxic Relationships

And how you can work your way around them for a healthy version of love

5 Popular Love Quotes That Might Promote Toxic Relationships
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

And how you can work your way around them for a healthy version of love

The idea of “true love conquers all” is romanticised in books and movies to such an extent, that several people believe in its power. That if you “love” someone, you will never have to put in an effort to keep your relationship intact.

That once you find “true love”, you will be fixed.

That couldn’t have been farther from the truth!

Love and compatibility are two different aspects, and having one does not magically guarantee the other. Two people can be truly, madly, deeply in love with each other and still be terrible partners for each other.

Sadly, many romance novels fail to portray that, glorifying the idea that once you found “true love”, you will be happy together forever.

This article is going to pick five famous quotes from five novels and dissect them, looking into what makes them toxic and what we can learn from them.

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Erich Segal’s Love Story is a book that captured the imagination of millions of people, and continues to do so even today, fifty years after its release. After all, nothing tugs at your heartstrings like a tragedy, and what could be more tragic than a book that begins thus-

What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And Brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me.

The story of rich-boy-with-a-point-to-prove Oliver Barrett and smart-but-poor-schoolgirl Jennifer Cavilleri is heart-rending and will stand the test of time. But, what about the quote above which became just as wildly popular as the book?

Why is this toxic?

Taken out of context, this quote is effectively saying that no matter how badly you fuck up and how much you hurt your partner, you don’t owe them an apology because you are in “love”.

On the contrary, there have been several schools of thought that suggest apologising to your partner important as it restores trust and understanding to a relationship.

Any person who expects to get away with treating their partner bad and not working on themselves to make sure that mistake never repeats again will only end up hurting their partner more.

How you can work your way around it:

Love doesn’t mean never having to say you are sorry. Love means owning up to your mistakes, apologising to your partner, and working on yourself, so you don’t commit the same mistake again.

It also means pointing out a mistake your partner has made and helping them see ways in which they can improve themselves.

It means having an open mind and putting your relationship over your ego and taking into consideration what your partner wishes for.

“Love is putting up with someone’s bad qualities because they somehow complete you.”

This Lullaby by the queen of contemporary YA, Sarah Dessen, is a young adult romance that is wildly popular among teenagers all over the world. It follows the adventures of Remy, a girl who doesn’t believe in the concept of love because her father died, and her mother got herself into four unsuccessful marriages.

Because of her broken childhood, Remy dates a lot of people, considering herself to be always in control because she knows all about how love plays with a person’s hormones.

This changes when she meets Dexter, and, for the first time in her life, feels a connection. In the beginning, she ignores and ridicules him, but in a classic enemies-to-lovers storyline, the two fall in love.

Going by this synopsis, you can imagine why this book is so well-loved by fans of YA fiction. But when we talk about this quote that finds itself on people’s Instagram bios and Facebook cover pictures, is putting up with someone’s bad qualities healthy?

Why is this toxic?

Putting up with someone’s bad qualities, especially if they have a huge impact on your life, can lead to resentment building up in your heart. The longer you let it build, the harder will it be for you to hold it in. And then, one day, it will burst. You will burst, and it will result in a huge quarrel that might break your relationship apart.

Also, the idea that you need another human being to be “complete” is not healthy. It leads to single people being constantly dissatisfied, convinced that once they find love, all their problems will be fixed. That they would no longer have to suffer because whatever they had been missing until now will be provided by their partner.

This not only lowers their present quality of life but also puts enormous pressure on the partner.

How you can work your way around it:

First, if your partner has a bad quality that significantly disrupts your day-to-day life, tell them. There have been studies that show complaining can be good for the mental health of both parties involved.

Communicate about how it affects you and how much both your lives will be better if they change themselves. Then, both of you reach a compromise — one that makes neither of you happy, but at least you are no longer carrying resentment in your heart.

Secondly, you have a brain that can think up amazing ideas and a body that has carried you safely through all your life. You are a functional, complete human being on your own. You don’t need anyone else to live a happy life.

“Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.”

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is arguably one of the best-loved novels of the past century. Told with a childish innocence of the precocious Scout, this book is responsible for giving us timeless quotes like —

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

The story is visceral and stirring, exploring a father-child relationship with such exquisite care that it has left generations of readers gushing with the warm afterglow the book is bound to leave.

But what about this one quote that has been used so many times out of context, that netizens have associated it with the idea that you cannot love another person if you don’t love yourself enough.

Why is this toxic?

To an extent, this quote is right because when you love yourself, you know the kind of love you deserve and learn to expect the same from others. You don’t attach your sense of self-worth to compliments from your partner. You know where to draw boundaries, so you aren’t exhausted or sucked dry by the relationship.

But, there are people struggling with mental illness who tend to overestimate their faults and internalise all hate and criticism directed at them. This quote is unfair to them because it effectively excludes them from having a relationship unless they learn to “fix” themselves.

Moreover, most people are not born loving themselves. Throughout our lives, we deal with criticism, bullying, and segregation that lead us to have a negative self-image. Loving ourselves is not a switch that can be turned on, instead, it is a process. We learn and evolve daily, and it would be harsh on ourselves if we keep believing that unless we fiercely learn to love ourselves, we don’t deserve to love another person.

How you can work your way around it:

Learning to love yourself is a journey every individual should work on. But, learn to give yourself the time and space to achieve that unshakeable faith in yourself . Until then, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of a healthy relationship. Here are some points you can keep in mind:

  • Don’t feel guilty about saying “no”.
  • Don’t let your partner dump their problem on you. This might sound harsh, but they must have played some part to end up in the miserable state they are in right now. It’s not your job to “fix” them.
  • Figure out how much you are willing to give to the relationship and what are the things you expect from your partner. Make it clear to them, so future conflicts don’t arise. Communicate.

Above all, remember that even if you cannot live with yourself for now, one day, you surely will. The journey is not going to be easy, but having someone to fall back upon can make it less onerous.

“I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald may be more well-known for The Great Gatsby, but the semi-autobiographical book Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda is equally loved by readers. Told in the form of letters Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald wrote to each other, this book catalogues a love that stood the test of her mental illness and institutional confinement, and his struggles with alcoholism and career highs and lows.

The letters tell the story of the chaotic mess Scott’s life was. He writes to Zelda from the time he’s trying to impress her, through their marriage, the times they almost said goodbye, their illnesses and her hospitalisations. This is a moving account of their twenty-year-long complicated love affair, and because the letters are unedited, it cannot get more personal than this.

Why is this toxic?

It is not healthy to make your lover the centre of your universe.

This quote that gives off the idea that your love for someone should be the beginning and end of everything, and that is what makes it toxic.

Yes, love can be magical and life-changing, but just like everything else in life, love is not permanent. It can leave you when you least expect it, and when you centre your life around a love that is no longer there, how do you live with yourself?

How you can work your way around it:

Open your heart to love, but do not make it the only ray of sunshine in your life. Have your own friends, your hobbies, your work — anything that gives you solace in the moments you cannot spend with your partner.

Be an independent individual whose identity is not based on who they love. Have your robust world, a part of your life that no one else can take away from you, not even a failed relationship.

Be self-reliant, and don’t give up your identity because of a marriage or a relationship — no matter how overwhelming it might be. Because, irrespective of how deeply you feel for your partner, you cannot make them the reason you live. This is not only unhealthy but also puts a massive burden on their shoulders to be around you whenever you need them.

“After all this time? Always”

This quote needs no introduction. Almost anyone who has read the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling tears up at its mention. Here is a quick recap.

(Spoilers if you haven’t completed the series and have intentions of picking it up someday).

Snape saw Lily when they were both ten. He had an unhappy childhood and needed excuses to stay outside his home where his parents always quarrelled, so he crept up to Lily’s garden and watched her from afar. One day, she spotted him, and they ended up becoming friends. When they got into the same school, their friendship blossomed. One day, when a bunch of boys was bullying Snape, Lily stepped in to defend her friend. He looked at her in disgust and said, — “I don’t need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!” (Mudblood being the most offensive word you can say to someone in Lily and Snape’s world).

Hurt and angry, Lily stopped talking to Snape after that. He begged and pleaded for her forgiveness, but she didn’t relent, citing other reasons like she didn’t approve of his group of friends and his penchant for torturing weaker people.

Snape never got over his love for Lily, not even when she married another man and bore his child. His obsession over the girl he saw when he was ten burned bright in his heart through life, being the driving force behind all his actions. Even his dying words were reminiscent of Lily, of a love he never had.

(End of Spoilers)

Why is this toxic?

How can holding on to a woman you had a crush on during your teenage years ALL your life even when she didn’t reciprocate your feelings not be toxic?

I am not here to make a character analysis on Severus Snape, but I am here to tell you that just because you love a person, they are not obliged to love you back. Even when you are in a relationship, your partner has the right to leave you at any moment they wish.

Kisses are not contracts and hushed promises of forever beneath a moonlit sky mean nothing when people change.

How you can work your way around it:

It is hard to get over unrequited love. But, it is something every individual needs to learn to do.

When a lover leaves, you have two options: either to let bitterness and resentment poison your soul, or pick up the pieces of your broken heart and move on, always believing that life is full of possibilities and you will meet someone who loves you back soon.

Snape chose the former. Don’t make the same mistake as he did.

Final Thoughts

Love comes in various flavours, and no two relationships are the same. But if there are some things I am sure apply to everyone, they are these:

  1. When you make a mistake in a relationship, you should own up and work on yourself, so you don’t end up hurting your partner again.
  2. No matter how much you love someone, you do not need a partner to “complete” you.
  3. If a character trait of your partner causes you continuous anguish, talk to them about it. If they cannot change it, consider the fact that you could be incompatible.
  4. You can love another person even if you don’t love yourself yet.
  5. Your relationship should not be your identity.
  6. If someone does not love you back, learn to let go. Holding on to a failed love can only be damaging to your mental health.

I would love to know your thoughts on this piece. If you interpreted these quotes in a different way that does not make them toxic, please let me know. I am always up for discussions about books.

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