Stupid in Love

Cringeworthy relationship clichés, from the start of a romance to the bitter end.

Jeremy Helligar


Photo: Blue Diamond Gallery

“Love is fair. It breaks everybody’s heart.”

Thank you, Miss Barbara Mandrell. You offered some of the truest words ever spoken, or sung, about love on your 1981 country single. (Sorry, Sade. “Nothing can come between us” is purely wishful thinking.)

It was a unique assessment with a surprise twist — and considerably more resonant and dead accurate than all the clichés we tend to drop when love walks in and after it’s gone. Love doesn’t do double standards: It touches all of us all, and it devastates us all.

Despite my cynicism about love in general (is there a more overused and abused word in the English language?), I do believe it can lead to happily ever after. What I don’t buy is the florid and hackneyed prose it often inspires. Some particularly annoying examples…

“Soulmate”/“Love of my life”

Love is not only fair; it inspires flashy hyperbole. I love the idea of a soulmate, and I believe I’ve found mine — though I don’t think I’ve ever called him that out loud. But if we only get one, every great love can’t be a soulmate. And what happens when the honeymoon is over? Does a soulmate-turned-ex remain the love of your life even after the next one comes along? In 2001, Psychology Today presented an interesting cautionary take on soulmates and the Hollywoodization of it all. I prefer to love hard and to not label it (and possibly damn/doom it) with superficial superlatives.

“He/she knows me better than I know myself.”

Deeper understanding from your partner or utter lack of self-awareness from you? I concede that those closest to me might have special insight into why I do the things I do. But no one on earth is more of an expert on me than the guy who has been with me 24/7 forever — and I’m not talking about my soulmate/the love of my life.

“We’re like the same person.”

Sometimes my husband says things that make me wonder if he’s reading my mind — or if we’re sharing the same brain. It’s one aspect of our compatibility, but do I want him to be just like me? As much as I…



Jeremy Helligar

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa”