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  • It's natural to imagine that the highest virtue in love would be kindness and, a close

  • second, politeness. But there is an odd danger lurking here: a relationship where we are

  • overly polite, where there is not enough directness, where things go wrong not because of a lack

  • of tenderness or serenity but because of a stifling excess of manners, because there

  • aren't enough raised voices, insults, legitimate furies and moments where both partners feel

  • free to call each other idiots and much worse.

  • When we hear arguments between lovers, perhaps through a hotel bedroom wall, it is easy to

  • fear for them and their union.

  • We have most of us been deeply and rightly sensitized to the horrors of abusive relationships.

  • But there is, within reason, and we stress within reason with great seriousness, something extremely vital and

  • redemptive that can unfold within the occasional heated discussion. Living around someone is

  • bound to be, at points, extremely disappointing. For love to remain vital, we need the freedom

  • to give this disappointment expression. It seems we cannot love if love is all we are

  • allowed to do. Many of us have implicitly been taught in childhood that disappointments

  • are best swallowed quietly. Perhaps a parent was very fragile or they were very volatile,

  • so that we feared either annihilating them or provoking them unbearably by giving vent

  • to our more honest feelings. We grew up polite and good but also in danger of feeling inwardly

  • dead and convinced that no one could witness us as we are and still love us. A certain

  • kind of politeness is the enemy of love. We cannot love, or be properly in a relationship

  • that feels alive, and simply lock away too many of our reservations. We need for love

  • to be first and foremost, realand this will involve giving expression to all kinds

  • of more ambivalent feelings. In most arenas of life, mere politeness will do; there should

  • be little else around friends and colleagues. But love needs something riskier: we have

  • to be able to say that we hate when we hateso that later we can properly love when

  • it's time to love. This is why, in the interests of the relationship, we might need to tell

  • the partner that they have ruined our life, that they are selfish and infuriating and

  • that we have had more than enoughand the partner, far from getting simply offended

  • (though that has its role too) should take it, and read the explosion for what it is:

  • a homage to the trust and bond between us. That a red faced accuser would never speak

  • like this to anyone else on earth should be interpreted as the greatest privilege. They

  • don't just hate you, though they do at the moment, they have a lot of hope in you, and

  • a lot of faith that you love them enough to take their realityand when it's blown

  • over, their love will be as sincere as their anger once was. We should get angry when the

  • occasion fairly demands it; we, the overly meak and cowed ones, should experience how

  • good and necessary it feels to dare to let go and vent our annoyance and irritation without

  • the usual huge (and valuable) inhibitions. We should not be overly scared of the odd

  • loud argument, we should form our irritations into some beautifully creative insults; it

  • is not a sign that everything is coming to an end and love has died, it's a sign that

  • our relationship still has a lot of kindness, sincerity and tolerance left within it.

  • Love is a skill you can learn. Our relationships book calmly guides us with calm and charm

  • through the key issues of relationships to ensure that success in love need not be a matter of luck.

It's natural to imagine that the highest virtue in love would be kindness and, a close

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