Why Love and Teaching Belong Together

One of the most delightful and thrilling aspects
of the early days of a love affair is the sense that our lover likes us not only for
our obvious qualities – perhaps our looks, or our professional accomplishments – but
also, and far more touchingly, for our less impressive sides: our vulnerabilities, our
hesitations, our flaws. Perhaps they are particularly taken by the gap between our two front teeth
which, while it wouldn’t impress an orthodontist, charms them distinctly. Or perhaps they are
taken by our shyness at busy parties or are powerfully drawn to that old pair of pyjamas
with the bear prints which we put on on cold winter nights and which would win no fashion
award. This creates a beguiling prospect of what love might be – but one which also
sets up a catastrophic and unfair expectation: the belief that really loving someone must
mean endorsing every aspect of them, their good sides, but also, more particularly, their
weaknesses too. This pleasant vision may last a few months into a relationship but eventually,
something is likely to disturb it. We will notice something about the lover which is
both a flaw and not especially charming. Perhaps it’s their rather bovine way of eating cereal,
their habit of not hanging up towels or their maddening tendency to withhold crucial bits
of bad news from us. But because of the belief that love means complete endorsement, there
is likely to be an incensed hurt response from a partner. What is feedback doing in
the hallowed realm of love? ‘If you loved me, you wouldn’t criticise me’ can be
love’s all too common wounded rallying cry. This protest against teaching from a lover
is so ubiquitous that we forget to notice its strangeness. It represents a very particular
approach to love and not necessarily the wisest. For a more helpful take, we might look back
to the Ancient Greeks, who had a strikingly different philosophy of feedback within love.
For the Greeks, love is not meant to be an emotion centred on just anything at all about
the partner. Rightly understood, it is a very specific feeling that targets what happens
to be accomplished, perfect, virtuous and intelligent. Around the other less impressive
things, one must be tolerant and understanding of course – but one isn’t expected to
love. The word love is restricted to a particular sort of admiration for perfection. Connected
to this for the Greeks is a sense that the point of a relationship is to be a forum in
which two people can help each other to increase the number of admirable characteristics they
each possess: it is to help them become the best version of themselves. The Greeks held
to a fundamentally pedagogical view of love; they understood that a relationship gives
us a ringside seat on one another’s flaws and potential – and therefore believed that
both partners should take it in turns to act in the role of teacher and student – attempting
to educate the other to become a finer person within the safe and encouraging confines of
love’s classroom. All this is likely to sound incredibly strange to modern ears. The
notion that the point of love is to help to teach the lover to become a better version
of themselves, and therefore that one might legitimately deliver lengthy lectures to one’s
partner on how their character might be improved sounds like a freakish, dictatorial betrayal
of the true nature of love. Yet, in truth, there is a lot of wisdom in the Greek position
– for we can interpret many of the struggles people have in relationships as being, in
essence, failed teaching moments; moments when one or the other party attempt to get
something across, possibly a very well-founded point, but see their lessons rejected in bitter
and hurt tones. The reason why the lessons we try to impart in love’s classroom tend
to go so wrong is that we are respectively very bad teachers and very bad pupils. And
part of the reason is that we don’t – in the role of teachers – have any real sense
that we are even allowed to teach, which makes us panicky and defensive. Furthermore, what
helps someone to be a good teacher is a relaxed sense that it doesn’t in the end matter
so much if the lesson is learnt or not. A good maths teacher wants to get the basics
of trigonometry across to the class, but if they are being obtuse, they can be calm; there’ll
be another student cohort along next year. But love’s classroom finds us in a far more
agitated state – because at the back of our minds as we try to teach a point is an
utterly panic-inducing thought: that we may have committed ourselves to an idiot who will
continue in a range of erroneous ways for the rest of our days. It’s on this basis
that we start to swear, belittle and insult our lover. Which is understandable but very
unfortunate, for it seems that sadly no one has ever learnt anything under conditions
of humiliation. By the time one has made the partner feel like a fool, the lesson is over.
It seems that a good relationship should be a forum in which we teach each other many
things and gracefully learn in turn. If we understand ourselves properly, we will know
that there are so many sides of us that need improvement. For that reason, we should learn
to see love a little as the Ancient Greeks did: as a safe arena in which two people can
gently teach and learn how to grow into better versions of themselves. Teaching and learning
doesn’t symbolise an abandonment of love; it’s the very basis upon which we can develop
into better lovers and, more broadly, better people.

100 Replies to “Why Love and Teaching Belong Together”

  1. This is so true. Though I'm not in this relationship due to external circumstances, I recall that the most pleasurable and respected person I know was my ex in that she did help me grow tremendously as the individual I am today. There aren't any feelings, it's been years, but I cannot help give tremendous respect for this person and the relationship was fantastic.

  2. Lol love can beam in many ways some ways is one person takes dominant position in the relationship some may like to help each other in the relationship some don't wanna do anything on one person take control of their lives you can't say this is the only way

    Theirs many ways in a relationship the most important thing is in love is how to maintain your partners ego.
    ego is what makes love the more happy keep the go to more in love the person will be with you and this ego can be represented in many ways

  3. What if only one person in the relationship is willing to learn/listen, while the other person insists on teaching? I imagine this is a very unhealthy relationship to be in.

  4. Wtf YouTube? I'm not a person to check subscriptions, and I was left thinking that SOL hadn't made any new videos in months.
    All I see in my recommendations is a list of the utmost crap and more.

  5. In a lot of ways, being a better person involves coming to terms with the negative parts of your own self in this way, and patiently and understandingly prune the behaviours.

  6. I thought you were going to talk about the education system and how teachers should love teaching students and thinking more about how to work with their flaws?

  7. Brilliant and oh so true. The deepest love connections are build through helping, serving and educating each-other. It creates a safe environment to make mistakes and ask for each-others feedback. With compassion and empathy. That's love.

  8. Loved the new video as always School of Life, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make a video on the political philosopher/linguist Noam Chomsky!!! I would absolutely love that and I think a lot of other people would appreciate it too

  9. I really liked the ideas presented here, but I can already hear in my mind all the cries of "he/she is trying to change me" or "let your partner be him/herself; don't force change" yadda-yadda-yadda…

  10. I wanted to tell two stories:

    1. Academy award winning, amazing actress Meryl Streep told this one on an interview once. She said that for a movie she was making, she had to learn to speak with the Irish accent. The director of the movie hired a teacher for her and then they have worked together for a while, which was fine.

    Then, when the shooting of the movie began, the teacher would sit there and watch Meryl Streep, and he would take notes after every "wrongly pronounced" word he heard. Then he would come up to her and give her instructions about every single syllable she still has to work on.

    He was very kind and all but Meryl Streep said that after a couple of days she couldn't take it anymore. One of the best actresses in the world could NOT act anymore! So they had to remove the guy from the set.

    My point is that some people do it this way in their relationships : they give you the feeling of being constantly " observed and evaluated". As if you had to pass a daily, continuous exam, in order to first "deserve" some affection for God's sake. Friends who went through this will know: it is very humiliating, suffocating and paralysing.

    So you must be wise enough to distinguish a loving person who wants the best for you from an egomaniac who sees you as an extension of himself. Especially if you had a troubled childhood, watch out for all the weird stuff and keep away from cruel people. Because you may be subconsciously looking for that type, in order to feel " at home".

    2. The second story is about expectations:

    There is a town in Belgium called Geel, where the families follow a 700 years old incredible tradition: they accept people with all sorts of severe mental diseases as a new member into their families and live with them and care for them for decades. That's one of the most beautiful stories about brotherhood I have ever heard. It's so touching. You can hear all about it on an Invisibilia podcast . The episode is called:

    " The Problem with the Solution"

    Psychologists say that when they put those people back into their real families, or back into their marriages, their condition usually gets worst. Because of the "extremely high expectations" put on their shoulders.

    But their " new families" , who are just "strangers" who don't mind, make them feel that it's alright to be the way they are. And it is this feeling of freedom and serenity, that makes them get better.

    How interesting…

    I agree with everything said in this very wise lesson. But here is an important point:

    I think you can be very ambitious about being a good student yourself. . But you must not be too ambitious or obsessive about setting the other person straight. Be extremely kind, say only one little thing at a time and expect as less as possible.

  11. Love is just an illusion. It keeps our species alive nothing else. Our close minded species believes it is something more but that is just how our brains work. Love = Sex

  12. This episode in my opinion was kind of vague. Why shouldn't we accept or tolerate our partners' "quirks"? Maybe one doesn't hang the towels while the other leaves the socks on the floor. Why wouldn't it be better to say "I accept that you leave the socks on the floor if you accept that I don't hang the towels and if it bothers me too much then I'll pick up the socks while if it bothers you then you can hang the towels"? And if along the way the persons themselves will change and pick up their own socks and hang the towels, so be it. Does individuality have to end when in a relationship?

    All relationships are hard and there's no perfect soul mate. IMO we should just accept or tolerate the other's quirks and expect them to accept ours. However, if it's nerve wrecking to see your partner, say, start reading the morning paper from the back to front reading the funnies and doing the sudoku and only lastly reading the news and it drives you insane because "what kind of psycho reads back to front?!?" and your partner calmly explains "I like it better this way" then you perhaps should find a different partner.

  13. Nah. Don't try to teach unless asked. A teacher-student relationship is not one of equals. People are not rational.

  14. if you examine one of the purest forms of love, parent- child, where we are expected to learn and change, this really isn't that strange

  15. Do not hurry to waste your selves , take your time and meet people as friends and keep the sexual thing aside, hopefully someone will match with you in a way that you wouldnt have to change him to fit, because they say that people after an age, not very old, they do not really change, I actually believe that we born the way we are and our childhood environment can only delay as for becoming who we are.

  16. IMHO, the indifference to whether the lesson was learnt or not doesn't make a good teacher as stated in the video, makes a horrible one instead. Teachers should tweak their ways of teaching or even come up with new ones to achieve their goal, which is in essence having the lesson learnt, not a 100% percent, but adequately learnt. If at any given moment, the student feels an idiot, it has to do with the teacher being one to an extent. Great video though!

  17. This is exactly why I find things like pride, over-defensiveness and perfectionism so annoying when in relationships. My life philosophy is for Self-improvement and if someone I'm with doesn't have or feel a sense of duty in bettering themselves, it would be very hard to live with them for the rest of my life.

  18. What a great discussion (and gentle graphic)
    It was a hindsight now,but I wish which I had seen this, few months ago (however I'm not sure that it would do any good, back then)

  19. This is true on so many levels. I've just realised that I am a bad teacher but a good pupil. 馃檪 All these lessons are changing me in a positive way and as you say it "making me a better person". Thank you so much "The School of Life"

  20. I find the more I improve myself, the less able I am to attract anything at all. I betcha if I was still sitting on my ass playing video games I'd probably have a girlfriend. Being more flawed seemed to make me more attractive.

  21. My goals when it comes to a lover, is to meet someone that is mature enough to understand that loving is about teaching and learning. I love the idea of self cultivation and I grow apart from people who don't grow. Life is too valuable to stay in the state of being and I want someone who loves to learn and discover things about the world and about themselves 馃檪

  22. 3:55 Reminds me of what famous artist/songwriter Alanis Morissette said about us all being both teachers and students depending upon the moment you catch us. And that is, in my opinion the problem with society today. We seem to lack the sensitivity or even understanding that we are and should be both things, meaning being able to speak and also listen. We are for the most part culturally shaped to be one-dimensional creatures without the proper and necessary openness to the full spectrum of human nature, that which we all are and are not at the same time. I have always said that love is actually understanding, and understanding is that which transcends all three centers of intelligence: the heart, head and gut.

  23. Learning/teaching each other and helping each other to improve and be the best person they can be has always been my highest ideal of love. I was stunned to learn that most people don't think this way. Why on earth would I want to be with someone who'd let me get away with shitty behaviour and not care enough to call me out on it? Or someone who expected me to be silent when they're fucking up instead of being honest? That's not love to me.

  24. This is the way I look at it: whenever two people are together they are going to learn things from each other regardless. This can be for the good or for the bad. If you want to be with someone you should try to accept what you can about that and what you can't accept try to let them know about it and see if they can fix it. If they can't change then you have to decide if you can accept them the way that they are or if we should just move on.

  25. who in the world thinks this way. I don't think this is what love is at all. Who made this is my question?

    this is not what love is at all.

  26. but isnt a "flaw" subjective? what one might consider a flaw another might consider endearing. this is not unconditional love – which is totally accepting someone and not needing to change them. if you feel you need to change someone, you are projecting your own insecurities onto them, what really needs to change is your perspective. your idea of perfection is not mine. perfection is not an objective reality, so holding someone up to a standard of perfection is just projecting your ideas of imperfection on another. if you have alot of ideas on imperfection, youd attract people that reflect those ideas and youd constantly want to change them. that doesnt sound healthy to me. i would not tolerate someone constantly trying to 'teach' me how to be 'better'. if they didnt like me the way i was then deuces! i like me and that is so much more than enough. unfortunately alot of people are emotionally dependent on how they are viewed by others. i definitely want someone who doesnt need me and vice versa. to me that is the ultimate healthy relationship. two people who are totally emotionally independent who choose to be with one another out of pure selfish pleasure. that is heaven

  27. "…an utterly panic inducing thought that we may have committed ourselves to an idiot"
    lmfao… so true… so true… *sigh

  28. Having a partner with a growth mentality who lives to experience and new things- that is my ideal partner. We don't have to be perfect right now but we should work together to always live and love a little better.

  29. The tricky part now is to find the parnter who won't mind some learning and would be aware of his/her flaws)

  30. So my question is, if we are all so bad at being pupils and if we are all so bad at being a good teacher, how can we learn to be better teachers and better pupils?

  31. Love = admiration for perfection, that is the crucial point in the video. Soul mate is a perfect person for ourselves and that is, someone whom we admire very much..

  32. Na primeira sugest茫o que fazemos a pessoa amada, ela nos larga reclamando que n茫o a aceitamos como ela 茅 e que amar 茅 incondicionalmente "aceita莽茫o" dos v铆cios alheios. Onde perdemos a no莽茫o do amor pedag贸gico visando a melhor vers茫o de n贸s mesmos?

  33. This relates so well to me and one of my best friends. As much as I admire that he can give me feedback on what I'm doing wrong, it hurts so much. I start feeling worthless cause I over-identify myself with my flaws, even the ones that hold me back. I don't really give him criticism back though because I don't know how he'll take it and I don't know how to put so that there's no tension. I just don't want it to risk our friendship.

  34. A lot of people are saying on here that it's not love to try and change someone, or they should accept ALL their flaws. I don't think they're interpeting the video correctly. The type of teaching the comments are thinking about is the subjective or self-motivated criticisms from the person teaching it. It reflects their own insecurities and tries to mold their partner into this idea of false perfection. But I feel like the flaw the video is talking about is the flaw that holds themselves back. For example, mine is my anxiety, which causes myself pain, not so much on others. In the end, if the lesson isn't learnt (i.e. my partner motivates me to fix my anxiety and I don't fix it) the fact that they can accept and be ok with the fact that I'm learning or trying or even if I don't, that's unconditional love.

  35. Okay, I love this channel, but there's A LOT of recycling. You've had videos about this exact same topic multiple times over the last few months (I'm watching them all in order from the oldest to the newest). I hope this trend doesn't continue as I keep watching your videos.

  36. The kind of love brought up might make more sense if you ponder about in the love and learning in a 'parent and child' relationship before applying it to a couple.

  37. Soooo amazing…I always try to explain this to my partner and now we have this illuminating video to watch together and to get the point clearer

  38. He talks about a healthy relationship and not about love. What is strange about love is that without it we have no desire to make a good impact on someone else. Love raises an irrational urge to improve ourselves and those we love.

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