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Create a love that lasts forever

It is strange reading advice about love from someone who professes never to have been in it! Andy Warhol apparently told peers that he was not susceptible to it. For someone who recommended falling in love deeply and without fear, this seems rather odd.

Unless it was one of those conscious, ego-based thought processes adopted to effectively deal with his own fear of it. Considering his verve for experimental and ground-breaking art, this notion might seem strange but perhaps his confidence with innovation concealed his vulnerability with love. You cannot be susceptible if you are not prepared to be vulnerable and if you’re not prepared to be vulnerable, you can never really be in love. He explored his vulnerability through his artistic pursuits; maybe he felt he had more talent for this and therefore more control. “Art is what you can get away with…” he said. You cannot get away with anything in love!

Perhaps he did not fall in love with another because he did not fall in love with himself! I find myself emotional about his self-deprecating oxymoron: “I am a deeply superficial person…I never fall apart because I never fall together.” Despite eschewing love, he had a deep preoccupation with it and the accompanying rites. The series of silkscreens that he produced four years before his death were simply titled ‘Love’ – they are vibrating with neon auras and pose in tender embraces, quite unlike the more crude images previously explored.

In 1975 he wrote an autobiography-come-self-help book – I can most definitely identify with this, especially when he said, “The idea is not to live forever, it is to create something that will.” It is a therapeutic activity, to explore through writing, art, music, the mysteries of love and life, devotion and passion, deliberating on what makes relationships meaningful, sustainable, erotic and fervent.

I think that Andy Warhol knew more about love than Rodin or Botticelli. I am going to borrow three of his ideas which suggest how you can create something which lasts forever.

Teach children that love is not perfect.

As someone who has spent a career across a lifetime in educational leadership I agree with Mr. Warhol that children should learn that love isn’t perfect. He insisted that early education could alleviate later disappointments related to love and life. “There should be a course in the first grade on love, providing a reality check, teaching children that relationships aren’t all sunshine and roses.”

I learned so falsely about love, through fairytales and film and I was devastated and felt thoroughly worthless when I discovered the reality – that these sugary stories bore no resemblance to real love and life. Warhol was especially exasperated when, in the 1961 film Back Street, they kept saying, “how wonderful every precious moment they had together was, and so every precious moment was a testimonial to every precious moment.” He felt someone needed to tell children what love was really about: constant ups and downs, challenges, hardships, loss, transience. Warhol believed that movies held the potential to show “how it really is between people and therefore help all the people who don’t understand to know what to do, what some of their options are.”

Fall in love with your eyes closed and make time and space for yourself.

I have learned, by being burned, that you cannot simply engineer who and how you love; instead, you need an organic approach to the process, feeling your way instinctively and with a healthy dose of abandon. “The best love is not-to-think-about-it love.” Generally, people fall in love with their eyes first, more so perhaps with current trends for meeting your lover by swiping right!

Warhol, as we might appreciate from his earlier artistic fascination with the phallus, knew about lust and physical attraction but he also knew that unless you take time for yourself, your love may not progress beyond the lust phase. “The biggest price you pay for love is that you have to have somebody around,” he wrote. “You can’t be on your own, which is always so much better.”

Warhol famously never married. While he didn’t open up about his most profound romantic relationships, he did describe one successful liaison – a woman with whom he had a six year relationship by telephone. The key to its success? Healthy distance. “I live uptown and she lives downtown,” he wrote. “It’s a wonderful arrangement: We don’t have to get each other’s bad morning breath, yet we have wonderful breakfasts together every morning like every other happy couple.” I don’t think I’m advocating for this half- love but the sentiment behind it, where there is still privacy, time for yourself, new things to talk about and share is essential to a sustained relationship.

You and your partner should put in equal time and energy.

“I wonder if it’s possible to have a love affair that lasts forever?”

Warhol’s autobiography makes clear that he’d considered the question at length, likely from a young age. His conclusion was that a relationship filled with lasting love should be equitable and balanced. “Love affairs get too involved, and they’re not really worth it,” he said. “But if, for some reason, you feel that they are, you should put in exactly as much time and energy as the other person.” In other words, be present in the relationship and make sure that both partners give equally to each other. Or, in Warhol’s ever-deadpan terminology: “I’ll pay you if you pay me.”

How insightful, do you feel, is his guidance in sustaining a successful, loving relationship?

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