I love you, subject to…

I haven’t written anything like this before.

Right now I’m experiencing my first real relationship and over the past year or so I’ve thought about love, relationships, emotions, people and the like a lot. Maybe a little too much… I recently had a couple of thoughts that I’m unsure about. Some of which randomly entered my mind while I was daydreaming during a post-gym shower. I’d like to share them and see what you think.

Brendan McDonnellMy pretty little Mediterranean lady and I. Sliema, Malta 2014.

I’m a bit scared to share my ideas about love etc. But “eh”, someone has to… On Instagram they say nothing good comes from comfort zones… Don’t they? Anyway, I’m sharing this in hope that I might provoke thought about your own relationships and maybe even set a precedent for how you may or may not be able make your relationships stronger in future.

There are few things you can give to another human being. Among other things, you can give money or material objects, cook a “succulent Chinese meal”, bake a pie, draw a picture OR you can share beautiful experiences, document those experiences and give your loved one the so-called ‘documentation’. I prefer the latter so I made the accompanying video for my girlfriend. I wrote most of this article for her too.

Brendan McDonnellClearly ‘punching above my weight’. Istanbul Metro, Turkey 2015.

Since the beginning of our relationship when I started to consider love more closely, something I began observing and reading about is its idealisation in western society. Love is idealised in my mind a lot and I can’t stop it. This idealisation seems to be deeply rooted in me. And I think this is very common whether we choose to believe so or not.

Despite this deep rooting, it feels like this romanticised ideal of love is losing its grip all around me (well, at least in the societies that I’ve experienced/ people I know).

It seems to me that love is almost losing its meaning. I hear people all around me saying “I love you” left, right and centre. Now, there is NOTHING wrong with this – lots of people are very loving. But quite often the people I see ‘overusing’ these three words tend to treat their loved-one more like I’d treat my enemies. This always forces me to consider the question: “Would your best friend be your best friend if he or she treated you the way your loved-one treats you?”

I think that sometimes the answer is no.

But why do we “love” these people?

Is it because of the idealisation of love in society telling us that we must love someone? Or are we too insecure to be alone? Or are we getting a little bit older and we need to settle down and if we don’t with the person in front of us we might not get another chance?

Or, is love really blind?

OR, are we blind?

Brendan McDonnellSelmun cruising, Malta 2015.

After pondering long on this during my post-gym shower-daydreams, I decided to try to answer my own question by clarifying my personal definitions of love:

To me, love is the whole hearted expression of compassion and empathy toward another human being – even though I’ve only recently understood what compassion and empathy actually are…

Love, well a relationship at least, is sharing your life with another life to almost join lives. It is caring for another being. It is empathising with that being and feeling their excitement, their joy, their pain and their suffering. Loving is taking another’s suffering on board and helping them overcome it on their road to happiness. Love is being there for someone. It is asking, “Are you OK?” It is the way a Staffordshire terrier looks at you when you ask if he or she wants to go for “walkies”. Love is a lot of things.

But I don’t think love is blind. We are blind.

Brendan McDonnellI’ve always wanted to eat large quantities of finger food with a half naked Mediterranean woman #dreamscometrue

The three little words ‘I love you’ have taken a new stance in my mind because I’ve seen/ experienced them become subject to so many things and in turn lose their meaning. Some of which include:

I love you… Subject to the fact that you will let me binge drink with my friends and hang out with random members of the opposite sex whenever I feel like it and you will stay home and wait for me to return…

I love you… Subject to the fact that we share the same blood, but you are in fact very ignorant, abusive and/ or unkind…

I love you… Subject to the fact that you have to let me love myself just a little bit more than you and step aside while I go to the gym everyday NO MATTER the circumstances and you have to feed me and put up with my moods when I don’t consume enough carbohydrates – and if you get in the way of this I will leave you…

I love you… Subject to the lyrics of the 1996 spice girls hit “if you wana be my lover you gotta get with my friends”. Even if my friends are living life in cycles of disadvantage and slowly but surely dragging me down with them…

I love you… Subject to the fact that I haven’t got enough self esteem to leave you because you treat me like an object…

I love you… Subject to the fact that I am a little bit scared of you because you have not dealt with the emotions tied to major issues or events in your life and these emotions are consuming you and coming out whenever they get a chance – which is making you into an abusive person and if I leave you I’m afraid you might hurt me…

After experiencing all of these scenarios directly or indirectly, I realised that I was in fact subjecting my own relationship and love for my girlfriend to something and I didn’t even know it or how wrong I was…

I love you… Subject to the fact that you will understand what I have to share and I will change you over time and you won’t be the person you once were…


You cannot change anyone and you cannot treat people like objects that you can use or change at your discretion. You can only support people, change yourself and set example for change. People are people not play dough.

People are not objects.

People are not budgerigars that sit in cages and can be taught phrases if you say them in front of them enough times.

People are not breasts that you can suck liquids out of when you feel like it until their nipples are red raw and bleeding then you start crying and say you’re hungry again and come back to suck on them scabby nipples 2 hours later like a baby.

Brendan McDonnellU wot m8? – San Blas Bay, Gozo 2015

Everyone is a product of particular environments, circumstances and choices. Everyone lives in their own world with their own impressions or ideas of reality. We all form our own set of morals, values, beliefs based on this and obviously everyone’s past is different.

Because we are two different people from different environments with different pasts, naturally, at the start of our relationship mine and my girlfriend’s impressions of reality were quite different. To my girlfriend, I guess, I was ‘just another’ Aussie guy with abs and a shit haircut.

This is something that I have thought about a lot and struggled with. I would dwell on my girlfriend’s past, even though I never knew her in the past… Eventually I came to realise that I am not in love with my girlfriend’s past self I am in love with her now… I didn’t know my girlfriend in the past. Also, after pondering a little while longer I came to the realisation that she sure as hell wouldn’t be in love with my past self!

The past is the past. It is the past; there are no rights and wrongs in our past. There is only feedback and comparisons. What we learn from the past is important, not the past itself.

For a long time I seemed to expect my girlfriend to be able to look at our relationship objectively. To acknowledge how we have grown, how we are continually growing and the huge potential we have together. And I wanted to be acknowledged for helping create this potential. I guess this is because I’m human. I’m built on praise, I want to be acknowledged, I want to feel important to someone and I never want to be looked back on by my girlfriend, or by anyone, as ‘just another’.

This is where I became unstuck. How can you expect someone to look at things objectively if they’ve never had to look at anything that way before? And how can you expect someone to see things exactly the same way you do, period?

Brendan McDonnell‘Just another’ Aussie guy with abs and a shit haircut at a beach bar in Sliema, Malta 2014.

Even as I write this article things are becoming clearer to me. I’d like to think that since I realised these few things our relationship is no longer subject to anything like this.

But, a relationship, like learning a martial art or overcoming my dad’s suicide is an ongoing process and I know that my mind will continue to try to create negative thoughts that get in the way. Maybe it’s because I’m yet to find contentment in myself or the ability to live in the present moment fully… I’m not sure. Despite this, my girlfriend and I are learning and understanding more about ourselves and each other every day, and I’m developing the ability to acknowledge this – in the moment – which is making overcoming any hurdle that presents itself a hell of a lot easier. The more time we spend together, the more our impressions and ideas of reality are lining up and the more harmonious our relationship becomes.

Brendan McDonnellLove is a home-made full English Brekky every Sunday.

I love you Stephanie, objectively. Objectively, Stephanie you love I. Whatever way I put it, you are the human being I love.

You are not an object. You are not a budgerigar.

You are not a scabby nipple.

You are the only thing my feelings are subject to.

I love you, subject to you and you alone, objectively.

Brendan McDonnell


4 Comments. Leave a comment


  1. Cecelia
    August 13, 2015

    Wow! Bren your words are so deep yet simple. Simple in the sense of brutal honest observations of all the possibilities connected to the concept of the meaning of love. Your love for Stephanie is something to behold! It’s so clear! I’m blown away by the level of consideration you give to your thoughts! I absolutely FEEL THE LOVE you have for your beautiful girl, the attention to detail…to her beauty in moments you’ve shared, your eye and mind for detail is astounding! Love to you darling beings!

  2. Jo
    August 13, 2015

    Beautiful words! Your posts always come at just the right time. Thank you for the reminder Brendan.
    Love and light, Jo 👍🏼🙏🏼

  3. John
    August 14, 2015

    Thank you for telling to read your post. I have a new insight on my current situation, and things must change. Thanks again mate…. I love you bro!!!

  4. tianyufan
    August 09, 2017

    best wishes

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