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How Do You Know When You’re In Love?

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There’s a repeating theme to the email questions I answer on my pending Peabody Award-winning podcast and to paraphrase, it is this: “Should I stay with the girl I’m dating and give up all of the weird, anonymous sex life owes me, or should I break up with her and take part in the vast bounty of weird it seems all my friends are enjoying at the poon saloon?” Implicit in the question is the desire to stay with the girlfriend and to take it even further, hidden beneath the machismo is a simple fear: “I don’t want to lose her.” If we’re really getting down to brass tacks, what all these young dudes are asking is, “How do I know if I’m in love?

That’s an embarrassing, bizarre question, if only because we’ve been led to believe that the very act of asking it means that, no, you are not in love. But that’s an annoying sentiment that’s been flying around since the first married men–out of self-preservation and pride–convinced themselves it was their idea in the first place and got down on one knee. I’m not sure who was the first patient zero asshole who said, “you just know,” when referring to his future wife, but since then, it’s been the default lazy, cheating, deflection men have been hiding behind on their wedding days for decades, maybe centuries. Don’t mistake me, I can understand why–we’ve had a romantic story industrial complex we’ve been up against since Romeo and Juliet killed themselves in a tomb just to prove how hormonal they were. We keep the answer simple, dumb, and romantic because that’s the expectation, and also because it’s really complicated.

I believe that you never, ever “just know.” Those words are words of finality, and love isn’t an endgame. Just ask your parents. They probably hated each other for at least most of your preteen years, while you sucked any semblance of their former lives and interests out of them (luckily, they’re over it–you’re mom is probably going down on your dad so hard right now). After marriage, you will still watch “Wolf of Wall Street” and wonder what a 30-person orgy feels like. You will never NOT want a threesome. You will start to masturbate to weirder and weirder fetish porn, getting to a point where you’re masturbating to an Italian guy eating an apple. To be blunt, you will never NOT want to have sex with someone else. It’s as simple as that. Wiping your incontinent wife’s ass is a very real possibility in this life, provided you make it that far, and if you’re not totally, instinctively in love with her the moment you lift her off the bowl, no one’s going to blame you. Love is a choice you make now, and it’s a choice you’ll make for the rest of your life. Every day you wake up will bring a new question of what direction you’ll push your existence in. So yeah, you never “just know.” You’ll wake up uncertain–in 50 years or even tomorrow–so what’s your pick? Seriously man, what’s your call? If you’re not sure, I’m here to tell you that’s okay. That will last the rest of your life. Just stop bothering everyone else about it, because no one will have the answer. Your buddies are having the same horrible thoughts about the same random chicks they see every day.

I’ve written in my more cynical moments that no relationship should exist in college. Ultimately, my argument was that life needs to be lived, and I’m not speaking to sex exclusively, but rather personal struggle. There have been a couple articles on this site recently about why life after college is great, and it is. But the reason those articles exist is because those years are hard (note that “hard” and “great” are not mutually exclusive experiences). You truly don’t know what you’re capable of as a human when people are still giving you letter grades for how much you managed to memorize. So, my belief was that to go into any relationship less than fully formed was doomed to fail. I know now, after a few beers, that we’re never truly, fully formed, and sometimes we grow into other people. So sure, I think the college relationship is a difficult one to transition into post-college reality, but I can’t say it’s less valid.

In other words, go nuts, you lovesick maniacs. If you’re not sure about her, it’s possible you might be not sure until the moment you die in each other’s arms. As men, we’re cursed to walk the streets and see women with hair that’s red, brown, blonde, short, long, curly, bald, straight, or Asian, wanting to see what each one looks like as she spends three glorious pumps on top. We choose not to pursue, because there’s someone else. There’s someone who will hopefully put on a wig one time just to get us through the monotony. That’s the reality of our lives. That doesn’t mean it’s not love. It doesn’t mean you’re an asshole. It means you COMMITTED. That’s so much more impressive.

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Jared Freid (@jtrain56) is a New York City-based comedian who has been featured on MTV’s Failosophy and is the host of The JTrain Podcast presented by TFM.

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