Next week is Valentine’s Day. Actually, the day doesn’t mean much to me, but strangely enough it still makes me think – about love, of course. Today during breakfast I read a letter that Victoria Beckham wrote to her younger self (core sentence: “don’t mess with your boobs”). While sipping my Earl Grey tea, I wondered what advice about love I would have for my younger self. In the years since my first boyfriend I have definitely learned a lot – and tried to forget a lot more painstakingly. It’s like this: you can have zero experience in matters of love and still be full to the brim with ideas, expectations and demands to it. After all, we’ve learned so much about it from the media, from movies, lyrics and books. And from today’s point of view, a lot of it seems so fundamentally wrong and doomed to failure that I feel an itch to correct the whole thing. So if I were to speak to my – let’s say 18-year-old – self I would say to her:
1. Your partner is not responsible for your happiness.
If your partner is responsible for your happiness, he is also responsible for your unhappiness. Give your partner the freedom not to be responsible for you and your feelings, and he will thank you with even greater love. Will you always be able to set him free like that? Probably not. But every step in this direction is a good step for you and your love relationships.
2. Have a second relationship.
The love relationship with your partner is not the most important relationship in your life, even if you may think so. Your primary relationship is with yourself. And the better you deal with yourself, the more you have to give to your partner.
3. Live the love that you have.
Understand and appreciate the relationship you have. Stop imagining there is something better out there. After all, you don’t go to a good restaurant and think about another restaurant all the time. Many people don’t understand the value of their relationship until after it has ended. Be smarter.
4. Throw perfectionism overboard.
Don’t worry if life and your relationships don’t always run smoothly. Have you ever heard of the Japanese Wabi Sabi principle? It is about the beauty of the imperfect. Be less strict and approach your relationships in a more playful way. Do you find beauty in the imperfect? No? Then you have to take a closer look.
5. Love “right”.
Search and find the good in your partner again and again. Neither put him on a pedestal, nor put him down. See him as a wonderful companion on your way; and if he really gets on your nerves: see him as a teacher. Allow him to be who he is. And have the courage to be who you are.
6. Sex heals.
Marvin Gaye has sung about it (“Sexual healing”) and yes, it’s true, sex can heal relationships and people. But only if you know how. Develop your sex. Pay attention. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel good. Listen to your body. Don’t do it for the other’s sake. Don’t force anything. Speak about it. Tell the other what you like, but first: find out what you like!
7. Being in a relationship is not better than being solo.
Relationships are not meant to be kept up come hell or high water. If you are not happy, don’t blame the other person. Take responsibility for your feelings and act from a position of strength, not weakness. And when you go, don’t forget the love that connected you.
8. Have fun!
Don’t forget why you wanted a relationship: to be happier! So don’t take everything so seriously, and consciously look for moments together that are simply fun. Get out of the daily grind and plan something that isn’t good for anything other than having fun.
9. Love goes through the stomach.
Nothing is better than enjoying a good meal with someone you love. The way you dine together says so much about the relationship you can have with someone: can they enjoy, indulge, be in the moment, appreciate the food? These are good indications of other beautiful things that you can do together.
Oh, dear younger self. To be honest, I’m glad I couldn’t tell you all this, because then you wouldn’t have been able to learn it yourself. And everyone knows that words don’t teach. The best teacher is life itself. But words can stimulate, inspire and support. And I hope they do that for you out there who are reading these lines. Surely you too have gained a few important insights of love over the years. I would appreciate if you leave a comment below.
And here I create a gentle transition to my recipe of the week: a delicious focaccia with rosemary, red onions and olives. It takes hearts by storm, because everyone likes it. It is wonderfully suitable for a tete-à-tete, best paired with a soup (for example to this) and a glass of wine. Just like love itself, yeast dough also needs a little attention, a good massage, warmth and a little patience and you will end up with a focaccia bread that will make you very happy.
ONION AND ROSEMARY FOCACCIA
- 21 g fresh yeast
- 300 ml lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp maple syrup grade A (plus 1 tbsp for the onion-rosemary mixture)
- 500 g spelt flour type 1050 alternatively wholemeal spelt flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 medium-sized red onions cut into thin rings
- 2 tbsp olive oil plus 3 tbsp to drizzle over the focaccia
- 3 tbsp chopped rosemary
- 100 g mixed olives without stone roughly chopped (alternative: black olives without stone)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 handful of rocket
- Crumble the yeast in a bowl with lukewarm water and maple syrup and mix well. Let rest for 5 minutes. Small bubbles should appear on the surface (if no bubbles appear, better pour the mixture away and make a new one).
- Put the flour in a large bowl, mix with the salt and make a hollow in the middle. Pour the yeast mixture into the hollow and knead for 3 minutes to form a smooth dough.
- Shape the dough into a ball, dust with a little flour, cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C top and bottom heat.
- Fry the onions in a pan in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add rosemary and chopped olives and deglaze with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Simmer gently for 2 minutes, then let cool for 5 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper and roll out the focaccia dough with a piece of rolling pin (or with your hands) about 2 cm thick. Make many small hollows in the dough with your fingers. Spread the onion, olive and rosemary mixture on the surface of the dough and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with rocket and serve immediately.