A Stoic View on Love

How ancient wisdom applies to modern love.

Hey hopeful romantics!

I hope you’re hanging in there, given everything going on. *gestures wildly at the uncertainty lingering in the air*

If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I made a post on Instagram about election week self-care. Take a look if you want.

Besides refreshing CNN’s page constantly, I wrote an article about Stoic philosophy this week (it’s not published yet, so I can’t link it).

Up until recently, I’d heard of Stoicism in the same capacity that most of you probably have. That Stoics are emotionless drags, who aren’t very fun to be around.

But after looking more into the ideas of some of Stoicism’s most famous minds (I’m looking at you, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius), I realized many of them align with my writing on love.

Though there’s not much content from Stoics on relationships, in particular, it only takes a geeky writer who enjoys the topics of love and philosophy to take some Modge Podge and craft them together. 💁🏼‍♀️

Quick Background: Stoicism began in the 3rd century BCE (so pre-Tinder). One of Stoicism's most famous minds was the last of the “Five Great Emporers” of Rome, Marcus Aurelius. They believe in finding peace and virtue in the chaos of this world.

Sounds nice, right? Especially given everything going on. *gestures, again, the air around me*

But let’s talk about the principles when applied to love. Because, if you’re a hopeful romantic like I am, you’ll find a lot of wisdom in these words.

But first, I have two faults with Stoicism: There is good that can come from feeling emotions and learning lessons from them. Also, people may falsely believe they have no control when they, in fact, do.

Keep that in mind, while we move forward into the magical world of ancient-philosophy-applied-to-modern-love 💕:


Give a back rub without expecting one in return.

“You need not look about for the reward of a just deed; a just deed in itself offers a still greater return.” — Seneca

I’ve found that expectations are the root of a lot of unnecessary relationship fights. When you do something nice or put on a stunning dress, but your partner doesn’t give you the praise you want, who is in the wrong?

When we do nice things or try to pry compliments out of our partner, the genuineness of it all is gone. Instead, we’re manipulating a situation in our favor. And expecting our partner to react in the exact way we want them to.

All of that is a recipe for disappointed expectations.

Instead, cook a meal because the feeling of feeding your partner is amazing. Buy them flowers so you can watch their face light up. When you find joy in those moments, rather than expecting something in return, that’s real #RelationshipGoals.

A breakup is out of your control.

Breakups suck. There’s no way around that. Humans long for acceptance and belonging. Having someone suddenly removed from your life isn’t easy to cope with.

But if breakups stir up a lot of anxiety in you (like they do for me), then realizing that not only is the breakup out of your control but that the relationship was never meant to be, will help ease your worries.

In life, there are things you can and can’t control. You can choose to eat healthily and work hard at your job. But you can’t control if one day Brad wakes up and decides he’s just not feeling it anymore and sends a breakup text 30 minutes before an important work meeting. It sucks, but, again, it’s out of your control.

What is in your control is how you react to the breakup. You can wallow in “what ifs” or “how could I have done better,” or you can work on bringing happiness back into your life. You can move on with love.

Love isn’t a solution for emptiness or loneliness.

Did you know that being alone isn’t a negative or positive experience? Yet, some people associate the phrase with one of those emotions.

When you’re alone, you either feel solitude or loneliness. What determines that is your mindset. How your life is as a whole determines your mindset.

A relationship isn’t a cure for loneliness. It’s simply a bandage on a bigger issue. If you don’t enjoy your life, if you don’t spend it with friends and pursue hobbies that make you happy, you’ll be lonely, even with a partner.

“Of all the means to insure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.” — Epicurus

Your outlook shapes your relationship.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” - Marcus Aurelius

Stoics are big-time believers that your thoughts change your perception, which changes your reality.

If you focus on everything wrong with your relationship, you’re going to be miserable. If you focus on the positive aspects of your relationship, you’ll be happier.

Now that’s not to say that you should ignore if someone is mean or abusive. But if you focus on the fact your girlfriend isn’t a great cook or your boyfriend doesn’t plan special trips often, you’re bound to think your relationship is worse than it is.

You can’t appreciate the positive aspects of your partner if you’re hung up on everything they lack.

A relationship will always be work; there’s no happily ever after.

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.” — Marcus Aurelius

Though Cinderella might’ve led us to think that love will be the key to living a happy life with no problems, it’s merely a fairytale.

A relationship is work. While it shouldn’t be endless fights and nights spent crying on your bathroom floor, love does involve compromise. It involves learning to live with another person who has their own opinions and ways of doing things.

If you tap out the moment things get hard, you won’t get very far in wrestling. The same goes for love. Sometimes things will be hard, but the reward is someone who will be there for you no matter what comes your way. Someone who loves you for all of who you are.


While Stoics don’t have the right answer to everything, they have great insight into many things. Mainly, focus on what you can control in life and remember how powerful your thoughts are, especially when it comes to love’s allure.

Until next week my amazing readers.

All the love,

Kirstie

Content I Loved:

Dateable Podcast: Addicted to Love w/ Sherry Gaba

Kinda Dating Podcast: Learning to Listen (with Traci Ruble)

How ‘Relationship Anarchy’ Can Help You Deepen Your Friendships

8 Hopeful, But Respectful Texts To Send Someone Who's Sad

How the compatibility myth is harming modern relationships

Articles I Wrote:

5 Insecurities That Can Hinder Your Personal Growth

7 Hard Truths On Falling In Love

6 Lies Anxiety Tells You When You’re Dating

Ask iris: "How do I tell him I'm not interested?"


Book Update:

*If you're new to this newsletter and my work, I'm currently writing on a book, What I Wish I Knew About Love, that's set to come out early 2021 with Thought Catalog Books.*

I sent in my finished manuscript last week, and next week, I’ll be taking a call with my publisher to understand the timeline better of when my book will be coming out.

Expect pre-order and launch dates to come soon! 📖