Dolly Alderton: Six inspiring lessons I learnt from Love Stories

From dramatic affairs to romantic gestures, Dolly Alderton talks us through the lessons in life, and love, she learned from her guests while recording her podcast, Love Stories. 

Dolly Alderton

Alongside the publication of my memoir, Everything I Know About Love, I launched a podcast called Love Stories – a series of conversations in which I talk to guests about the relationships that have made them. I wanted to hear their most formative stories of heart-break, passion, familiarity and fondness – from popstar crushes to first boyfriends to favourite films to adored places to enduring family ties.

Over the course of nine episodes of the first series I have had the great privilege of speaking to a selection of thoughtful, funny, intelligent authors, performers and journalists such as Ruby Tandoh, Ruth Jones and Bryony Gordon. Through generous sharing of their own experiences, in every single episode I’ve inherited pieces of their wisdom I’ll always carry with me, not just on love, but the messy business of being human. 

Vanessa Kirby on friendship

The actress Vanessa Kirby, on the subject of friendship, taught me the phrase: “put more romance into your friendship and more friendship into your romance”. It sounds like a neat soundbite, but in it lies such fundamental truths, both on how to sustain long-term platonic and romantic love. When you show your friendships some of the same care, attention, spontaneity and passion you would show to your other half, your bond will strengthen. And when you show your other half the same patience, championing and camaraderie you would your friendship, your relationship will feel easier. 

Cosmo Landesman on being a teenager, and on marriage

The writer Cosmo Landesman shared a story of unrequited love from his adolescence and made me reflect on the potential damage inflicted by those first disastrous crushes and the thoughtlessness of fellow teenagers. He posed the theory that, while it is wonderful to be loved and supported by your parents through childhood, that foundation can only do so much for your long-term self-esteem. If your heart is broken or your romantic identity is rejected in those first years of very young adulthood, it gives you complexes in love that you carry for life. On a more optimistic note, he also made a beautiful and persuasive case for marriage, telling me that it is a “leap into the dark together” and that there is something “classical” about sitting at a party opposite a person you can call your husband or your wife. 

Sara Pascoe on her best friend

Comedian Sara Pascoe’s episode was equal parts profound and hilarious. I loved her reassuringly familiar tales of a hormonally-charged, adolescent over-active imagination which weaved made-up stories of steamy liaisons with members of Take That to her disbelieving peers in the playground. But the most moving segment of the conversation is when she told me about her best friend Cariad, who taught her about how to be loved. She told me that, near the beginning of their friendship, she behaved badly and tried to push her away – but Cariad showed her patience and told her that, while she was angry with her, she loved her too much to give up on their friendship. It made me very grateful for the patience I’m sure my female friends have shown me as we’ve grown up, and was a reminder to show them as much patience as I can spare.

Afua Hirsch on non-traditional love stories

The writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, on the subject of her long-term partner and father of her child, told me that she has had to accept that their relationship does not involve the hallmarks of romance that she dreamt of as a teenager and that their little family unit doesn’t “hold hands walking through the park” every weekend. Instead, she and her partner are tied together in a mutual respect and a deep, deep understanding of each other’s identities, ambitions, world view and sense of integrity – which sounded pretty romantic to me. 

Marian Keyes on dramatic love affairs

The author Marian Keyes told me that she spent her twenties in needlessly dramatic and intense relationships and that, on reflection, she used those turbulent affairs as a way of avoiding confrontation with real issues that were holding her back, such as low self-esteem and addiction. She said: “I was generating fake emotions to distract from the pain of being me” – one of the most stunningly astute, wise and self-aware sentences I’ve ever heard, and one I’ve thought about, spoken and written about many times since. 

Emma Freud’s Piers and Paula theory

The writer and broadcaster Emma Freud moved me to tears in her episode when talking about the message that inspired About Time – the film she made with her partner Richard Curtis about finding both the joy, and gratitude, in normal every day domesticity and routine. She shared a moment of epiphany that they’d had together after attending The Oscars when Four Weddings and A Funeral was nominated. She said after a night of getting dressed up, champagne, parties, meeting celebrities and being nominated for the greatest cinematic award you could ever be recognised with, they got back to their hotel room and both agreed that while it had been “fun, it wasn’t that fun”. She said that Richard said he honestly had more fun going to the home in Clapham of their best friends Piers and Paula – who he’s known since school – and eating the same “disgusting risotto” Paula always makes and making the same “stupid jokes” and drinking a bottle of wine together. The Piers and Paula Theory, as my friends and I have come to call it, is the key to contentment, I’m convinced of it. And I’m so, so grateful to Emma for reminding me of that. 

Love Stories is available to download on iTunes. Everything I know About love is out in paperback on 7th February.

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