Taylor Swifts Music Can Teach You a Lot About Relationships (If You Just Listen)
Throughout her entire career, Taylor Swift’s love life has been the subject of intense scrutiny.
The media has consistently wanted to push the narrative around who she’s dating, if she has a boyfriend, and if she’s inevitably driven him away yet. As she is especially famous for her heartfelt, romanticized ballads, most of which are written based on her own dating and relationship experiences, those tracks send fans and journalists alike hunting for clues as a way to decipher what —and who in particular — the lyrics are truly about.
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But more than what’s at surface level Swift has an incomparable way of capturing our collective shared experience when it comes to all things related to love. She is able to put to words those feelings we all go through but don’t quite know how to name or express.
It was at 16 that her music started to fuel my daydreams about falling in love for the first time. Growing up with Taylor Swift, each of her albums helped me feel and understand more of who I am in both friendships and in relationships. She has always been able to perfectly synthesize what I can’t express – from fear to excitement, the pain and the joy, Swift has always been able to capture and make sense of it all for me.
As for how you can also learn from her experience? Here are six of my favorite lessons in love straight from the lyrics Swift has so beautifully written:
A Relationship Should Make You Feel Safe, Not Anxiety-Ridden
So often we find ourselves in situationships rather than full fledged relationships. We struggle to gauge whether someone is really, truly interested in us. We pore over texts and Instagram likes trying to discern where we stand, living in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety that’s more unhealthy than anything else.
Taylor Swift writes of this feeling in her song, “Out Of The Woods,” from the album 1989. The song has her repeatedly asking her partner if they’re “out of the woods yet?”
“Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet?”
We learn what we want through many failed attempts and experiences of failure. Through countless dates that make us feel anxious and unwanted and unsure, we’re stuck in the woods. Though, perhaps that’s not entirely fair as a relationship doesn’t have to be a failure to show you what you don’t want, nor must it lead you to understanding what you need. As Swift mentioned during her 2013 Grammy Awards showcase performance: “It doesn’t mean that it’s not special and extraordinary, just to have a relationship that’s fragile and somehow meaningful in that fragility.”
Even so, how soothing it must be, to have a partner look honestly into your eyes and tell you “you’re out of the woods now.”
Your Friends Are Your Foundation in Life
Taylor Swift is famous for developing long-lasting connections with her fans, even referring to them as the longest and most important relationships she’s ever had.
What makes these bonds so notable and cherished? It’s the mutual loyalty and devotion — the knowledge that they’ll be there to show up for each other as a way of demonstrating true love. And that word — love — should never be interpreted strictly to mean something romantic. The platonic love we share with our closest friends is just as, if not more so, important than the romantic partners we choose.
The song “Long Live” was originally written about a relationship that didn’t quite work out, but it has been adopted as a love letter between Swift and her indomitable Swifties. It is a power anthem that can be interpreted just as easily about the bonds of friendship as a relationship.
“Long live the walls we crashed through, all the kingdom lights shined just for me and you, I was screaming, long live all the magic we made,” she sings. Our friends are there to hold us up when we can’t do it alone, to keep us together in the midst of heartbreak, and to love us when we can’t love ourselves.
I’ve learned it’s a lot easier to love yourself when you are surrounded by people who love you and lift you up. Besides, what better way to celebrate the love you share with your best friends and biggest cheerleaders than a stadium-worthy anthem full of head-rushing crescendos you can easily scream-sing along to?
Long live, indeed.
We All Have That Someone Who Got Away
Swift opens Folklore, her most acclaimed album to date, with “The 1,” a beautiful song pining for the one who got away. Any true hopeless romantic believes each new partner is bound to be the one, their soulmate, that person their heart has been searching for.
Being swept up in the heat of the moment often leaves us blinded to harsh truths and realities about a relationship that ultimately won’t work out. We happily wear our rose-colored glasses, allowing us to live blissfully in our quasi-imaginary world of stolen summer kisses. Looking back on these long-ago ended relationships, it’s easy to stop, daydream and ponder how “if my wishes came true, it would have been you.”
We all have someone that got away, that we love to play the coulda, woulda, shoulda game with. Oh, if only x, y, or z had been different it all could have worked out perfectly! It’s those heart-warming, special memories that bring us back to thinking of them, “we were something, don’t you think so?”
A Short Love Story Doesn’t Mean It’s a Failure
It is easy to fault ourselves for falling hard and fast for someone when it inevitably doesn’t work out. We rush to judgement, asking why we couldn’t make it last. It was our fault, wasn’t it? Why did we fail to keep them? But some tales of love are better as short stories, and their abruptness doesn’t mean that they weren’t special or still important for us to experience.
Swift wrote “Enchanted” about the excitement of meeting someone new and hoping that this fleeting encounter would become something bigger. She’s at her most relatable, imagining a deeper connection and storyline than perhaps exists.
We’ve all been there, seeing someone across the room who we can’t take our eyes off of. We immediately imagine a future unfurling together as we say hello for the first time. What will our first kiss look like? Feel like? As Swift captures perfectly, “I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home, I’ll spend forever, wondering if you knew, I was enchanted to meet you.”
He may not have been the one, but it sure felt special while it was happening.
Heartbreak Is an Essential Part of the Process
It would be impossible to talk about love and Taylor Swift without mentioning her seminal ballad “All Too Well.”
Swift masterfully writes of the experience of having your heart being absolutely shattered while concurrently being unable to forget the moments that made you fall in love in the first place. She sings: “And your mother’s telling stories ‘bout you on the tee-ball team, you tell me ‘bout your past, thinking your future was me.”
The heartbreak is that much colder because of the depth of the love that was lost.
But here, it’s those special memories we still hold close to our heart after a breakup that matter the most. She notes of those little, seemingly innocuous moments, writing, “there we are again in the middle of the night, we're dancing 'round the kitchen in the refrigerator light,” that make up a love story. Because they are what steel us with the resolve to find that love again, and you can’t give up or become hardened. To feel those highs again — they are what make it all worth it, it’s what we remember “all too well.”
What Swift is able to so masterfully do is write of both the heartbreak and the beautiful memories concurrently, reminding us that as painful as it may be in the moment, it is all part of the journey to finding the one.
It’s All Going to Work Out Even When It Feels Like It Won’t
For years, Taylor Swift wrote her most enduring (and many of her best) songs about heartbreak and breakups. It got to the point that some even cruelly joked that once she did fall in love, she’d have nothing left to write about.
I’ve grown up with Swift and her music, she being just four months older than I am. A large part of why many Swifties are so devoted is this: album after album, she’s able to perfectly articulate where we, too, are in life – including when it comes to dating, relationships, and everything in between. She started seeing her current partner, Joe Alwyn, four years ago. going on to pen songs about falling for him on Reputation with a continuation of their deepening love affair on her Lover, her seventh album.
The song “Lover” is Swift’s declaration of her happy ending and brilliant proof that songwriting only gets better after falling deeply in love. She writes: “My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue, all’s well that ends well to end up with you.”
After years of false starts and kissing the wrong frogs, she’s finally able to write about a man who makes her feel safe and secure in his love. “Have I known you for twenty seconds or twenty years?”
Seeing Swift be so authentically vulnerable and in love gives me hope that after all my (very many) wrong guys, the right one, who too will save me a seat at every table, is just around the corner.
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