22 Actual Relationship Lessons "Love Actually" Taught Us

Just because it's Christmas...

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1. Relationships come in all shapes and sizes.

Universal

This film isn't just a romantic comedy – it's about relationships of all kinds. Good ones and bad ones between families, lovers, friends, co-workers, and even strangers. Every relationship in the world is different – falling in love as a kid is different than falling in love as an adult. Mourning the death of a loved one is different than mourning the end of a marriage. Loving the wrong person is hard, but so is loving the right person if the timing happens to be bad.

Every story in the film navigates the way a different kind of relationship functions, and shows how some work out and some don't, which is about as real as you can get when it comes to talking about that crazy little thing called love.

2. You never know how you'll find "The One".

Universal

You know that saying that the right person comes along as soon as you stop looking? There can be some truth in that. David and Natalie find each other and bond as they both start formidable new jobs, while John and Judy connect despite some unconventional circumstances.

Billy didn't even realise Joe was the most important person in his life until years into their relationship, while Sam made us all nostalgic by falling for his schoolmate.

Point is, love is actually all around, and you never know when or where you might fall into it.

3. Love can make you brave.

Universal

Being in love can give you the courage and the motivation to be the kind of person you never imagined you could be. David's feelings for Natalie make him realise how much he needs to stand up not just for himself, but for Britain. The desire to get to know each other better pushes Jamie and Aurelia to conquer new languages and make a leap of faith to be together, and Sam makes the most adorable romantic gestures of all time, learning to play the drums for Joanna, and of course, sprinting through Heathrow airport to tell her how he feels.

4. And it can definitely make you a little crazy.

Universal

There's not a smooth person in this film (sleazy US President Billy Bob Thornton aside). Love Actually constantly reminds us that love is actually a little bit awkward. Between Sarah's discombobulated antics with her office crush on Karl to the prime minister's iconic dance break, all those big feelings are manifested in weird and wonderful ways.

Making a fool of yourself is just part of the deal, so you might as well not sweat it and embrace your crazy when it comes to navigating your feelings for the special people in your life.

5. It can be painful...

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Love hurts, man. Sam shoots straight when he calls it total agony, and it's hard to disagree. From grief to unrequited love to mustering up the courage to express your feelings, Love Actually isn't just a sapfest of happy endings, but also touches on the way that love can be really hard.

6. Or pitiful...

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Whether it's pining for your best friend's wife or being incredibly awkward in an interaction with the cute girl in the office, love is actually NOT all doves and flower bouquets. It can be sad, weird, and frustrating.

7. And it doesn't always come easy.

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You have to make a relationship work. There's no way around that. Lasting marriages and friendships aren't built on luck, they're built on hard work and consideration – a mutual desire to keep something in good shape.

Jamie and Aurelia had to work just to understand each other on a basic level, David had to go after Natalie when he made the wrong assumption about her, and Karen had to make peace with the hurt Harry caused her in order to keep their family together.

8. Falling in love doesn't have to be a fairy tale to be perfect.

Universal

Falling in love is such an idiosyncratic experience, and you can't expect your love story to unfold like a storybook. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the ride. One of the most gratifying stories in the film is John and Judy's adorkably sweet transition from awkward co-workers to budding romance. They may not want to tell people how they met, but you can tell they are so glad that they did.

9. Big gestures are nice...

Universal

No rom-com is complete without big professions of love, so naturally Love Actually has three by the film's end. There's no denying that people love to be made to feel special in big, romantic ways, and it's nice to let your partner know what they mean to you in such a major way. (Unless they're married to your best friend, SOZ MARK.)

10. But the little things are just as important.

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While Jamie's proposal is a super-romantic, big gesture, it's the little ways that he and Aurelia connect throughout the film that make their happy ending so satisfying. Natalie's small acts of kindness in bringing David the chocolate biscuits instead of the plain, and Daniel and Sam's Titanic moment, are some of the sweetest gestures in the whole film.

11. Love requires hard choices.

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It's not easy, we know that. And you have to make hard calls when it comes to being good to the people you love and care about. Harry chooses wrongly and it causes some irreparable damage to his relationship with Karen. Sarah has to chose between the possibility of really falling in love with Karl and caring for the ill brother she loves, and Billy has to decide whether to hang with the big shots or show his appreciation for Joe, who has always stood by him.

Nobody makes the right choices all the time, but loving someone is about making choices with them in mind and working to make fair and right ones not just for you, but for the other people in your life. The characters who end up happiest in the film are the ones who made the most considerate, compassionate choices, and that's no coincidence.

12. Everybody pines.

Universal

Sometimes you can't help your heart, and it's okay to have feelings that scare you, or that you know you can't act on. Everybody faces unrequited love at some point or another. Sometimes it works out, like in Sam's case, and other times, it's not meant to be (looking at you, Mark).

Wishing you could be with somebody you can't be with is normal, and sometimes it's worth fighting for. Other times you just have to indulge in the fantasy and let it go.

13. But you've got to let yourself move on.

Universal

No matter how big your feelings, there will be times in your life where you have to let them go. Maybe it's a nasty break-up, maybe it's a loss, maybe it's a case of being in love with the partner of a family member or friend, or as simple as being into someone who's just not that into you.

In all of these cases it's totally fine to mourn what could have been, but at some point, you're going to have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and accept defeat. Daniel spends the film struggling with the loss of his wife, but he also puts his energy into helping Sam move on, and their relationship becomes a sense of strength and comfort for him.

14. Big love requires big risks.

Universal

Asking someone you don't know THAT well to marry you is a pretty bold move. Showing up at your friend's door to confess your love to his wife is a REALLY bold move.

Sometimes they work out, sometimes that don't, so you've got to trust your gut and try. Just remember to respect the other person's answer.

15. And sometimes you just have to let love kick the shit out of you.

Universal

Just because things don't go according to plan doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Love can be a bitch but it can also be the best, and it's worth the risk if there's even a 1% chance of happiness.

16. Things don't always work out

Universal

Love Actually is a rare romantic comedy that depicts what it's like when a would-be romance fizzles. For all intents and purposes, Sarah and Karl should have had a happy ending in Rom-Com World. They're good-looking, they like each other, they're just the right amount of adorably awkward.

But that's not how it works. Sometimes, as much as you like someone, as much as you want it to work, as much as you've dreamed about it working, it just doesn't. Relationships in the real world are complicated, and there are competing factors and priorities that can keep a good thing from making it.

17. And that's OK.

Universal

Coming back from a heartbreak is one of the best things that can happen to you as an individual. The opportunity to grow when the love you wanted isn't the love you get is a gift you deserve to give yourself.

Sarah, Karl, Mark, and Karen are moving on, in different ways, by the film's end. They haven't let being unlucky in love stop them as people. They've recognised that they're going to be OK even if their relationships aren't, and if that's not strength, I don't know what is.

If that painful romance wants to die, let it. You do you and remember that at the end of the day, a happily ever after doesn't require anybody but yourself.

18. Love is about more than romance.

Universal

Some of the most reliable and beautiful relationships in the film aren't romantic at all. Think about Billy realising that Joe is his real life partner, and Karen's admiration for her brother and her easy friendship with Daniel. Think about the way that Daniel and Sam overcome their grief together and lift each other up, and Colin and Tony's reliable friendship.

Love Actually says, more than anything, that the people who matter in our lives are the ones who stick around and support us through whatever we're going through. Those people are the real loves of our lives.

19. Never waste a chance to tell someone you love them.

Universal

And not just because it's Christmas.

Love Actually is a film about telling people how you feel, in big ways and small ways. It's about appreciating the people who matter to you and making sure they feel loved and admired. Daniel tells Sam to tell Joanna he loves her as much as he can, Mark sacrifices his pride to be honest with Juliet even when it's hopeless, Billy gives up a night at Elton John's to show Joe how important he is, while Harry fails to make Karen feel special and David almost lets a misunderstanding keep him from being honest with Natalie about how he feels about her.

20. Because it ain't over ’til it's over.

Universal

Knowing when to move on is healthy, but so is fighting for what's important to you. Love is worth fighting for; that doesn't mean the same person is worth fighting for forever, but it does mean that the idea, the principle of love (actually) is always worth it. Keep running to the airport. Keep finding new ways to get to know that interesting someone.

Don't let love get you down, because it's not over. It's actually just another beginning.

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