5 Beautiful Love Lessons From Netflix’s ‘Heartstopper’

This article contains spoilers for season one of Heartstopper on Netflix

Love should never involve shame.

There’s a difference between coming to terms with your identity and feeling embarrassed about who you love, and Heartstopper illustrates that quite beautifully. Charlie’s first “boyfriend” was not only closeted but was clearly ashamed of being connected to Charlie at all, even in a social sense. Nick, on the other hand, still wanted to keep his relationship with Charlie a secret at first, but it was never because of who Charlie was or his fear of being connected with him—he was simply trying to figure out his own sexuality and struggling with his fear of being treated differently because of it. In true love, there is no room for shame, only acceptance.

When you love someone, you always want the best for them—even if you know it might be difficult for you in the end.

Part of what’s so beautiful about Charlie and Nick’s relationship is that they both constantly want what’s best for the other. Even when Nick wasn’t ready to make their relationship public, he felt the need to figure out his own emotions as quickly and efficiently as possible so that Charlie wasn’t left suffering the consequences of his indecision. And when Charlie began to see himself as a burden to Nick (no matter how misguided that feeling was), he started distancing himself from Nick, even though it broke his own heart. While I’m not necessarily saying either of these things were right or wrong, they both came from a place of loving the other enough to want the best for them, even when it was uncomfortable or difficult.

The very best relationships involve friendship.

It was clear from the very first episode that Charlie and Nick had feelings for one another, but because neither were really sure where they stood with each other, they were also able to form a really lovely friendship in the meantime. Even when they started dating, they never really stopped being friends—they constantly had fun together and cared deeply enough to check on one another’s emotions pretty consistently. While relationships don’t always have to start as friendships, there’s something to be said about relationships that involve friendship, because love is often a fickle thing but friendship is a stable foundation that helps it grow.

When you love someone, you should be willing to stand up for them (even when it’s scary).

Even before Nick was ready to come out, he was ready to fight for Charlie—even if it meant fighting his own friends. Similarly, Charlie was always quick to defend Nick when his friends insulted him. While I don’t condone physical violence, there’s something to be said about standing up for the person you love when others are readily tearing them down. Because love isn’t just the actions you take when you’re standing face to face with your person—oftentimes, it’s what you do when they aren’t there that matters the most.

Love and understanding go hand-in-hand.

One of the loveliest parts of Heartstopper is the understanding between each of the couples. Charlie understands that Nick is going through his own journey of understanding his own identity, and Nick understands how his actions are affecting Charlie, even when Charlie isn’t willing to admit it. When Tara admits to Darcy that coming out was more difficult than she expected and that she might to some degree regret it, Darcy isn’t offended but instead chooses to listen to Tara and to comfort her. And Tao and Elle’s friendship-turned-budding-relationship is full acceptance for one another, even when they don’t necessarily agree with each other’s actions. Love involves seeing someone for who they truly are, not who you want them to be—and it is only in seeing someone fully that you’re able to understand them.