All is fair in love and war – True or False

8 Mins read
all is fair in love and war
all is fair in love and war

Is all fair in love and war? To put it simply, the answer is: TRUE, All is fair in love and war. So many people mistake this phrase to be a go to line in justifying wrong doings and bad behaviors, but the truth is, it depends on where you are standing.

The other day I was watching this awesome romantic comedy movie called, ‘How to lose a guy in 10 days’. In it, Benjamin (Matthew McConaughey is challenged by his co-workers to make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. On the other hand, Andie (Kate Hudson) has to write an article on how to lose a man in 10 days before which she actually has to lose a man in 10 days of meeting him.

The story is awesome and compelling, Andie knows that what she is about to do might be inhumane and may end up hurting Benjamin, therefore, on their first night of meeting him, she asks him; “True or false. All is fair in love and war…..”, to which Benjamin answers, “True”, here is a sneak peak into the scene:

It is indeed a good question, I have always wondered why people love being in love so much when we all know that love hurts. Even when love is reciprocated, even when it is the most beautiful thing in the world and the greatest emotion of all, love still hurts.

Its crucial to be highly emotionally intelligent when it comes to the matters of the heart, especially love. Love is the one emotion that covers a multitude of sins, that makes us do the most incredible and sometimes unspeakable things, that is why mastering emotional intelligence when it comes to handling your love for others can make or break you.

With that said, knowing if all is fair in love and war can help you manage your emotions better when matters of the heart are concerned.

The origin of ‘All is fair in love and war’

Many people attribute the origin of the proverb/phrase “all is fair in love in war” to the poet John Lyly’s. from his novel “Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit,” published in 1579.

The novel talks about the romantic adventures of a wealthy and attractive young man. The exact wording of this phrase in the novel is , “the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.”

The first know appearance of the quote worded “all is fair in love and war” is in English author Francis Edward Smedley’s 1850 novel “Frank Fairleigh” about the life of a schoolboy.

The meaning of ‘All is fair in love and war

All is fair in love and war means that when it comes to love and war some things that wouldn’t otherwise be acceptable are considered to be just and fair regardless of the consequences or outcome.

Love is by far the most selfish emotion I know of, love is based on what you are feeling and rarely on what someone else is feeling about you, that is why the intensity of your love is greater when you love someone more than when someone else loves you instead.

Love is the one thing that we all chase with self centered intentions, we want to find the person that will make us feel the way we want to feel, we have a type of person who is ideal for us to the point where when we find someone who loves us but isn’t our type, we find it hard to connect with them.

In the case of this phrase, ‘all is fair in love and war’, all is considered fair when you, yourself, are looking for love. What I mean by this is that, you are allowed to chose whomever you want and like whatever you want so long as you are in love with that person/thing.

For example, if you have a boyfriend with whom you have been dating for a while but deep down you know you are not in love with him, you are allowed to leave and be with someone else who you are in love with, no matter what. The same goes for lying about your past sexual experiences to protect your partner.

When it comes to love, moral relativism takes precedence.

all is fair in love and war

Moral relativism is the belief that judgement on whether something is true or false, right or wrong, is based upon the standpoint of a given situation, it is not fixed, but flexible depending on various factors such us the person involved, culture, history, tradition and beliefs.

I believe that moral relativism is a major key to emotional intelligence in everyday life. We all have different views and belief systems and even though the society has laws and codes of conduct, it is apparent that we all differ in so many ways that there is no perfect system to cater for what is right or wrong and what is true or false.

Moral relativism solves this dilemma in differences by telling us that the truth of the matter doesn’t lie in what is socially acceptable sometimes but in what the involved parties are.

Therefore, when it comes to love, moral relativism takes effect, giving us the way to say that all is fair in love and war. This is because, when it comes to love, in specific circumstances, you may be allowed to lie, deceive, manipulate.

Some may say that this phrase is used to justify doing the wrong things in a relationship. But the truth is, according to moral relativism, the wrong thing is only wrong and unjust to the person being done to.

For example, if you are girl in a relationship that is not going well, maybe you guys are not in love, or if you are in love then the relationship is fading away. If in the course of the relationship dying you start getting attention from this other guy, he is nice, kind, treats you right, and just makes you tick the right way, is it wrong for you to give him your time? I’m not talking about cheating, just giving him the chance to show what he is bringing to the table, is it wrong?

From the boyfriend’s perspective, yes, it is wrong. However, things are the opposite when it comes to the girl, the fact that she is at a point where she can have her needs met and feel truly in love isn’t necessarily wrong. In fact, i’m sure her girlfriends will encourage her to break up with the boyfriend and jump into another relationship with this new guy.

Many people confuse ‘all is fair in love and war’ by thinking that it refers to relationships and war. No, a relationship and love are two different things. You can be in love and not be in a relationship and you can be in a relationship and not be in love. Love is all about a person, not the two persons. Love is individualistic in that it emanates from you to someone and not the other way round.

All is fair in love because love is all about what you want and what makes you happy, therefore, you are allowed to do what it takes to find that love that you want. This is so regardless of how many hearts you have to break, so long as you are chasing for love and not breaking hearts just for the heck of it, then yes, all is fair in love.

What about war?

The Geneva Convention was a series of international diplomatic meetings that produced a number of agreements, in particular the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts. This is basically the rules of war in the world. 1

All is fair in war started to lose meaning after the rules of war were set, this meant that everything, which was once acceptable and fair, might have changed making the phrase irrelevant. Or so people think. You see, just because there were no rules of war before the Geneva Convention, doesn’t mean that there weren’t any pre-held ‘guidelines’, for example the United States has more women in its military than any other nation, but in 1994 the Department of Defense officially banned women from serving in combat. You see where i’m going with this.

The use of ‘all’ in this phrase doesn’t literally mean all, it basically means that so long as the primary objective of having love and winning a war is achieved, you are allowed to do what it takes to get there.

In war, every side is fighting for their rights, their dreams, their goals, and what they stand for. You can’t stand on one side and say who is wrong and who is right, which brings me back to the concept of moral relativism. Same applies in politics, just because the two parties are fighting for seats against each other, doesn’t mean that one side is right and the other side is wrong, No. What it means is that two different sides want the same thing but have different ways they want it to come about.

In that case, all is fair in war because both sides are gunning for the same thing, so long as the rules are followed, all is fair in war. You are allowed to do what it takes to get what you want.

is all fair in love and war

Michael Stevens is an internet celebrity with tons of helpful content on scientific, psychological, mathematical, and philosophical topics, as well as gaming, technology, popular culture, and other general interest subjects. In this video, he dives into whether the proverb ‘all is fair in love and war’ is true or false, I would love for you to hear him out on his perspective.

Bottom Line

When it comes to war and matters of the heart, we are all selfish, or at least that is what drives us into them.

Love and war make us want to have our way so that we can be happy and have things exactly the way we want to.

Love is the only emotion in which selfishness might be a good thing because it will guide you to find the person whom you love rather than the person whom you wanna be with just to protect them from getting hurt by you breaking up with them.

All is fair in love and war isn’t used to justify cheating and engaging in insensitive activities as we may think, it is used to show us that we are all driven by our own desires above all else and this may inevitably outweigh other people’s desires and wants for us. Henceforth, by serving those inner desires that want us to get what we want and be happy, we are bound to hurt others and do some questionable things.

This is because what is love to someone, may not be love to another.

We all have different personalities, we have different levels of IQ, EQ and at the smaller scale even our DNAs are not the same. We all want varying things in life, which widens the scale to what constitutes as love, happiness and fulfillment in our lives. What we may deem good and great for our partners may not be great for them.

We may think that loving them and always being there for them is a sure fire way to make them love us, but if the 5 languages of love are any indication, we are bound to fail.

We all love different and feel different when it comes to matters of the heart.

All is fair in love and war because both parties may have different views on what makes them happy and fulfilled, therefore, collisions are bound to happen as they both chase after what is right and true to them.

We all deserve happiness and love, and no matter how it affects those who are close to us, we will inevitably bend down to the power of love and follow it wherever it leads us.

Don’t call it unfair when you partner leaves you for someone else with whom he has a deeper connection with, it hurts, but it is fair, because to him , he is chasing after love and what makes him happy, you can’t blame someone for wanting to be happy now can you, for him not to have found it with you is one of the world’s biggest jokes but it is life.

I’d love to hear from you. Would you say that all is fair in love and war?

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts.


  1. The Geneva Convention. Retrieved from
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I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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