Monday, 19 November 2012

The L Word

 Love, Love, Love

As unbelievable as it might be the old relationship cynic in me wants to write about love today.  I know, I know I can hear you all groaning, dating for five minutes and she is writing about love…but wait before you reach for your bucket. I just want to talk about the human condition of ‘being in love’ or ‘falling in love’.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes love as ‘a strong feeling of affection and sexual attraction for someone else’ 

When put like that you wouldn’t think love would be so elusive and yet for so many people out there, myself included love has proved to be anything but commonplace. The problem with this definition of the word ‘love’ of course is that it doesn’t describe the chemical process that goes on within our bodies when we are ‘in love’.  Likened in many articles and studies to the same physical and mental highs of cocaine use being in love fires up the brain in ways scientists are still trying to understand.  Plainly put it’s not something you can fake as far as your body’s response to it.

What is love? Why do some find it easily and others spend a lifetime looking for it? Do some of us have too high an expectation of what love is perhaps?

I remember as a teenager reading Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (something I still do yearly!), the line that stuck with my young naive romantic heart was ‘I am determined that nothing but the deepest love could ever induce me into matrimony’ I can remember thinking that was the only way to go, the deepest most unconditional love there is, that’s all that would tempt me into any relationship especially marriage.  However like so many others, until now the relationships in my life haven’t come anywhere close to the real thing. Yet I married not once but twice in my quest for true love.  With hindsight perhaps the love bit should come before the getting married bit!

So why do we settle into relationships that obviously don’t work? Are abusive or cruel? Why do we intentionally sabotage our own happiness?  Do we think it will never happen to us so settle for what does come along? Do we think so little of ourselves and believe that somehow we don’t deserve to be happy? Or is it simply really hard to find that someone who you can truly click with?  I could analyze the choices I have made in my life for the rest of my life and never understand the decisions I have made. (I can hear my Mother saying ‘that makes two of us’!!)

There is but one thing that my nightmarish relationship past and time as a single woman has taught me and that is when and if I got another chance I would not just settle for what comes along but find someone who ticks all the boxes on every level and vice versa.  It is simply not enough just to travel alongside a companion hoping that some form of love may grow between you, in my experience it doesn’t and even if it does it will never be enough to feed your soul.  

Just about every medium features love heavily but I think perhaps the one place where it is expressed with the most passion is through music. Whether your favourite is a heart-wrenching aria or a popular pop tune, in music you will find every form of love covered. As Shakespeare himself wrote ‘If music be the food of love play on’ I had forgotten the power of music in this genre until recently reminded and it’s ability to understand and express how you are feeling to another person. Or even simply as a way of almost counseling yourself through life’s journey in just about any situation you can think of!  I would imagine more songs are written about love though than any other subject matter there is. True love, unrequited love, I am missing you love, cruel love, jealous love, angry love the list is endless. 

I remember in the 90’s a band called the Beautiful South bringing out a song called ‘Don’t marry her F*** me’ (we never heard this version on television the ‘F’ word was replaced with ‘have’!) the video shows a stereotypical married couple, I suppose wondering whether this is all life and love have to offer. I can remember watching that video hoping that would never be me that I would find something deeper, something more passionate. Although more to the point I would never marry a man who spent Sundays making model airplanes in the living room!

Obviously relationships have a certain degree of compromise contained within them but if you go into a relationship with a list of things you want to change about the other person surely it’s doomed to failure before you even begin?  I am not sure you should really lose very much at all of yourself when going into a relationship if it’s the right one. You certainly shouldn’t need to change who you are as a person and what makes you who you are.  I think the letter below written back in 1958 by the author John Steinbeck to his teenage son sums this up rather well.

‘There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing, which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you, of kindness and consideration and respect, not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn't know you had’

My folks have been married over 50 years and set the bar pretty high as far as loving marriages go.  Still very much in love they set the perfect example to us as kids, perhaps too perfect it always seemed unreachable.  They lived their married lives to a very simple piece of biblical teaching ‘ There are three things that will endure, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love’. 

When love does come a knocking how long does it take?  Is there such a thing as love at first sight for instance or does love grow over a short time or a long time? According to Syracuse University Professor Stephanie Ortigue results revealed that when a person falls in love, 12 areas of the brain work simultaneously to release euphoric chemicals such as adrenaline and dopamine, it also affects cognitive function. It makes you question whether it is actually the brain or heart that is involved when we ‘fall in love’.  As far as time frame goes this same set of scientists believe it can take as little as 1/5 of a second to fall in love.  I have to say the long absent romantic in me likes that idea. 

The one thing we can all be sure of is that love is a mysterious and difficult thing to explain.  Who knows why one person is attracted to another or why they are not.  We can however believe that love does exist, it might not always be easy to find and maybe you might live your whole life without finding it but be in no doubt it does exist!

Have a good day!

Kate x

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