Love. What the hell? These peculiar emotional attachments we have; our families, sibllings, children, lovers, friends. Reason tells us that these relationships are illogical, and as much as they bring us joy, they certainly bring us commensurate amounts of pain.
Many have examined the psychological and physiological basis of love and attachment, with popular theories purporting love to be a ‘survival technique’ – especially in the case of children, who are reliant on their parent’s care for many years.
In romantic love all sorts of intriguing physical reactions go on, involving neurochemicals and sex hormones; testosterone, estrogen, dopamine and oxytocin among others. A general view has been formed that romantic love is driven by sex-drive (desire) partner-choice and finally, attachment.
Given that we know that romantic love is based on mere chemical reactions, why don’t we eschew such fickle relationships and live without out it? Some do, either by choice or lack, but a remarkable number of us consistently seek out partners to share our earthly hours.
Do we choose wisely? Not always. We have all been in situations where we know a person, whose ‘love interest’ has been totally unworthy of the emotional investment. As observers, we can look objectively at that person and shake our heads and wonder, “what on earth do they see in him/her?” Or later, look back over our own ex’s and wonder the same thing.
We observe all sorts of ‘romantic’ relationships going on around us. Many are nowhere near what could be described as ‘true love’. Too often we ‘settle’ for something that isn’t right, for a variety of reasons, perhaps the most compelling being, not wanting to be alone. On the topic of true love, I’ve recently been asked, “how do you know it’s the real thing?” (As many a love song song goes.)
This is the only honest equation I can give, and its not given lightly or without experience. When it comes to REAL love, it strikes from the very beginning, “Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?”* (This can be observed in a most obvious way, when a mother and father sight their newborn child.)
The real McCoy (and beware of the many, dressed-up decoys) is unequivocal, certain in its intensity, uncompromising in its strength, and incorporates an instant recognition and equality. You get along well, with few conflicts, because you are on the same wavelength – and there is a very, very strong spiritual element to it, (shying away from the awful, oft-misused term ‘soul mate’).
Shakespeare pens it better:
“ Love alters not when alteration finds, nor bends with the remover to remove… it is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken…but bears it out even to the edge of doom.”
Once, I asked a class of mixed-age students, who they REALLY loved? (The qualifying question was, “who would you die for?”) This is the list I got:
4. Romantic partner (but not always)
5. Other relatives (but not always)
The parents in the room had similar answers, but with their children in the number one position. (Only once did I get a “no one” and that same person was later diagnosed a sociopath.)
I believe it all goes back to childhood. How we learn to love, who we learn to love and how we first experience emotional attachment(s).
Romances may last a lifetime or not … but REAL LOVE relationships endure to the very end and (I like to think) through all eternity. The energy of real love is not dimmed by distance or time. Neither is it affected by relationship status or situation. It burns as brightly whether the person is with us, apart from us, or no longer living. (Whether that person reciprocated our love, or otherwise.)
When you consider the opposite emotion, hate –and all the evil that this manifests on our planet, there is real comfort and optimism to be had from love and all that it entails. Real love is the beacon that burns brightly down the centuries, like a lighted lamp in the window of humanity.