The voluminous reactions to my last blog (Marriage is the leading cause of divorce!), left me with no other choice but to take a step back and reflect. I felt that by jumping straight into the onslaught of divorce, without giving ‘love’ its fair share of space, was a gross disservice to the human race. So here goes.....
Plato said that ‘love is a grave mental disease’ and, if you’ve ever been in love you would probably agree with him. Isn’t falling in love like going to war without any armour? Isn’t it like throwing a newborn kitten to the wolves? When you fall in love your heart is wide open which means that someone can get inside and mess it all up. The feeling is unsurprisingly very similar to being addicted to heroin, in fact scientists have discovered that the same chemical process that takes place with drug addiction, takes place when we fall in love.
So, you reach adulthood proud of not having fallen for the peer pressure to abuse drugs, you don’t even smoke so you think that you’re finally out of the dangers of addiction. Then, suddenly, someone comes out of nowhere, and for some unexplainable reason you let them wander into your life, you even give them the best part of you and the power to turn it into a hamburger patty.
This is when your heart can be taken hostage by a bunch of love terrorists armed with the latest automatic weapons. This is also when your soul is taken to a secret hideout, gagged up, tied to a chair and made to bleed just for kicks. And because we’re all helpless addicts you hang in there, even though it’s painful, even when you’re being ignored, or when your self esteem has been beaten to a pulp. Sometimes we even hang around when they tell us that they love somebody else, so we stalk them, dream about them, and honestly believe that we could never be happy without them.
The process starts very early in life – as soon as we hit puberty we are injected with a vile concoction of lust. Without this lethal dose of oestrogen and testosterone that messes up our brains we would never ever find that special someone, because in our right minds, we would never be interested enough in a stranger. Lust is what keeps us ‘looking around’, whilst our desire for romance is what leads us to attraction... and the continued inability to think rationally.
The old saying ‘love is blind’ is not entirely accurate, because in the early throws of a relationship love is not only blind but deaf, dumb and sometimes very stupid. At this point we are oblivious to any flaws that our partner might have, we cannot get our minds off them, and we are disgustingly interested in every detail of their life...and to the determent of our friends’ sanity, we also think that everybody else is. If all goes well, once this phase is over, we become attached enough to each other to stay together when the smoke from this chemical bomb has died down.
Contrary to popular belief, psychologists at the University of Texas in Austin have concluded that those who idealize their partner stay in relationships longer that those who can’t or don’t – “Usually, this is a matter of one person putting a good spin on the partner, seeing the partner as more responsive than he or she really is” says Ted Huston, the study’s lead investigator. So, if this study is true, despite all advice to the contrary, it’s actually not a good idea to keep your feet on the ground. Seeing your partner for what they really are, without some of the glitter that your brain drummed in the first phase of your relationship, might in fact be the beginning of the end.
This is also the reason why unrequited love lasts the longest, hurts the deepest and feels the strongest – love that we cannot have does not allow us to go through the normal process of lust-attraction-attachment, so it remains suspended somewhere between one of the stages driving our neurons crazy!
The point of the matter is that the giddiness that we feel when we first fall in love - that racing heart, flushed skin and sweaty palms - are simply a result of a dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine that together release a pleasure cocktail into our bloodstream. But it is important to remember that there is a logical and obvious reason why the symptoms of elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and focused attention, are restricted to that ‘crazy, can’t-think-of-anything-but-you’ stage.
During this stage of a relationship we can only focus intently on the relationship and on little else, and this is precisely what makes it entirely unsustainable. If this feeling had to last forever we’d have to give up everything else, because the last time I checked people with drug addictions can hardly sustain themselves let alone have successful careers and loving families.
So when the initial gaiety and butterflies subside, don’t panic. Your relationship is not over. No it’s not time to move on to someone else. This is simply life’s way of letting you get on with it.
Unfortunately as much as I would like to claim it as my own, the final point that I would like to make has already been made by Woody Allen. So I leave you with it to ponder on:
"To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down."