Monday, August 13, 2007

Thoughts on love

I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is, whether or not I’m really feeling it, and why it can be so hard.

In the dictionary, “love” is defined as:

a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.

sexual passion or desire.

There’s of course, many other definitions, but they tend to gravitate towards the use of the word “love” as a nick-name or term of endearment or the term as a verb for lovemaking, etc.

I agree with the first two definitions, but I think the third definition applies more to the word “lust” than “love” – although it can definitely be a part of “love.” I think definitions one and three combined do well to create a literary definition of love between a man and a woman on paper. However, despite that seemingly short definition, love is nowhere near that simple.

In February 2006, National Geographic ran a big article called “Love: The Chemical Reaction.” In it, they proved that the initial euphoria and feeling of falling in love with someone was created by the release of certain chemicals in the brain. However, usually within the first year a couple was together, the brain ceased to release these chemicals. As you would expect, the passion died. Some couples stayed together and moved into more of a friendship relationship while some split up and looked for new partners, which would once again result in the release of these chemicals.

I have friends that run from relationship to relationship always needing something new and fresh to stay excited running at the earliest sign of trouble. I have friends that stay in seemingly miserable relationships that from an outsider’s standpoint they should have run from a long time ago. What makes a person stay or leave? Is it purely chemical? Is it some sort of emotional commitment/abandonment issues? Is it maturity? Is it simply a fear of dying old and alone?

With 6 billion people in the world, how do you meet just one that you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with? It seems impossible, yet people do it every day.

Both sets of my grandparents made it past the 50-year mark. My parents are headed towards 30. Yet, the first time around I couldn’t even make it 2 years. Most people date their high school sweat hearts longer than that.

Some say that when you meet Mr./Mrs. Right, it just works. In my experience that’s true – for about a month. Then the emotional scars, conflicting schedules, and daily stresses start taking a toll, and the work to make it work begins. I’ve talked to all my successfully married friends, and none of them deny some seriously rough times in their first two or three years of marriage. Looking at my parents’ marriage, I know that the rough times extend far beyond the first few years. People change. They grow, they find new interests, they get frustrated, they get hurt. Quiz a person on their beliefs, goals and dreams today and check in with them in five years. I think would be incredibly rare to find someone with the same answers because with each new experience, you’re never quite the same person you were before.

I’ve heard from an incredibly wise old man that over the course of a marriage, you’ll fall in and out of love many, many times. If that’s true, which I’m pretty sure it is, a lot of work must go into keeping those relationships alive. But how do you decide whether or not a relationship is worth the work?

I know some people might put in the work because they feel it’s their duty in the eyes of God. Some people might put in the work for the sake of their children. Some people might put in the work because it’s all they know, and the idea of leaving their comfort zone is far scarier than riding out a storm.

I don’t have kids, I’m not married, and I’m not afraid to be alone. What incentive do I ever have to make things work with someone instead of running for that next chemical rush? I mean, you have to admit, there’s nothing quite as incredible as a first kiss. Why not trade a lifetime of work for a blissful string of first kisses?

I’ll tell you why. Because I tried this, and it’s lonely. It’s empty. Yes, there’s a heady rush of excitement every time you’re with somebody new, but there’s no substance there. And that lack of substance eventually leaves you more damaged and lonely than when you began.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know that when I see a beautiful sunset, when I hear a funny joke, when I really like a new song, when I feel bad and need someone to talk to, there’s only one girl that comes into my mind that I would most like to share those things with. There’s one girl that despite no matter how mad I am at her, I still have a longing in me to make her smile. There’s one girl that I’m actually happy to share a tiny twin bed with in a hot cabin whereas with any other person I would have insisted on just sleeping on one of the other empty twin beds. There’s one girl who can say something as corny as “Hay look” when we pass a hay field and can make me giggle for 15 minutes. There’s one girl, that despite not wanting to believe it, is every bit as dorky and clumsy as me.

When it comes to anything worth sharing with somebody else, there’s one girl that comes to my mind. And THAT is why I work for it.

So as I was floating down the river this weekend staring up at the big blue Texas sky and pondering all these thoughts, I came up with my own definition.

True Love: Being dedicated enough to swallow your pride, face your fears, and actually put out the effort to make a relationship worth having actually work.
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