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Chapter 3 Love

Above almost all else, people want to love and be loved.

– Anonymous


Hmm, so we’re wired to love and be loved. Well that explains a lot, because as soon as we hit puberty, love seems to be a huge topic that takes up a lot of our time. But what exactly is love and why is it so full of such huge highs and lows? I’ll try to answer those questions in this chapter.

Buddy Holly put it well:

“It’s so easy to fall in love.”

And I added: 

“but it’s really hard to stay in love, especially if you’re young.”

Here are some of the issues:

·       Your hormones are raging and urging you to find a mate and breed at a time when you don’t have the experience, patience, or sufficient control over your emotions to be able to make a good choice for a mate or act in a way that will preserve the relationship, once you've chosen someone.

·      So many people look good to you, it’s hard to pick just one, and you may find yourself being in love with several or many people in the same day or even at the same time. And besides confusion, and a complicated life, that can lead to jealousy and anger – neither is a good fit with love.

·       If someone likes you back, and your self-esteem isn’t high, you may think that may be the only person who will ever like you, and so you fall hard for them in a dependent way – again, not a good way to make love last.

·       Also at this age, you’ll be choosing from a rather small sample of all the potential partners on the planet. So the chance of finding your soulmate, in your town, early in your life, are pretty slim.

·       Every time you fall in love, the person you fall in love with looks perfect to you – for a while. Once you get to know them better, you see that they’re less than perfect, because no one’s perfect. So good chance you’ll fall out of love with them and find someone else who really is perfect – well, perfect for awhile at least – again.

We’re genetically wired to desire each other in order to make babies so that the human race can continue. It's in our DNA, and it’s that way because it works.  In prehistoric times, when the lifespan of humans was much shorter, it was important that humans had their kids early in life and still had a few good years left to raise their kids to an age where they could care for themselves and then have their own kids. If you figure people had babies in their early teens and raised their kids to that age; then if they died in their late 20’s or early 30’s, there’d be no impact to the survival of the human race.  But it was, and still is, easy for feelings of lust, (our very basic urge to keep the human species going), to get confused with feelings of love. “Love at first sight” is probably better stated as “lust at first sight.” First comes a sexual attraction, possibly followed by feelings of love. So what is this feeling of love? Basically it’s another wired-in survival mechanism to allow humans to continue on the planet. If your feelings of wanting to breed with someone are associated with feelings toward that person that they’re very special and that you should care for them and help them, it can only increase the chance that the kids who are born will survive, and thus the human species will continue.

As I’m sure many of you have already seen, love fades, not always, but almost always. For teenagers love happens often and very intensely. The following quote is from a boy’s perspective, about girls.

“I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty… you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.” – Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s classic book, The Catcher in the Rye

So do girls have the same instantaneous incapacitating response to a cute guy? Well, not exactly…   Biological response studies indicate that, on average, males are much more visually driven and have more powerful immediate responses. But if you go a bit beyond the visual and give it a little time, you’re looking at some pretty similar responses that transcend genders.

*** 

Love is a feeling that you have about someone that, at least initially, makes them look perfect in your eyes, and like someone that you want to be with constantly and forever. So, after you’ve had this feeling a bunch of times about different people and seen it fade a bunch of times, maybe even turn into feelings of dislike or hate, you start to wonder about the forever part – or at least you should. (Remember that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result.) The point is that the initial feelings of perfection don’t last, so before you commit to children or marriage with a person, you really need to know what life would be like with that person. And more time and more life experience is what you need to be able to know that. A good learning exercise would be to ask someone  over 25, what they now think of their teenage soulmate  love(s).

One of the reasons that love fades is that, in the beginning, the two lovers are motivated to make themselves as attractive and irresistible to the other person as possible. After a while, once they stop trying so hard, love can die, if it wasn't based on much more than the initial attraction.

Teenagers aren’t that good at falling in love for the right reasons, i.e., reasons that would make for a lasting, fulfilling relationship. With a relative lack of experience, they’re attracted to good looking, healthy people, often without enough attention being paid to "what's on the inside." This was an OK choice when humans were evolving – i.e.,  when a good choice for a mate was someone who was likely to produce good children and be able to defend against physical dangers, e.g., saber-toothed tigers and wooley mammoths. But in our 21st century civilized world, the need to have one's mate defend against physical danger has been replaced by the existence of police forces and armies. And now desirable characteristics  are e.g., being smart and able to get a good high-paying job, and understanding the intricacies of financial matters, as well as being respectful and loving unconditionally. The point is that humans evolved with one set of characteristics being needed and the evolution of civilization itself has changed that.  And if you're not using your brain to overcome the urgings of your DNA and your hormones, life might not work out as well for you as you hoped. 

A healthy person is still a good choice for a lover, but someone who’s too good looking could just be too high maintenance and self-involved, and therefore no longer a good choice.

“If you want to be happy for the rest of your life,

Never make a pretty woman your wife.

So for my personal point of view, 

Get an ugly girl to marry you.”

From the song, “If You Want to Be Happy” by Frank Guida

Well, the above quote is a bit overstated. Attractive people can certainly be wonderful people and make great life partners. All I’m saying here is that appearances can be deceiving, e.g., external beauty automatically corresponding to inner beauty, and until you know someone very well, you may not have a clue about what they're really like.

***

Basically, love is an ongoing act of acceptance. Not the kind of acceptance that goes with accepting bad treatment from someone, but the kind that goes with two physically and emotionally healthy people being accepting and loving with each other. This is what you want, but don’t worry about finding it yet, as you’ll have plenty of time for that later when you’re older and more experienced. For now, it's OK to go with your heart, have fun, never put up with being treated badly, and don't make any life-limiting decisions yet, like having kids or getting married. 

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” – Peter Ustinov

 


Tear out Page for Chapter 3:

Love


·             Above almost all else, people want to love and be loved.

·             Your hormones are raging and urging you to find a mate and breed while you still lack experience and maturity for that.

·             Many people look good to you. Breathe, exhale, relax.

·             You may think that someone who likes you might be the only person who will ever like you – not likely.

·             As a teenager, you’ve seen only a rather small sample of all the potential soulmates on the planet. Take your time (like another decade or so) before settling down with someone.

·             Every time you fall in love, the person you fall in love with looks perfect to you, for a while, but of course they’re not. Eventually, you should get better at accepting this and focusing on their good qualities, and accepting their not so good qualities, as long as they’re treating you well.

·             We’re genetically wired to desire each other in order to make babies so that the human race can continue.  It’s that way because it works for the survival of the human species. Use your brain – wait to have kids.

·             In the beginning of love, people are extremely motivated to make themselves attractive and pleasing. After a while, they stop trying so hard and love can evaporate.  Learn to understand that and look for the “real” person under the initial façade.

·             Falling in love just with someone's appearance was a good idea in prehistoric times. The problem now is that our DNA still urges us to make that choice, when someone smart and nice would be better.  Once you're sure they're smart and nice, picking the cutest of that lot would be more than OK.


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