Perhaps we should meditate on the word ‘falling’ instead of ‘love’. To fall is to trip, tumble or plunge. It denotes imbalance and conjures up images of the accidental, and falling in love embraces it all. Indeed human beings can’t survive without some form of true love. But there are variances; the love for a child, a friend, a parent, and then there’s ‘falling in love’, the romantic kind that knocks us off our feet. Whilst making a decision to love someone is ultimately a personal choice, falling in love is not.
It’s sudden and all-consuming. It grabs at our heart with an alarming tenacity and no amount of self-will or discipline can undo it’s vice-like grip. It’s the source of great joy but also sadness and pain. The exalted state of euphoric exuberance we experience is akin to temporary insanity. There is an almost magical sense of wonder. Sensations and emotions are exquisitely heightened. Yet, this very sudden shift can thwart our thinking and skewer our vision. To define the characteristics of love’s language is almost impossible yet we crave it, seek it, and are even willing to die for it.
There’s an age-old proverb which states “Love has its reasons which reason knows nothing.” When it comes down to the science, experts have yet to come come up with a formula or antidote. Psychologists and philosophers alike have all tried to make sense of the nonsensical. Why one person falls hopelessly in love with another can’t be rationally explained. It is a recurring theme that has spawned some of the greatest writings, the subject matter of many artistic and sculptural genius’, and the central focus of many musical masterpieces.
From a physicians point of view, he can only observe the effects on the body; accelerating heart beats, reddening of the face and that quivering weakness of the knees when Cupid strikes hard. In biology, love is viewed impartially as the result of a simple hormonal reaction. In psychology books, Freud associated the feeling of being loved-up with a longing to return to childhood and the safety of the womb.
When you’re in love, you feel really good. You’re Immersed in a cocoon – a bubble of sorts. You feel energized, enthusiastic and the world is your oyster. However, this world is something that’s been created in your mind, and doesn’t necessarily exist in reality. So, if that bubble bursts, (usually when one person decides to step out of it), the resulting consequences can be devastating. Indeed, many couples get fooled into thinking that loving someone is more important than liking them. The reverse is true. Love can evoke ugly emotions just as much as the good ones. Resentment, jealousy (the green-eyed monster) and possessiveness can all raise their monstrous heads and wreak havoc in a very close relationship.
When we are in love, we are vulnerable and fragile and we seek to please the object of our affection. Mutual love is a beauty to behold. A strong and loving couple can face the trials of life together standing side by side. For those unfortunate enough to have their love unrequited, life can be harsh and lonely. It’s also true to say, many people deliberately choose to remain single, imposing self-made barriers to intimacy rather than risk being betrayed or rejected.
As love has no real rules or regulations, it’s hard to compile a list of subjective symptoms. Nonetheless, there are some common experiences that people report. Butterflies in the stomach; a topsy-turvy fluttering in the pit of the belly. Others speak of vivid, prophetic dreams prior to meeting their loved one. Many people describe it as fate, or just a sense of ‘coming home’ when they first gaze into the eyes of their soulmate. Here’s a further four features that indicate you’ve been struck by the love bug.
The body does not lie. If you find yourself before someone who makes your legs feel like jelly, or your heart races uncontrollably, it probably means that they ignite a physical desire in you. But there’s a vast difference between hormonal lust and genuine love. Increased adrenaline characterizes desire and passion while the release of dopamine causes dilation of the blood vessels. This is what is known as ‘the hormone of love’.
When we fall in love, we are susceptible and open. We are perfectly willing to give without any expectation in return. Unconditional love means to surrender self and put another’s needs first. Perhaps this is why we often say that “love is blind”. There is also a sense of being out of control and being at the mercy of your overwhelming feelings.
When in love, we often project and plan our futures. We envision our wedding day, setting up home, and even our children’s faces. We will go to great lengths to protect our happy dreams and schemes, blocking out everything that can potentially interfere with our happiness. Making long-term plans for a future together solidifies and stabilizes the relationship making us feel safe.
Love can create a dependency on another. The difference between needing someone and depending on them is clear to see. Dependency is never healthy and can drive couples apart. Relationships are not always satisfactory, yet we persevere. This sense of vocation and commitment, while maybe lacking in feverish fervour, is the best kind of love there is.