Is Your Love Real?
Love plays a central role in our lives. We use and misuse the word “love” every day. We say, “I love pizza,” and the next minute, “I love my mother.” We also use the word “love” to explain different behaviors. The parent indulges all the child’s wishes, calling it love.
The family therapist would call it irresponsible parenting. The wife of an alcoholic or abusive husband picks up the pieces after the latest incident. She calls it love, but psychologists call it co-dependency.
So, what is love?
From a biological perspective, scientists view love as a mammalian drive, much like hunger or thirst.
Helen Fisher, a leading expert on the topic of love, divides the experience of love into three overlapping stages: lust, attraction, and attachment.
The feeling of sexual desire. It is the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes mating and involves the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen. These effects rarely last more than a few weeks or months.
Attraction is the more individualized and romantic desire for a specific candidate for mating, which develops out of lust as a commitment to an individual, forms. Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals. Chemicals including the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin; the same compounds released by amphetamine, stimulating the brain’s pleasure center. This can lead to side effects such as an increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one-and-a-half to three years.
This involves sharing a home, parental duties, mutual defense, and in humans the feelings of safety and security. It is the bonding that promotes lasting relationships for many years and even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as marriage and children, or a mutual friendship based on things like shared interests. It has been linked to higher levels of the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin, to a greater degree than short-term relationships have.
As a side note, I would like to mention that the medications that affect neurotransmitters in the brain place a huge toll on people’s feelings and emotions. We might just need to find “Love” instead of “Prozac.”
When we “fall in love,” we are emotionally obsessed.
We go to sleep thinking of each other. When we rise, that person is the first thought on our minds. We can’t see flaws and imperfections. We think that he/she is the perfect person to have a family with. Eventually, our eyes start to open.
What do you see? Who is that person?
He shows a capacity to hurt and anger, harsh words and critical judgment. Her weirdness is annoying and unpleasant. Welcome to the real world of marriage, where hairs are always in the sink and little white spots cover the mirror. Where shoes don’t walk to the closet and coats don’t like hangers. In this reality, a look or a word can hurt. Intimate lovers can become enemies, and marriage a war zone.
What happened with those euphoric and pleasant feelings?
Once the experience of falling in love has run its natural course (the average in-love experience lasts two years), we return to the world of reality. We see differences in the other person, behaviors that you never expected, family values and traditions that are opposite to yours. Reality begins to distance two individuals who once couldn’t even imagine being separated. When falling out of love, they either withdraw, separate, divorce, look for a new love experience, or they begin the hard work of learning to love each other without of euphoria of in-love obsession.
“Real love” is emotional but not obsessive.
It involves an act of the will and requires discipline. It recognizes the need for personal growth. We need to be loved by someone who chooses to love us, who sees in us something worth loving.
How do we meet each other’s deep, emotional need to feel loved?
If we learn and choose to do it, then the love we share will be exciting, beyond anything we ever felt. Unfortunately, marriage doesn’t come with instructions. We each come to committed relationships with a different personality and family history. We bring emotional baggage into our marriage relationships. We come with different expectations, opinions, values, and different ways approaching things.
In a healthy marriage, we try to accept each other’s likes and dislikes, adapt to differences in our habits, and find each other’s love language.
Each person has a primary love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved. The way I feel loved is different than my husband. And if we speak different love languages, we miss the whole conversation. Imagine, one person speaks English and tries to communicate with someone else who speaks only Chinese. My spouse used to say, “I love you in my own way.” I could never understand that and wanted to be loved my way.
After discovering our own and each other’s primary love languages our communication improved. Now we know how to fill each other’s emotional love tank.
So, how full is your love tank?
Do you speak the same love language as your partner? Please share with us in the comments section below!