by Grant Porteous, LMSW
Just before Valentine’s Day someone put some good questions to me about love and romance and all that stuff and it got me thinking about matters of the heart. For instance, why is it you can be intensely attracted to someone and at the same time know they wouldn’t be very good for you? Or, can you really be happily married 50 years? Or is it possible to sustain romance? Or, why does the spark of chemistry seem to disappear – and is it supposed to?
To answer some of these questions it may depend on your definition of love, and whether or not you’re talking about sexual attraction or the sometimes wonderfully obsessive, ‘I can’t eat / sleep / stop thinking about you experience we equate with ‘real’ / emotional love. Also, it can be hard to tell the difference when both kinds of feelings get mixed up together. Is it love or is it lust? To make matters more confusing, sometimes the feelings don’t get mixed up together – and in fact we wish they would! Like a physical attraction that lacks a deep emotional connection, or a deep emotional affection that lacks sexual passion. This love and romance stuff can be downright hard.
So what’s going on? The brain seems to be part of the problem since it has different control centers working on these two different issues. One part, according to science, controls the sex drive, while a different part affects what we think of as romantic love – that craving and focusing on one special person. But these two control centers aren’t always on the same page. Which is why you can have ‘okay’ sex with someone you deeply love, and be intensely attracted sexually to someone you may not even like all that well.
Well, what’s the big deal? The big deal from where I sit is that people struggle all the time with this contradiction of feelings. It wrecks otherwise good relationships, ruins no shortage of marriages, and long before that happens it helps people make all kinds of poor life choices. And while there are workshops and counseling and advice galore to remind us that love isn’t a feeling, and fools rush in, etc., etc., it seems in matters of the heart it can be hard to hear anything over the roar of our own emotions and desires. We want what we want, and we want it regardless the cost.
So what’s love got to do with it? I’d love to hear what you think.