OF COURSE, LOVE IS NOT REAL’, those were my initial thoughts when taking the question as to the reality of love. Love is amorphous and difficult to grasp. At once cultural and biological, the chemical bond between attracted humans is one of the foundational cornerstones of our cultural narratives – we fixate, we create, we seek to understand, and we seek to control. But when looking at the reality of love, was I perhaps too brash to condemn it – and in fact, does our response to love say more about us than we’d like to hear.
In the strictest scientific sense, love is poorly understood. Two people meet, there is attraction, they court, they have intercourse and they bond. Waning over time, love – at least as it is understood by current research – thrives on variety, starves on routine and fortifies once it has bested the trial of many years. The result, for many couples, is that successful bonding over long time periods results in a state of neurological mirroring between the bonded pair that can leave them in many instances indistinguishable. Or as the Spice Girls put it, two become one.
Romantic love, some will tell you, has only existed as long as modern monogamy (which is to say, not very long at all), and that relationships were previously financial affairs. Now whilst I would largely agree with the latter, the former is, of course, a delusion which can be done away with by looking at the soul of storytelling engines across the stretch of human history. Love and the pursuit of true love could be said to be the most human pursuit of life itself.
But this pursuit is often dressed in ignorance.
SCARDEY-CATS AND DIMWITS
Our cultural interpretation of Love, as it is determined now, is split into camps of romantics and cynics. The cynics, known to us as cults like The Red Pill, MGTOW or NeoMasculinity offer us salvation from the ignorant pursuit of love, and the victimhood men face at the hands of women. On the other side of the gender, there are similar proclamations against men. The argument is the same across the board – generalisations, pseudoscience and small-mindedness; each seeing themselves as Odysseus resisting the fatal temptation of the sirens to which lesser people succumb. So poorly veiled, it is little surprise to find this is discrimination’s newest mask. These farcical crackpots are in better need of a therapist for their emotional issues than a soapbox for their beliefs. But hey, that’s free speech for you, and I’m hardly going to shit on that.
These cynical ideas are nothing new – the actions of one person are taken as divine proof of the actions of an entire group, often a gender. These beliefs are further driven home with poorly substantiated, cherry-picked studies, and fanatical arguments, often citing buzzword terms like masculinity, feminism or rationalism. In truth, these positions stink of emotional defence mechanisms and hopelessness. Can the people we love be cruel and heartless and manipulative? Yes. Are all people like this? No. A study of logic is all that’s needed to wash the mouth of these weak minded cowards.
The romantics lie across the harbour enjoying love as a pursuit of destiny and fate. But the idea of romantic, one true love, is a clog against the freedom of rational thought. The pipes, in this instance, are in desperate need of plumbing. As their cynic mirrors feast on demonization and short-sightedness, romantics drink an ocean of ignorance and stunted critical thought. The pursuit of true love makes for a fine story, but an aborted life. Romantic love, like any belief system, should be approached with caution, lest you be led astray. The seduction of this construct lies in the hope for a beautiful outcome to life, which can be found by anyone. That once the one true love is found, well then blissful happiness is yours. Not only does this idea bloat in its absurdity, but also stands guilty of murdering reason. The one true love is anonymous until found, and could be anyone – from the abusive husband to the emotionally distant girlfriend. Indiscretions forgiven and red flags ignored, the one true love delusion is the snug blanket away from reality and the ball and chain to emotional misfortune. But worse than that, it’s also the butcher of many relationships that had no right to die. How many couples have heedlessly rushed the process of human courtship and bonding only to tumble themselves headlong into stagnation and resultant separation? But then, how could they know better? The romantic idea of love is fertile ground for suffering and loss, and the wind in the sail of a malformed life direction. Think no further than the friend who abandoned their development for that special someone. When we’ve found our ‘other half’, identity wilts from an I into a we. Or in the case of the needy – them.
WELL, WHAT SHOULD I DO THEN?
But despite its shortcomings, love is essential and necessary. This article, despite its eviscerations isn’t meant to dissuade or delude, it’s meant only to express the caution in both racing to love, and retreating from it. Hiding from the pitfalls of love isn’t brave or admirable; it’s the pitiful response of someone beaten by life. Likewise letting yourself be swept up in a fantasy at the expense of your reason is simple stupidity, nothing more. But love persists, despite its warts. And of course it does, for it’s the glue that holds people together, which, for reasons that need no explanation, ensure the survival of our species.
So how should we approach love? With caution, to be sure, but we must also make ourselves vulnerable to it – if we want it. Love isn’t something that can be controlled, it’s a by-product of extended attraction and chemistry – but our lives are not governed by these forces. Our lives are manned by our wants and our perception of our identity – both in kind forming the engine of our direction. And that direction needs to sit hand in hand with our partners. This compatibility is essential, but in the maelstrom of emotions and lust, the breadcrumbs are often hard to spot. Our emotional weakness, in this instance, neediness, is our own undoing. Don’t blindly pick the unsuitable partner to sweep away your own loneliness. Don’t rush headlong into commitment without having your own life in place. Love is the reward for those who have secured their life, and dealt with their own emotions, but it is the trap of those who haven’t.
Beyond each other, love teaches us first, about ourselves. This universal impulse of the human condition holds such sway over us that simple reflection on how we interact with it speaks volumes. Do we let it sweep us away from reality like a mother sheltering her child from danger? Do hide from it like we did that thing in the dark?
Love, first and foremost, shows us where we are going wrong. All it asks in return is that we listen.