L o v e. It's the madness of the gods, according to the Ancient Greeks. We write, cry, laugh, rhyme and sing about it. Crazy in love. I can’t help, falling in love with you... You make loving fun. Love me, love me say that you love me. More than words. Nothing compares to you. How deep is your love? It must have been love, but it’s over now. Cry me a river. Now you’re just somebody that I used to know. I will survive.
"Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love." - Susan Sontag.
Love is central to all human stories. It’s that feeling of a warm summer's day. The look of a kid in a water park. All the colours of the rainbow, woven into one.
Love is one of the few things in our world that cannot be bought. It cannot be manipulated. We cannot make ourselves love someone. It’s a force of nature that sneaks up on us, and temporarily changes the hue through which we see the world.
Falling in love affects our brain in a similar way to cocaine and other recreational drugs. The infusion of adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin all explain the wonderful yet somewhat irrational feelings that take over. However like the laws of gravity, what goes up, must come down. If you’re willing to feel the high, you have to be willing to feel the low.
Love is perhaps one of the most coveted, and simultaneously feared things on planet. We yearn for love, and yet many of us are truly terrified by the prospect. The lack of control, the feelings of helplessness, the many tales of unrequited love. Even when we have love we're scared to lose it.
In the back of our minds, we’re aware that often love ends. Sad, but true. People change. People fall out of love. People grow apart.
"Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one… Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements... But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S Lewis.
Perhaps the only thing worse than heartbreak, is a heart that's unbreakable. Philosopher Bertrand Russell warned “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” That's because love is perhaps the greatest human experience.
So what exactly is love? It is a word thrown about so easily. Gone are the days of love letters, where people declared undying love and even world wars couldn't keep them apart. In today's world people love many over the course of their lives. What is actual love? What is mere words? And what is just settling?
"True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen." - François de La Rochefoucauld.
Scientists break love down in three stages. Yes, even scientists endorse swoonery.
1. Lust. "Love is friendship that has caught fire" - Ann Landers.
The first stage is attraction. Boy meets girl. Or boy meets boy. Or girl meets girl… You get the picture. It’s all about attraction, and primal instincts. Desire. The sex hormones kick in, and make us want someone. This is the emotionless safe zone. Sparks can fly, but fear not. You can go from person to person, fling to fling and your heart will remain unscathed. Sadly you miss out on love if you live your life in this arena. Cue the playboy or nymph who secretly fear rejection and heartbreak.
2. Swoonery. “Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony.” - The Supremes.
This is perhaps the funnest phase. The feeling of love. The breathlessness, the excitement, the daydreaming, giddiness and straight swooning. You have a spring in your step. You lose your appetite. You find it difficult to sleep. No one makes you feel this way. You’ve never felt this way before. Your memory is slightly skewed, sitting behind love tinted glasses. Whilst this is all very enchanting, and you can have meaningful connections, if you stay here you evade reality. You miss the reward of truly knowing someone and letting yourself be known.
3. Attachment. "Love is a flower, you've got to let it grow" - John Lennon.
Hormones permeate the body, giving feelings of attachment and security. Attachment lingers close to commitment, perhaps one of the most terrifying words on the planet. We live in a world with so many choices. They are part of what make us human. Choices represent our freedom and individualism. The idea of wading through all these prospects, and choosing one option is a scary thought. Only one. One. One. One. Yet this is perhaps where love really sits. It’s not gliding along the highs of life. Love encompasses the natural ebbs and flows, the ups and downs, the laughs and the tears. These are a necessary part of the human existence.
"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement… That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident." - Louis de Bernières
Perhaps our society's problem with love is not love itself, but the fact that we feel pressured to commit before we are ready. Before we’ve seen the world, found ourselves, fallen for the wrong and the right people. Because to fall in love at the right time, coming from the right place is one of the most magical things in all the world. And maybe, just maybe worth the potential heartbreak.