Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where Is The Love?

Everywhere I look, I can't seem to escape it. If it's not someone in my life expressing their confusion about the topic, seeing articles debating countless 'schools of thought,' or wondering about it myself. I just cannot get away. Love.

Is it the core of our being that makes us human, a cruel hoax that we're made to believe exists thanks to chick flicks, or a happy little bonus in our otherwise mundane lives.

I really don't know.

A few years ago, back in October of 2005, (It was shocking to realize how old this blog is), my college gal pals founded a blog to talk about love, the lack thereof, and be able to share ideas and thoughts. Slowly and quite unbelievably, Fabulous Females has been viewed over 40,000 times and has featured dozens of contributors. The most surprising... many of them MEN. I'm still proud of our guy contributors for not being embarassed to post on a blog with the color pink as a theme.

One of the posts that has stood out to me over all this time was written by my college friend and sorority sister, Margy. Titled, "The One" - The Man. The Myth. The Legend.

While trying to locate Margy's post so that I could re-read it's contents, I came to a conclusion. We've been blogging away on Fabulous Females for about two and a half years. Although it's been very uplifting, supportive, and has created a wonderful community of young people - I truly wonder if any of us feel ANY closer to figuring out love. Love. That age old enigma, mystery of life, what supposedly makes the world go round.

I know a guy who isn't sure what it is. He says his parents have it and he wants it for himself. (I know his parents, and they do seem very happily in love) He's a bold, intelligent, interesting, friendly, passionate, strong man. Until recently, I had no idea he was so clueless about this. But then it hit me - he's far from alone.

When this guy asked me for my definition, I had a difficult time giving him one. I felt like that Supreme Court justice Potter Steward, who, when asked what pornography was, replied, "I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it." That may sound absurd, but it hits home for me. Two people may feel exactly the same way about each other and one person may be sure it's love, the other may not. If everyone's definition of love is different, does love really exist as a definable term? Why would it if no one can agree on what the heck it is?

Many of us probably think, "Sure, I know what love is." But do we? I'm now convinced that the majority of the modern population wouldn't know love if it bit them in the ass while on fire. Scary isn't it? Someone can think they're in love one minute, then question it the next. It happens all the time. There are no guarantees.

What does that mean for marriage? It's no wonder divorce rates are so high, extramarital affairs are so prevalent, and singles feel terrified to date. If we don't know what love is, if everyone's definition contrasts, and no one knows how to love - we're never going to have it. When I looked up the term "soulmate" I got this article on as one of the results.

Quite randomly, my friend Melinda sent me an interesting article on "Settling" which linked to this article. It was written by a single woman who had a child on her own via a sperm donor. While I'm not sure if I agree on her points for settling for someone you're not in love with, I did find some of her arguments to be interesting. Including her answer to this question:

How, then, do you know a relationship is right?

Our culture has this view that you should just know if someone’s right for you. And that when you just know you’ll have no ambivalence or reservations, and you’ll never wonder if you’re truly in love, even if you fight all the time and you break up 17 times the way Rachel and Ross did in Friends or Carrie and Big did in Sex and the City. And so often you’ll hear in fiction or film or TV, or even at people’s weddings, these accounts of “We knew from the very first date, or after two weeks, that we would end up together.”

I have trouble with that because I’ve felt that certainty with boyfriends when I first met them. I’ve felt that incredible He’s the one or I just know. But then six months or a year or two years later we discovered we weren’t right for each other. It reminds me of the old Chris Rock joke that goes something like: “In the first three months of a relationship, you’re not you, you’re the ambassador of you.” How can you “just know” as soon as you meet someone? You have to peel the onion of who that person is and figure out if you work together.

Meantime, another friend of mine, Sarah, had this to say about the subject:

I hate our cultural definition of love. It's becoming intolerable to me that people always count the depth of love by the depth of their feelings. It sets couples up for huge disappointments when real life sets in -- in every romantic comedy, there's some kind of period where the couple has a fight/miscommunication/misunderstanding and split for awhile, but then they make up in the end, and for the last ten minutes of the movie everything is swoony and happily-ever-after, and that's where it ends. And people seem to expect the same kind of thing in their actual relationships -- that when something happens to "lessen" the feelings of love, the "make up" period will bring all the romance and perfect giddiness back.

It doesn't work that way. People have fights. People have individual needs that continually war with a unified relationship. Love isn't about feelings. It's about choice, commitment, sacrifice and action. When the feelings are there, it's nice and wonderful, but they won't always be there, especially in the long term, when couples undergo multiple ordeals together that strains their relationship. The reason so many relationships, even marriages, fall apart at that stage is they base the reality of their love on how they feel. Rather like in the parable of the sower, those seeds that "receive the word with joy," but have no root, and wither as soon as some kind of tribulation occurs.

Love, real love, isn't how you feel. It's what you DO. Love is about getting past flimsy feelings, which come and go depending on circumstances, hormonal changes (even in guys), tiredness, stress levels, and expectation. Love is about choice. If you love someone, and say you do, it means you're CHOOSING to love them, as in love them actively, sacrificing yourself when called to, and committing yourself to the other person regardless of how you might feel.

Men these days in particular don't seem to understand this at all. They get themselves "confused" because they have no clue what it means to love.

Read 1 Corinthians 13. Nowhere in those amazing verses which truly and biblically define love does it mention, "Love is always aware of itself based on feelings." What it does say, over and over, is that a person's actions demonstrate that person's love.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

I agree that chemistry is important in an intimate relationship, and that a relationship ought to start with those feelings of excitement and affection and sexual tension and joy and emotional intimacy and physical if there was never any of that to begin with, forget it. But as a relationship progresses, the good hard facts need to be taken into account, and those facts include the ebb and flow of romantic feelings. A guy who doesn't understand that during the dating period will have difficulty understanding that in marriage. If he has no concept of the real depth of true love, and what love entails, he's still immature.

And besides, the concept of "the one" is stupid.

We deserve someone who will choose to love you in action, as well as regard us with affection, romance, and tenderness. The latter without the former is trying to live on a diet of ice cream -- fun at first, but unfulfilling and nutritionally deprived.

I am continually disappointed with the lack of love that exists in the world. People can have a tendency to be selfish, heartless, and void of any real emotions in their lives. I see it all the time. The ones who care about the way their perceived, but don't realize they're missing out on the real deal. A life worth living, one that's full of cherished relationships and memories.

My favorite new TV show is the Millionaire Matchmaker on Tuesday nights on Bravo.

Patti Stanger has hit the nail on the head. I absolutely love this woman. She's a Jewish matchmaker for millionaires to meet their true loves. She's a gal I've come to admire for making her life's work helping people lead happier lives. Fat Jewish Guy got to interview her at a Sephora store, and I have to say... I'm jealous.

Her mission is to return men and women to more proper courtship and has strict rules for her dating club. This show is fascinating and oddly, I feel I've learned some very valuable things from it. And for once, a reality TV show that doesn't glorify horrendous female/male behavior is on the airwaves.

I'm not a person who's had a ton of experience with love, but I'm in love now. It didn't happen from a checklist of qualifications, or from a magical fairytale land. It exists for me, and I'm not exactly sure how.

One conclusion I've come to is that real love doesn't have restrictions, limits, or needs. It is more of an 'unconditional' state of being. It is given freely without expecting anything in return. You're able to love regardless of the outcome, consequences, or hurt that you experience through the process.

Anyhow, my challenge to you out there is to have that quest for yourself. Try to figure out the meaning of the most important emotion/relationship that's out there. If you don't know what it is, how are you going to experience love? As Patti Stanger says, "Once you have it, you'll never want anything else."

And I have a mission. To do my best to figure out this thing called love and help others experience love in their lives. That's a promise.


thesciencegirl said...

I love this post. I have these ideas in my head about what love is, but having never been in romantic love, I don't know if any of those ideas will hold up. I do agree so much with Sarah about people putting too much importance on their current, transient state of happiness, too much on the feeling and not enough on the doing. I'm reading The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis and in it, the demon Screwtape laughs at the silly humans who exalt the "storm of emotions" of "being in love" above the designs that God clearly laid out for relationships (namely, marriage) between men and women.

We have, as a society, exalted the giddiness of falling in love (and lust) to the point that the comfort and challenges and growing phase of real relationships is now considered grounds for breaking things off, because people feel that they've "fallen out of love." Love, I think, generates wonderful, powerful emotions, but it is not merely the emotions themselves. When God tells us that He loves us, it is does not mean that He is currently pleased with us, that we amuse Him, that our relationship is perfect. When we say that we love our family members, it does not mean that we necessarily like them all that much right now or that they are lots of fun to be with or that they bring us joy. People are perfectly willing to accept a definition of true, unconditional love for God and family and even friends that they will not apply to romantic love. Why is that?

Ä‘ream said...

I would find it hard to believe that our God, a God of love could in us, imitations of Him, create love as a cruel hoax for relationships between one another. between us and him. Chick flicks of course, are no creation but our own idealistic wishes that make love what we wish it were - deep, everlasting, but also convenient.. and often it isn't convenient. But i think thats part of what love is all about, the part that makes it worth it is also the part that could wound you most. How can you climb to such great heights if you never started at the bottom of the mountain? Would you know what it is to be happy if you never knew what it was like to be sad? Could you enjoy the warmth of a fireplace if it wasn't cold outside? Maybe love is like that. It's this little shelter when we're standing in the rain.. thats really just the porch step to a far greater palace if we'd just turn around.
You can search forever to find out the meaning of love, ask every happily married man or woman, every poet with success, every songwriter who made it big, but there will always be something more to learn because like God the creator, I think the depth of love is endless, and maybe just as personal in the way that we come to understand it. Maybe love is not something someone can just define and give it to you, its something that has to be caught and really shared. Any Christian would try and try and try to be the most like Jesus they could be, but we all know that it is a limitless endeavor. We know He is perfect and that we should ever strive to be more like Him, and perfection is not attainable, we will always fall short - but that doesn't mean we stop trying. So while we may never understand love enough to satisfy our questions, we don't stop seeking to have it or give it or spread it. But it definitely, definitely means a choice.
And i think i believe that love is dynamic. It grows with time, with experience, with patience. "in love" is something the world may have defined, but "love" in itself gives way to something that opens when two souls start to connect. How deep can a relationship go? I dont think "defined" is the right word for love, its more something along the lines of "understood". Marriage should be the biggest act of sacrifice and servitude most people will experience in their lives. Some people can't accept that. But we know that love is good, because love is found in the happy places - in a successful marriage, in the deepest friendships, in our God.
They say 'a pictures worth a thousand words' but I think it's worth so much more. A picture is received differently from person to person and they way it may incite a particular emotion to one person may not hold true for another. How do you describe the colour red? Maybe you see passion and glory, and someone else sees violence and danger, or another sees tomato soup. Maybe love is like that, and it's on a different dimension than words and expressions can ever fully touch.

Good luck on your mission! It may end up to be an everlasting one (or maybe not, I haven't figured it out yet), but may it also be a rewarding one.

Jennifer said...

Thanks dream, for your input and support!

la persona said...

I just came your blog anew. This is lovely. ¨'unconditional' state of being¨ ... wow. I´ll be mulling that over for awhile.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Joey! How are you??