Is It Love? Or Luuuuuuuurrrrrvvveee?
Please take a moment and consider these actual song lyrics. (If you aren’t familiar and want to hear the songs, there is a hyperlink for each, which also includes song credits.)
(If you can’t tolerate Bob Dylan’s voice, try this link instead!)
Have you ever listened to (or been,) an adolescent swooning over someone they are attracted to? Doesn’t it sound a whole lot like those songs up there?
In adolescence, our frontal lobes, (the discernment centers,) snap off, detaching from the rest of the brain. This is why there is so much “all-or-none” in their thinking. It’s all we have the literal brain to manage.
So that guy is the cutest guy, ever!!! And ohmygodohmygodohmygod! We talked aaaallll night long! I never want to be without him!!!
It’s all so sweet. Until … it isn’t. The crash down off of Lurve Mountain can be brutal!
Not So Crazy
Between frontal lobes that are hanging on by a thread, and the “ultimate” love experience up to this point being in our infancy, adolescent assumptions do make an important kind of sense. When we are helpless infants, our caregivers really are our “everything;” We truly could not “live of living was without (them.)” In infancy, our caregivers had the genuine opportunity to “make it all better” when we were in distress.
Fast forwarding to adolescence, one of our most important tasks is to push away from those caregivers. We try to figure out who we are, separate and apart from those caregivers. But homeostasis is homeostasis: We are going to fill that chilly space with something familiar.
Enter adolescent “llluuurrrvvveee.”
Our knowledge of a “special love” is informed by our desire for that first experience of, or lack of, the caregiver-to-infant love. In that love, our needs were all that mattered, (at least, to us.) For better or for worse, we didn’t have a sense of that person as a separate being: We were dependent, symbiotic, not distinct.
Don’t forget, we start off inside of another human being. If our caregiver is that same human being, we simply expect to be their symbiont. If we have lost that person, whether literally, or due to the person’s physical presence and either emotional absence or unpredictable presence, our natural, psychological “righting reflex” is to try to find that kind of secure connection again, in someone else.
When we are young, with tattered frontal lobe connections, our love relationships very often replay that relationship. Sometimes we offer what we are craving, assuming it’s what the other person wants. Other times we just expect the other person to love us like our caregiver did. We are convinced something is horribly terribly wrong when they don’t want to spend every second with us or promise us “forever.”
When it doesn’t happen, we sing the blues. In fact, B.B. King sang this whole harsh revelation straight out: “Nobody loves me but my Mama baby; And she could be jiving too!”
Thanks for Nothing, Hollywood
In the current age, we have this idea that the kind of consuming, lose all of our distinctions, incomplete without the other person, infatuation is the ideal for romantic love. We fall for someone. We have all of the squishies for them. They are holding up the mirror to our most positive selves while we hold up the mirror to their most positive self.
We think we are falling in love with them; More accurately, we are falling in love with them falling in love with us. It can be so wonderful! All the zap zap, the anticipation, the breathlessness!
When things get more real — When our representative stops romancing their representative and our true, fully human, messy, funky flawed selves finally meet? We might think something is terribly wrong!
In our panic to bring the squishy zap zap back, we might clutch or cling. We might pull a Bob Dylan (/Adele/Billy Joel) on them and try to make them feel our love. This is like clutching a soft clay sculpture in your palm to keep it from changing. When you open your hand there will be nothing left but finger-shaped squashedness.
Some people find themselves getting infatuated with someone else who doesn’t know them so well; Someone who will hold up the mirror to their wonderfulness again. That infant scream inside can be deafening: “This person is giving me what I nnneeeeeeeed!!!” They decide they have “fallen out of love with” their current partner. They want to start over again with this new person.
Guess what happens most of the time? Yup — When their representative and the other person’s representative fade away and they face one another as they actually are, not only do they find this relationship has just as many flaws as the last one, but now it also has a baked-in mistrust because of the way it started. (“If she left him for me… she will leave me for someone else…”)
Love, Lurve, and Dessert
Don’t get me wrong, friends! I love the zap zap and the squishies as much as the next person. I’m all for finding ways to remember that specialness with partners. However, confusing llluuurrvvee for love is like confusing dessert for a sustainable eating plan and wondering why it only feels good for a short while. A good, sustainable eating plan can likely have wonderful dessert in it somewhere, but it’s just that — dessert.
Sustainable love is not weighted down with demands that we make everything right in the other person’s world, that we be their everything, or that they will die if we don’t meet the other person’s needs. Sustainable love is not dependent. That’s llluuurrrvve, not love. It’s like trying to live off of dessert.
Clearly sustainable love is not independent either. If we were entirely independent the relationship would serve no purpose. Mature, sustainable love is interdependent. With interdependence we don’t nnneeeeeeeeed the other person; We want them.
We invite them to join us this way or that. The other person is free to give an authentic “Yes, No, Not Now or Can We Negotiate?” If the person doesn’t say yes to our request, we will not wither away and die. We can find another way to meet our wants, defer to a time that works better, or learn to live without whatever it is. We are also free to give that same honest answer. Now when we come together it’s because each person involved genuinely wants to be there.
If the person’s reply is no, or if their negotiation requests that we compromise something we have decided is non-negotiable for us, we have the information we need to realize that this person is not compatible with us. We can save a great deal of time, heartache, and sometimes even money when we see and accept that we have incompatible terms for relationship with someone. Inauthentic answers drag that whole discernment process out, sometimes with terrible collateral damage that could have been avoided.
Love, Thank You
I don’t know about you, but the idea of being “needed” sounds exhausting and insatiable; Like there’s not enough room for me in there, even if my requests are being met. Being wanted sounds delicious. A little bit of tension in a relationship can be a magical thing. (Read more here.)
As we round the corner to Valentine’s Day and everything around tries to tell us that there is something wrong with us if we are not in lllluuuurrrrvvvveeee, or if no one is in lurve with us, I encourage you to remember: Seeking or trying to sustain “lurve” is like trying to live off of dessert. Personally, I think we all deserve better.
Are you confused by lurve and love? Contact Tiffany today. Let’s talk about it.