Been feeling a bit philosophical tonight, so of course I philosophize about what everyone has philosophized about at least once: love. No, don’t worry – I’m not ~falling in loooove~ or anything – god, no! So, no, that certainly is *not* an explanation for my unusually elevated mood tonight! Instead, this just comes from good conversation with a good friend, and, well, they seemed to like what I had to say. So I’ll see if you Netizens of Facebook will humor me for a moment.
I don’t claim to be an expert on these things, and I certainly don’t expect anybody to take me as such. Shit, my love life thus far has basically been a series of wonderful, fun-filled relationships with incredible people, that inevitably fizzle out into the ether, reasons being that we either both stop “feeling it”, or, what has honestly happened with every single relationship of mine (in combination with other factors, of course): I get bored. Yep. It’s me. The lowest common denominator is me. This is partially why I’m single by choice… I don’t want to subject anybody to myself until I get my kinks worked out, until I learn to love myself as I love others, and to love others as I love myself. My little heart has ADHD, it seems, and it simply isn’t fair to anyone else to subject them to that. It’s cruel, honestly. But shit, I’m 23. So, on the other hand, I think my affections are *supposed* to be a little bit “hyperactive”. But, I digress. This is not at all about me lamenting about my previous failed relationships – I refuse to speak ill of my past partners, especially publicly on Facebook; they are good people (I dated them for a reason!) and are undeserving of such.
Love is wonderful, until one gets bored.
Which brings me to my main point… nobody is perfect. We all knew that, of course. But a mistake that people so commonly make about love is that they perceive it as this passive phenomenon, something that simply happens and you roll with it and everything is wonderful for ever after. The reality is that love is active. Love requires cultivation in order to survive. To quote Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”: love is a verb, love is a doing word. I would wager that you could get, maybe, maximally, 70% “there” passively. But who wants 70% of their partner’s affection in a relationship? You have to work for 100%, you have to work to give 100%, you have to cultivate your passion for one another… and you absolutely cannot do it alone.
It doesn’t matter if you are on the giving or receiving end of affections – they need to be fostered. This also applies, however, to unrequited love. The disappointed party often continues to unknowingly foster their feelings for the uninterested person by repeatedly pursuing them, while simultaneously the uninterested party may be inadvertently cultivating the other person’s feelings by A: not being straight up about how they (don’t) feel for the other person and B: not giving them enough space, which, chemically speaking, means enough time for neurotransmitters and hormones to “calm down”. I don’t know the source off the top of my head, but I have read in the scientific literature that emotional pain seems to stabilize after around three months. Personally, I find comfort in the knowledge that emotions are simply a result of neurochemical processes in the brain, and that they are fleeting at best. They are largely responses to external stimuli. You can, of course, prolong these processes by cultivating them. “True love”, or when those processes are not fleeting, is in my opinion a result of general compatibility, communication, and good, successful cultivation of those lovey feelings.
But what constitutes cultivation of passion? Really, in my opinion, if two people are truly interested enough in one another, any sort of interaction with one another will count as cultivation – initially, at least. We’ve all experienced it: being reciprocally interested in someone is as if your emotional wavelengths coalesce. Any perpetuated activity with one another will be fostering both your own feelings for them, and their feelings for you. The novel experience of a new relationship is in part what makes this so exciting. Humans seek novelty, it’s part of our nature. It’s *fun*. Best of all, it’s virtually EFFORTLESS!
This works, of course, until one or both of you end up distracted, bored, both, or something else entirely. This is where love goes from passive to active. This is where you have to work at it. Maybe “hanging out” isn’t working as well at keeping things exciting as it did in the beginning of your relationship – of course not, you two (or three, or four… hey, I’m not judgin’ polyamorous relationships) are used to each other and the experience has become less novel. You get used to the love flowing freely and effortlessly, but unfortunately that is hardly ever the case long-term. Now you have to work for those feelings, and relative to the ease of that “honeymoon phase”, it kinda sucks!
Love shouldn’t ever be a chore, but it is certainly an action; it is an activity. If you don’t enjoy actively loving your partner(s), then you are doing it wrong. Or, alternatively, you are simply no longer interested even on a neurochemical level, and you should move on. Sometimes boredom happens on a basal level and there isn’t much one can do about it – your brain simply checks out from the other person, and what’s done is done. That is okay. But what I am saying is that boredom in relationships, in my opinion, stems largely from our human tendency to be LAZY.
I repeat: I firmly believe that LAZINESS is a relationship-killer.
So, pay him or her that unexpected compliment. Tell them you love them, even though you “know they know”. Spend active, intentional time with one another. Don’t just “be” in the same room as one another, be *with* each other. From a more nerdy perspective: try some “brain hacks”! Do things that encourage oxytocin (the “love hormone”) release/production: eye contact, physical intimacy – CUDDLE. Physical touch is so important for human pair bonding.
Again, I don’t claim to be an expert. I could be talking entirely out of my ass, here. If you’re still reading at this point – kudos! I’m almost done, I promise!
Finally, something that I feel is so incredibly important to note: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with splitting up with somebody. As I stated before, sometimes love just dies, and THAT IS OKAY. We as a society need to ditch this notion that splitting up is always, without fail, the “bad” outcome, the “sad” outcome, the outcome that implies that you and your partner(s) gave up, that someone must be at fault. The reality is, despite love requiring cultivation and attention and WORK, sometimes the chemical processes in the brain are truly temporary, and there is nothing wrong with that. Appreciate the good times, and realize when the neurochemistry has run out. Don’t drag a dead relationship out any longer than necessary. Accept the end of a relationship, and try to frame it as something that is NOT intrinsically negative. It’s just a fact of life. Be happy to have experienced one another, be happy to have brought one another love and joy, and realize when it is best for all parties involved to move on and begin a new chapter in their lives. Humans are not monogamous by nature. We are not birds, we are mammals, and broadly speaking monogamy is a relatively recent convention in human society. We are not necessarily meant to mate for life – a lot of this is social convention and little more. Certain conventions may have root in our evolutionary history, others not. Regardless, we are above the need for typical animalistic survival strategies, and our sapience (hopefully) allows us to overcome our primitive predispositions we may have about things.
Love must be cultivated, and that is okay. Love may also die out despite said cultivation, and that is also okay. Respect the neurochemistry, fuck social constructs (or not! DO YOU!), and love freely.