The Conundrum of Love

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It’s the focus of just about every romantic comedy in existence. Two people fall in love. Maybe everything’s rocky for a while, if one or both of them is in denial. But then love is acknowledged, and everything is wonderful. The couple are perfectly matched in personality, and they have a great sex life to boot. It’s what virtually everyone, if they were to stop and be perfectly honest with themselves, desires in a relationship. But it’s not realistic, right?

If the most pervasive stereotype about love we are exposed to in this modern world is unrealistic – what is actually reasonable for each of us to expect when it comes to lasting romance? How do we know if it’s the real thing, or if we should hold out for something better? With divorce rates rising all over the world, many of us stop to wonder if we’re really putting enough thought into our committed relationships. But at the same time, overthinking things seems equally undesirable. Nobody wants to miss their chance at happiness because they were just too goddamn picky.

Thanks to women’s liberation and similar movements, divorce has increasingly become a viable, socially acceptable option for those who find themselves in marriages that just aren’t working. But honestly, this isn’t the only factor at work. Historically, the majority of marriages have been based on some kind of logical benefit. Money, social security, family standing, etc. But increasingly, ‘love’ has become the most considered factor when entering into a committed relationship. And unlike economic and social driving factors, love is highly illogical and unpredictable – particularly to the people who are most concerned.

A large part of what makes love illogical is that there are so many contradicting definitions of the concept. Is having someone who shares your interests and values enough? Or should you hold out for strong physical (chemical) attraction too? Whether you decide to define love as comfortable companionship, or as an irresistible physical attraction, either way most of us are conscious of a perceived risk. On the one hand, if we decide that burning passion is a non-viable basis for a relationship (if it even does exist anyway), we run the risk of finding ourselves trapped in a committed relationship with someone who suits us well enough when we eventually stumble across somebody else who is a perfect match. On the other hand, forever holding out for that one perfect connection can seem like a gamble most people are unlikely to win – with those who lose ending up forever alone.

Too often we may believe that we have found our soulmate, only to break up and, looking back, realise that everything that initially seemed so perfect was an illusion, a trick of our own minds caused by eager willingness to give in to chemical signals of physical attraction. So is every relationship that feels like it is based on some kind of deep connection on a spiritual or physical level necessarily a lie?

We are social creatures, but we are also individuals. The idea of two souls fitting together as one is a lovely image, but in reality we cannot even access the thoughts of another person, let alone connect our own thoughts to theirs. If ever we feel irresistibly drawn to another person, it is a purely physical effect. Chemicals playing with our brain. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that a relationship based on such physical attraction is doomed to fail. The key to every relationship is communication. Even if we feel this strong attraction to another person, we have to remember that a relationship doesn’t turn two people into one being – and we have to make effort to support the flow of communication accordingly. And once communication has been achieved, each of us must give a little, and take a little, and support compromises. It is only when cooperation fails that relationships fall apart.

And as for the original question: What is love? How important is this concept of love as a factor for a successful, committed relationship? And if our happiness is to be shared with another person, how do we know if we’ve found the right person to share it with? Honestly, I’m still confused. I suspect it’s an answer that requires retrospect to be learned. But with all that combined human experience out there, I don’t believe that we should all have to gamble our entire lives just to find out the answer.

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What are your thoughts on the nature of love? Is it like in the movies, or is it actually something much more mellow? And is it really necessary for a happy, successful relationship, or are other factors much more important?

Contribute your theories, opinions, and personal stories in the comments section below. Maybe together we can make some sense  out of love.

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