“Find something you love or leave […] and when you find something you love, focus on it, nothing else should get in the way” – B.F. Skinner
Love is a basic human emotion. This is a fact that we all know and believe in. Can we always explain what love is and how it happens? No, not every time. Love is never easy to describe or even to come by but when you have it, whether it is for a person, place or thing; you hold on to it, you focus all of your attention on it, you make it work. You make it work because it is so hard to come by. It is hard to find something that your heart calls to and your mind agrees. Because the two never really agree on much, if we are being honest.
As humans we are naturally wired for human connection. This is both a blessing and a curse. We crave attention and seek it out when we are lonely. We take rejection hard and think of it as a threat to our own survival. This is wired, this is fact. It is not something most people think of when they talk about the emotion. We think of love as being long-lasting, filled with romance and easy when in all actuality love is work, time and is not constant. Love is not automatic and it takes a great deal of vulnerability to be fully committed to making it work.
There is a difference in the brain when it comes to passionate love and lust. There is a reason why your casual hookups or vacations away from your partner don’t last. Lust, in your brain, fires up the parts that are associated with motivation and reward. Love, on the other hand, lights up areas that are connected to caring and empathy.
Love can also make us do some crazy things, things that we aren’t even aware of. When we start to fall for someone we take on their mannerisms, we pick up on the way they talk and input it into our own. As humans, this connection is very important to us. It is the beginning of caring for another’s well-being, we want the best for them and we start to miss them when we cannot talk to them. We become motivated to just be with them, to better ourselves, to better them. But building these lasting relationships take work, if you allow them to fizzle out, the initial connection is lost and you begin to lose that hope in the other person (especially if they are the one to break the connection), you can get over it very fast in the initial months.
Our physical well-being and health, even our mental health, is impacted by being in love. Everything is heightened and increases when we have those happy feelings, when we are associated with love feelings. The emotional and physical connection is important, especially when it comes to men’s health. Research has shown that when a man’s partner dies before them, their health declines and is at risk for earlier death. Love is not just a feeling and it is definitely not just in your head.
As people we want to be thought about, cared about, missed, longed for, appreciated. This fixation does not mean that loving one person makes you not love anyone else, or love others less. The types of love that we can feel will vary in intensity and strength, will be romantic or familial. Loving one person does not mean that you will only love that one person. We are not wired that way. Loving someone is contagious and when we are in love, people know, they can feel that feeling you are giving off. They, in return, will crave it too. It slows down our natural fight-flight response.
While all this is interesting and fascinates me beyond recognition. It is important to also understand that love doesn’t necessarily mean forever or that it doesn’t change. It is possible but it is not the norm. This is because we are constantly changing: our beliefs, our self, our ideals, our goals and dreams. The experiences we have had and the experiences that we will continue to have are always changing us. They impact us physically, emotionally and in turn will impact our relationships. Love is work and if you are willing to work hard, be vulnerable, be unselfish – it will work out in the end.
So, find something you love. Focus on it, work on it. Love is a beautiful thing.
Helen Fisher, Ph.D