During adolescence, a new type of relationship exists between males and females. The new natural attraction that they feel for each other leads many to conclude that they are in love. However, shortly thereafter, they often reveal that they are no longer in love. Adults generally term these adolescent feelings “puppy love” given their temporary nature. However adult relationships seem to follow a similar pattern as evidenced by the high divorce rate. The common complaint from one partner is to say “I just don’t love you anymore.”
What then is love? Some argue that it is a feeling that one hopes will last forever, while others argue that true love is permanent. To investigate this issue, we shall examine the stages of a relationship, and given the nature of the topic, I shall write in the first person.
We are usually attracted to what we can: see, smell, hear, touch, taste, or imagine. What I may find attractive someone else may not. That is why there are so many different designs of the same item in the market place for us to choose from.
One natural effect of attraction is that we tend to minimise imperfections, which are those things that we subjectively feel are lacking in an ideal item. We may see them, but they are not important. Attraction is an emotion. We do not constantly remain in the same emotional state, therefore the intensity of the emotional attractions will eventually subside, however they can return.
When the initial wonder and attraction subsides, you may find it easy to discard those items that you previously found attractive enough to purchase or pursue. However there are some items that you may find difficult to discard. They are generally kept because of sentimental reasons. These are items that you have developed a bond with.
If you choose to pursue a relationship, then your mutual attraction will give you enough time to bond. Bonding occurs when you share emotional experiences like doing activities together or talking about things that are important to you. This is how friendships develop. The purpose of bonding is that you will remain together long enough to learn to love.
Attraction is easy and requires no effort. Bonding requires some effort. Love is difficult and requires much effort. Few people are willing to learn to love. They are content to enjoy the excitements of attraction, or the benefits of bonding. Love however is hard work but its rewards are priceless and forever.
After the intensity of the emotional attraction for an item subsides, the imperfections previously minimized take on greater importance. The defects that were so cute and were justified as being unique and displaying character become irritating. The only thing preventing the item from being discarded is if a bond had developed. There are similarities with relationships, however before we actually define love, let us examine three situational examples. The two main characters are Michael and Cathy.
Let’s say Michael was attracted to Cathy, but Cathy did not find Michael attractive. If no bonding took place, then Michael would feel a little hurt, but would quickly recover as soon as be became attracted to Jo-Ann.
Let’s say Michael and Cathy were attracted to each other, and Cathy shared past emotional experiences in her life with Michael. If Michael did not share emotional events in his life with Cathy, then after the attraction subsided, Michael would want to get out of the relationship, but Cathy would want to hold on. If Cathy was sexually intimate with Michael before they broke up, then Cathy would hurt deeply for many years and her future relationships would be negatively affected, however that is the subject of another discussion.
Let’s say Michael and Cathy were attracted to each other, and both of them bonded by sharing emotional experiences with each other. If they made a commitment to each other and got married, then after the attraction subsided, they would remain together on the strength of their commitment and their bond. However they would then have to learn to love each other. Their differences that made them seem so ideal as a couple before, may now be quite irritating. Both partners would then have to learn to accept the other’s differences, and encourage the other’s development.
Love therefore is a process of learning to accept people exactly as they are, with all of their problems and differences, while at the same time doing all that you can to help them to achieve their highest potential. However love does not preclude conflicts or disagreements in relationships, and the challenge is to learn how to effectively resolve them when they arise.