[Written around 2006.]
Although society and most people – and of course popular music – hold being “in love” as the ideal state of human existence, they are all deluding themselves, literally. Being in love is little more than the state of transferring onto some new person – your “love object” – all your repressed childhood hopes that your parents will finally come to rescue you. This hope, which is the root of all addictions, is so intense that if you actually believe that it can be fulfilled it sends you into the deepest emotional orbit, more intense even than heroin. No wonder most people desperately strive for it.
You might ask, though, what about the eighty year old married couples who are still “in love” after fifty-five years of marriage? My reply: What about mild addicts – functional alcoholics, let’s say – who manage to stay pickled on their four daily martinis up through ninety years old – and even credit their booze with keeping them alive for so long? (And they’re probably right – the booze probably did prolong their “life,” if you could call that a life.)
My second reply: Do those couples really love each other so much, or are they more just attracted to a fantasy of whom their partners are? From what I’ve observed, when you scratch below the surface of such couples you find that they really DON’T know each other that well, and are just interacting – and being “in love” – with a fraction of their personalities. And they want it that way! If they knew each other too well it would shatter their illusion. No surprise that as the increase in expectation of marriage partners being “best friends” – that is, more emotionally intimate – has gone hand-in-hand with the skyrocketing of the divorce rate.
As I close, let me differentiate between being “in love” and actually loving someone. In many ways the two are polar opposites, even if sometimes people who are “in love” can behave lovingly toward one another. Allow me to make a list:
- Being in love is projecting that someone will rescue you; loving someone is nurturing and caring for the best in them
- Being in love comes from the false self, that still damaged side of us, and wants a false image of another to rescue us; loving someone comes from the true self, and nurtures the true self of another
- Being in love is generally full of disrespect, both of one’s own and another’s self. It doesn’t honor the true boundaries of another’s truth. The extreme of this happens when really troubled people fall in love with complete strangers and go so far as to believe these strangers have returned this “love.” Loving someone, on the other hand, is inherently respectful. It respects the boundaries of who they really are.
- Really loving someone truly grows over time. Being in love gets weaker over time – and when it grows it tends to be a sign that the “in love” person has a penchant for more extreme forms of delusion.
- Being in love brings only a limited sense of fulfillment, and often leaves people feeling crushed and rejected. Really loving someone brings deep fulfillment – to both involved.
- Being in love gets all mixed up with romance (and often sex). Loving someone deflates romance – and opens the door to something so much more rewarding.