Why Fall In Love?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that touched on my concept and practice of unconditional Love.

That prompted my friend Sarah to ask:

If there are no conditions, what is the basis for falling in love in the first place?

Really, that’s a darn good question. One that hopeless romantics like myself don’t often ask as we just accept it as something that happens.

I wanted to take a post here and explore the idea a little.

In Love vs. In a Relationship

The first thing I need to do is make sure we’re all on the same page here. Being in Love with someone can happen unconditionally. Being in a relationship with someone is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

Love is something we give. It can be given unconditionally through simple actions that we can share with many people at any given time. Things like listening or lending a hand when needed. That all-important shoulder to cry on or steady mind to calm down a panicked friend. These are things we can give by both choice and habit without expecting or needing them in return from the person we’re giving them to.

Unconditional Love is really a simple thing, once you get over the fear of thinking Love is limited resource. It also comes easier when your own needs are being met, so taking care of yourself first makes it easier to Love others without expectations.

In a relationship, however, there has to be give and take. That’s the whole point of being with someone else for romantic reasons. There are wants that are met in addition to the needs. There are hopes and dreams that must be shared and problems that need to be communicated.

A relationship is something we participate in–giving and receiving, ebbing and flowing, growing together and apart. Relationships always have conditions. Ones that should be explicitly stated in order to avoid problems.

You can be in Love without being in a relationship. You can be in a relationship without being in Love. (Though, in my opinion, nothing quite beats being in both at the same time.)

The Basis

So if there are no conditions to be met, why do we fall in Love?

That, my friends, is a question that poets, mystics, philosophers, and scientists have been wrestling with since the dawn of civilization.

At its practical, provable, base, there’s biochemistry involved. On a biological level, we’re wired to respond to certain things–pheromones, body types, behaviors. All of those hit checkpoints in our internal systems that, when they’re hit, trigger the instinctual desire to mate. (Here’s a look at our brain in love.)

And if we were just the product of our biology, then that’s all it would be. Love wouldn’t have to enter the picture at all. (Neither would relationships, necessarily.)

We’re also a product of our upbringing. Early experiences with our families and friends set us up to be interested in different things–sometimes in congress with our hard-wired biology, sometimes in opposition to it. This is where we get our ideas of romance. It’s also where we start to form our ideas of what we “deserve”, possibly the most dangerous term out there when it comes to Love and relationships.

We tend to fall for what we’re most comfortable and familiar with. Your Oedipus and Electra complexes come from this side of things–after all, it’s our parents who give us our first taste, for better or worse, of what relationships and Love are “supposed” to be like. It’s only natural (nurtural?) to seek parallels to that in our own endeavors, right?

So, from the sensible standpoint, those are the two things that make us fall Love. It’s not necessarily something we have a lot of choice in unless we’ve been paying a lot of attention. We’re just kind of wired for it and then further programmed by the world around us as we grow up.

Something More

Ah, but that is a kind of bland state of things for those of us who are romantics at heart. We see things that go beyond the provable (and sometimes the explainable)–things that can only be understood when they are experienced. (My science/atheist/more logical/sensible friends, like Sarah, hate this part of my answer…)

In my opinion and experience, above and beyond everything else already accounted for, there is something else. Something bigger than any one of us. Something that stretches from the beginning of time to the end of it. Something that we all came from and, eventually, will all go back to.

Call it “God” or “The Universe” or “Bob”… whatever it is, it connects us in very deep and sometimes subtle ways. The most important relationships in our lives bring us closer to that universal connection. Instead of merely echoing that life-affirming pulse beneath all things, those strong Love-based relationships amplify it, making it easier for us to hear the beat that drives us all.

And, once in ever few million meetings, we come across one that makes it more clear than all others ever have.

The biology and psychology all fall into place (sometimes that second one lags a bit, hazard of our squishy human minds), and you end up with that person for at least a little while (but probably a bit longer).

It’s that they make us feel more like the person we want to be. It’s that we make their world more colorful. Mostly, though, it’s that both people feel the same way and are compelled to act on it.

Maybe that’s just crazy talk… my biology and psychology getting wrapped up in my imagination. Even so, it is what I’ve experienced and it is what others I’ve known have experienced. Not everyone, mind you, but enough.

Why fall in Love? Mostly because we really can’t help it half the time. (And the other half, it’s hella fun.) 😉

And why get into a relationship? Well… that’s an individual decision taken on a case by case basis.

  • AJ

    What if one of them refuses to contribute? Is that automatic death?

    • Anonymous

      If one of them refuses to contribute, then there’s no relationship possible. At least not a real one. Nothing to stop the other person from imagining they’re in a relationship–and plenty do–but that’s not going to last long.

      The real question to ask, though, is “Why isn’t the other person contributing?” Is it because they don’t feel the same way, or is it because they’re afraid to? Do they want to contribute and don’t know how or are they simply incapable of contributing?

      Even more importantly: Does the person who’s trying really want the other person to contribute? Do they really want a relationship… or do they just want a “project” (someone to fix)?

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