I have a little theory about being in love I thought I’d share. Being in love is one of the most enjoyable experiences we ever have. The intense attachment and bonding we have with our children parallels many of the same processes, but usually through a haze of sleep deprivation and nappy changes. Watching people who are in love is often to gain insight into sides of themselves they don’t usually show. They are lit up, dazzled by their beloved, hopeful, childlike, full of joy, deeply content. When I have been in love I have experienced some of the happiest times of my life.
Leaving aside complicating factors – infatuation, limerence, obsession, conflict, and denial, I think many of the feelings of wellbeing and joy we experience when we are in love come down to three things:
- Connection (or emotional intimacy)
Deepening a connection with someone often meets unspoken and unacknowledged emotional needs. Our culture esteems romantic love above all our other relationships, writes endless songs about it and the loss of it. Frequently we are given the impression that finding ‘the one’ is all we need to be happy in life. This relationship will have the most closeness, depth, connection, and be the most deeply bonded. Moreover, this relationship is all we need. Speaking as someone who has been very contentedly single for a number of years now, this idea is ridiculous. So many other relationships in our lives offer the opportunity for depth, loyalty, affection, security, and connection. That’s not to say that your lover isn’t a very special person in your life, but that a romantic relationship is not the only opportunity for closeness.
The validation aspect of being in love is incredibly heady. They like you! They agree with you, find your opinions interesting, your body attractive, your thoughts insightful. You lavish each other with praise, compliments, empathic listening, attention to tiny nuances of feelings and behaviours. Suddenly, the way you rub your mouth when you’re nervous is cute, your muscles are gorgeous, your eyes magnificent. To have someone you admire, admire you is incredible. You create a positive feedback loop of support, validation, and affection. Once again, this isn’t restricted to romantic relationships. Good friendships, close family relationships, the adoration of small children can all provide this.
Lastly, romance. This is the aspect I’m most interested in. In our culture we have taken a whole bunch of behaviours and grouped them together in this idea called romance. We have then restricted these behaviours to courtship. My theory is that part of the reason we feel so good when we’re in love, is because this is the only time in our lives we are usually being romantic (and romanced). The kinds of things we do; walking on the beach, watching sunsets, writing poetry, expressing deep and intimate thoughts, stargazing, making love, thinking about our future with hope, going out for good meals, these are all things that feed our soul. We spend a lot of our lives soul-starved, and we mistakenly think we need another person to feed our soul. I’d like to suggest that we don’t! I think we have this all backwards.
We think that you go watch sunsets, write poems, and walk in the rain when you are inspired.
I think that when we go watch sunsets, write poems, and walk in the rain, we become inspired.
You do not need a partner to be a romantic. I keep my soul alive by ignoring our silly conventions and doing those things that nurture and sustain my inspiration. Long ago I decided that for me, inspiration is the opposite of illness. I am most ‘well’ when I am doing those things that feed my own soul. I am contentedly single because I am not waiting for a partner to waken up my soul. I experience much of the intense joy of being in love through my other friendships and relationships, and through being a romantic myself. I romance my own soul, light my candles, burn my own incense, turn cartwheels in the rain, stargaze, write poems, blow bubbles, and walk with the world with wonder and delight. I am in love already. My heart drinks the night.
So, if you are soul starved, heartsick, lonely, and lost in grey ash, start taking care of your soul. Write your deepest desires, find the places that move you and be still within them. Dance, or sing, or lay beneath stars, or watch fire and smell smoke on your skin. The world is full of sensual delight and incredible beauty, it is only that we, through foolish consensus have decided not to notice.
And if you are in love, recognise the power of romance. It isn’t silly to still go on dates, to buy flowers, walk hand in hand, light candles, drink fine wine together. Feeding your souls will keep you nourished and nurtured, not drawing from each other like wells that run dry, but soaking up the miracle of life around you and having abundance in your hearts.
Just a thought from a poet. 🙂