This is a topic I've been pondering a bit lately. The great loves in our lives. Who makes the cut? And even more interesting, why?
How many great loves do we each get? I suspect, sadly, that a large number of people never experience this. A deep, passionate, heart-fluttering love affair. I think its likely that many people have 1-2 great loves in their life. I suspect the majority probably fall into that camp. Having just a couple in their lifetime. And then I would guess a smaller number of people experience 2-5 great loves in their life.
But people do not have lots and lots of great romantic loves within their life. If they did, then we would not lament about and romanticize the idea of great loves the way we do throughout the world. Songs, movies, literature, television, poetry, all mourn for or reminisce the one that got away...the person they cannot forget...their soul mate...the one that no one else has ever measured up to...the person they did not realize was "the one" until it was too late and they were already gone, etc.
And onto my next curiosity and second point. What are the characteristics that determine if someone makes the cut as a great love in our life? What makes these people stand out to us initially, and then grips us enough so we go on and fall deeply in love with them? (Because of course even still, most of the people who catch our attention we still do not go forward to fall in love with).
I have given this topic a lot of thought as well as done some research on it. And as a result I have come up with my own theories in answers to these questions.
I would suspect that many factors are at play here as to why we fall deeply in love with someone, all of them interwoven. I have narrowed them down to the following:
- Specifics about the person we fall for (such as, their looks, smell, body movements, etc)
- The circumstances of our meeting with this person
- How this person makes us feel inside
- Events that transpire between you and this person
- Length of the relationship
- Uniqueness of the person we fall for
Now. To go into a bit of depth about each of these topics.
- Timing. I would actually peg this as one of the most crucial elements that determines who we might fall in love with. I believe a number of people whose paths we cross have the potential to become someone we could possibly fall in love with. But timing is so much of what determines this. We likely never cross paths with many of these people at all. Wrong places at the wrong time. Two people could be a great match for one another but maybe one (or both) are distracted/emotionally involved with other people during the time they meet so the stars do not align. Possibly two people love one another deeply but an unavoidable deal breaker exists (strict opposing religions, one wants children and the other does not, etc). Maybe someone meets their great love but does not realize it until it's too late, because they were distracted by other things during the relationship. Then, with the passing of time, they realize an error was made in losing this person. SO much of great love, and it's growth, success or failure, is about timing. And then of course, just because the timing works out and we do meet and fall for someone, does not mean they will go on to secure a spot in our hearts as "love of our life." That is determined by many other factors.
- Specifics about the person we fall for. Of course, the world boosts billions of different types of people. The majority of whom will never capture, much less, hold our attention. So what is it about the few who do? This depends on the eyes of the beholder. I suspect its a number of subtle nuanced factors that, when they mix together in our subconscious, cause this particular person to hold our attention. It's likely a combination of things, such as: the way they look, how they dress, their body type, their smell, the way they literally move, their voice, if characteristics this person possesses remind us of someone we are/were close to, their laugh, etc. All of these different factors, all minute generally unconscious details, but when they come together in just the right combination, cause our attention to be captured that particular person.
- The circumstances of your meeting. I would argue that this can have an impact on how we go forward to feel for someone. And if we might fall in love with that person or not. If we meet someone in an exiting or unexpected way, this can make them more potent/memorable to us in the long run. As opposed to meeting someone in a mundane or unmemorable way. This likely decreases the likelihood of us moving forward to feel quite deeply for them.
- How this person makes us feel about ourselves. It's not just about how we feel for them. Its about how this person makes us feel in regards to ourselves too. The person who makes you feel cherished...safe...loved...beautiful....accepted...joyful...someone you have fun with. This is someone you will enjoy spending time with and feel close to. Someone you are more likely to fall in love with.
- The events that transpire between you and this person. So many relationships are fairly mundane and not especially memorable. This of course does not indicate that they are less loving. But it does make them less potent, to some degree. Passion, excitement, interesting history, challenges, deep connection with that person, memorable shared experiences. These aspects are the glue that makes a relationship more powerful to us. And gives it staying power within our hearts. And do not misunderstand me. I do not mean a dramatic or unhealthy relationship. But a higher investment in something (whether that investment is emotional, financial or time invested) increases it's worth in our minds.
Not to mention, plenty of people meet and just sort of float into a relationship with one another. Not so much out of a conscious and thoughtful choice. But just because it works "well enough.". The reasons can be many for this sort of relationship slide-in occurring. This person is "good enough" and fits the bill for now. We receive sexual satisfaction from this person. We are lonely. On the rebound. We have been with this person long enough now that we have built a history with them, which makes us hesitant to end the relationship (time/emotions invested), even if we are not as into them as we know we should be. We fear letting go or all starting over. The reasons are many and varied. However the truth is that we often stay in relationships that are good, good enough, decent or average. But they are not the ones that FILL our heart to the brim. They aren't the soul-mate like connection. So many of us end up, on some level, settling in some way in the relationships we ultimately choose.
When I have asked the close friend's I have had/have, who would they say has been their "great love" or "soul mate" within their life? Only a small number have named the person they are currently with. The majority either cite this person as someone from their past, or have responded that they do not feel this is something they have experienced.
But yes. The most powerful relationships to us? Not the one's we just sort of fall into...or remain in out of habit...or the mundane ones. No. They are the ones that present challenge to us. Obstacle. The ones that made our hearts race. Relationships that took some sacrifice or effort. Or filled our hearts with excitement and romance.
6. Length of Relationship. I think this can influence the power of a relationship ( such as, in the sense that the more time which has been invested with someone, the more valuable we deem the relationship. Even if it is in fact not that great anymore, or has actually expired). But I also do not think length of relationship has to influence it either. Though it certainly can, I do not think the length of time with someone directly correlates with the depth of feeling we experience for that person. I know these things both from personal experiences and from watching/hearing other's stories, as well as via literature, which is of course based on human experience.
7. Uniqueness of the person we fall for. Of course, each of us posses different positive and negative qualities. Our personalities come in ALL sorts of varieties. However the cold truth also stands that, while there is someone for everyone, there are also lots of dull, uninteresting, rude, socially inept, (you insert the bad adjective) people out there. Too many. Finding those people that truly are the keys to our locks, is rare. Extraordinary people are just that, extraordinary. Sadly, so many people do not fit this bill. So if we stumble across someone who we realize is in fact, something different...unique...or special. Well, that person usually has staying power in our hearts and becomes fairly unforgettable.
8. And finally, Alternatives. These help determine who the love of our life is/was. Who our alternatives are. Both before and afterwards. Therefore, sometimes it takes time after a relationship we have been in has already ended, before we realize just how special it was.
If we date someone (regardless of length of relationship with them) but then never go on to meet anyone afterwards who we deem as being just as special/wonderful as this person was. Then they will likely remain within our hearts as one of our great loves. But if we fall in love with someone and then later on down the road, move forward to find someone who we end up feeling stronger for and closer with, this can change the power of the previous relationship to us which we initially thought so powerful and deep.
It all depends on our alternatives.
And finally, (I believe this one happens the most often), we tend to let go of relationships often prematurely. And then realize, too late, that this is a person we should have held on to. But for whatever reason, we did not fully realize their worth until after we lost them. An all-too-common human mistake. (Though of course, there is also the mistake of holding on for too long, for fear of letting go. When really one should).
In conclusion, I believe these are the different factors that determine not only how we fall in love, but how memorable or powerful a love will go on to be to us, within our life.