Thursday, December 21, 2017

Love is the Answer: Different Ways of Loving

An interesting paradox with regards to human beings and romantic relationships is the fact that, while not naturally sexually monogamous, we do pair bond.  What this essentially means is that while we will experience sexual interest, desire and curiosity toward people other than our mates (some people struggling with/experiencing this more than others), at the very same time, we long toward and revel in growing emotionally close to and bonding with, usually a main mate, over the long term

(*at least, most people.  Of course, not everyone is inclined towards romances and partnerships, and this is totally natural and all good too.  In general though, it seems the majority of people do desire such a bond).

To segue off that slightly, I more want to focus on different types of loving.  For instance, why do we fall for one person and not another?  And even further, why do we love someone more than someone else?  What are the nuances of factors that make these things so?

There is significant evidence scientifically that people tend towards falling in love with those from similar socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.  That people usually gravitate romantically towards those of similar levels of intelligence and physical attractiveness.  With comparable levels of education and humor even.

But then, one could walk into a room of 50 people, all with similar levels of each of these factors (closely matched socioeconomic backgrounds, intelligence levels, physical attractiveness, education and humor) and not fall in love, nor feel that telltale "spark," with any of them. 

So clearly, its about much more than all of these neatly-laid-out-on-paper factors.  There is a subconscious chemistry and draw involved to a not insignificant degree, one that even scientists who study these topics for a living haven't figured out.  In fact, its something we have barely scratched the surface of.

"The road to love is narrow," wrote Kabir, a 15th century poet from India.  "There is only room for one."

So how do we form such preference?  What determines with whom we fall in love?

I believe its a complex collection of puzzle pieces that, when placed together in one huge, complete picture, contain a multitude of aspects that make up determinants all influencing toward for whom we fall.  One of which is called a "love map."  This is something that's been under construction within each of us since childhood and continues being built through the course of your life. 

A "love map" being the billions of pieces from your childhood, teen years and adulthood that have all come together, culminating in the makeup of your subconscious preference for a mate.  This can and does include nuances such as: your moms passion for cooking-so you subconsciously search for a mate with a similar enthusiasm, the gap between the two front teeth of your first crush, a certain type of smell you've grown to love in the opposite gender, your fathers anger issues- so you are ever on alert for those with this issue and thus, avoid such at all costs. 

Maybe preferring black hair because your handful of childhood crushes all had black hair, or being drawn towards those who love reading because you also love such.  The list goes on.  A love map is your personal collection of the millions of nuances, preferences and criteria that's been amassed throughout the course of your life.  Most of which is actually subconscious and of which you are unaware.  And one that continues being added to, revised, and updated with incoming new life experiences, phases and loves.

Other determinants or influencers over who we end up falling for can include: timing.  Sometimes we meet someone and, because of the timing of our lives, we notice and fall for them more than we otherwise might have, as opposed to had it been a different timing in our life.  Timing is a huge determinant in whom we fall for. 

Biology is another one.  Unconscious nuances like someone's smell, the way they move or talk, the way we feel emotionally or even physically when standing close to them, etc.  For instance, ever found someone very attractive and even felt desire toward them but upon actually kissing or touching them, decided, absolutely not.  There's that.  So, both factors have to be there.  Not only feeling the chemistry bubbling between but additionally, still being drawn to and into them when the action gets underway.  Believe it or not, these are actually separate things.

Then there are of course, many more determinants.  Such as, how are we feeling emotionally when we meet someone?  What life phase are we in?  Lonely, depressed or desperate?  Then we might be more likely towards throwing ourselves at certain someone's that we may not have otherwise.  Or, are we currently in a relationship and feeling deprived or resentful within said long-term relationship?  Then we might be more prone to projecting attraction onto someone else during that time, then we would have been if otherwise infatuated or happy with our current partner. 

Or, if one is especially happy, fulfilled and satisfied with their life, as well as emotionally available, this invites the attracting of other types of people from those I just described.  So you see, factors like mood can very much affect whom we fall for. 

Also, fun fact: people tend to feel heightened senses of attraction to people when placed in intense situations, such as after riding a rollercoaster, post crossing a rickety bridge, or, in the face of obstacles and in the sense of what's forbidden (hence, why affairs are thrilling to many and why many people, once the affair ends and they leave their current partner for the one they had an affair with, realize a mistake may have been made.  That it was more about the excitement than the actual person). 

All of these factors, the rollercoaster, the wobbly bridge, or even the affair, can be a trickster in convincing us that we have feelings for someone when actually, its based on more of a cocktail mixture of adrenaline, intense situation and someone who is physically attractive but just in the right place at the right time.

Now, onto different types of love.  Supposedly there are something like 6, 7 or 8 different types of love, all of which have been compartmentalized and labeled into neat, easy little boxes.  While I think this can be helpful and informative to a small degree, it of course doesn't come even close to encompassing all the possibility of the variance of human emotions and relationships.  In fact, it doesn't even scratch the surface of all that's possible emotionally between people.  Not really.  That aside, here are a few of the (supposed) different types of love:

Eros (or, erotic), which is sexual/passionate love.  The type most akin to our modern day interpretation and experience of romantic love.

Philia (or, affectionate) is friendship based love.  This is a love based on trust, companionability and dependability.  Really great romantic relationships are often a combination of both Eros and Philia.

Storge is familial love (also called familiar love).  Most often, the love felt between a parent and child.  But it can also be found between siblings or other family members.

Agape is a universal love.  It does not depend on actually knowing someone.  Instead, its an unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

Ludus is playful, uncommitted love.  It can involve activities such as teasing, playfulness, flirting, dancing and seducing.  This is a no-strings-attached, fun, sometimes conquest type of love.

Pragma (or, enduring love) is a practical love founded on duty, reason, or ones longer term interests.  Often things like sexual attraction taking a back seat to aspects such as shared goals, compatibilities, and making it work.  This is also said to be the steadfast, deeper type of love.

Mania, or obsessive love, often means jealous or possessive love.  Those who feel as though they desperately "need" their partner.

However, with those easy labels thrown out for different types of "love" we can experience and feel (and yes, you can feel more than one for the same person), I want to briefly touch on and explore the topic of why we love some people more intensely or strongly than others.  And not just romantically, but platonically as well. 
A real human experience and phenomenon that there is little explanation for.  Because really, how can one possible vocalize all the nuances and kaleidoscope of varying shades and shapes of the human heart?  We cant.

For instance...

-Ever had the experience of having one friend whom you knew you loved, while another whom you may have been friends with for just as much time and might be quite close to as well, but for whatever reason, while you care for them deeply, you don't feel such strength of emotional for them as love?  And there isn't any particular reason for this that you can understand nor vocalize as to why.  It

-Maybe you would never actually admit such out loud, but within your innermost heart, you know that you love one of your immediate family members more than another.  Again, there isn't a particular reason for it (or, maybe there is).  You  For one of them, you just feel an infinitely stronger attachment or more intense affection.

-Ever had a romantic relationship that was shorter in duration than another one from your life, but actually, your feelings for the person you had/have the shorter relationship with are more intense, stronger, deeper, than what you felt in the longer relationship (and you have no clue as to why)?  Its not something you can pinpoint nor vocalize or likely even fully understand.  Just that sometimes, we are more strongly affected or moved by certain people than others.

-Or, how about those people who meet someone and they "just know."  I've met a few people personally within the last several months who, when I learned the beginning story of their current long-term romantic relationship, they say "I just knew.  On the first date/soon thereafter when we first met, I knew this person was a big one.  I cant explain it, but I did."  Now, they are either married to that person or have been together happily for years.
And often, this is an almost impossible thing to comprehend for those who haven't felt or experienced something like this themselves.

-Have you ever loved someone whom you "weren't supposed to"?  Such as, a teacher, mentor, counselor, someone within this professional type of boundaried relationship.  And not just a crush or strong affection and liking for them, but actual love.

-And of course, love changes as well.  Haven't we all had the experience of thinking we loved someone immensely only to realize much later on that actually, part of us was disillusioned all along?  That actually, it wasn't a love as deep as we thought it was while enmeshed within.  Instead, more of a delusional, hopeful infatuation.  Or maybe a love not fully based on reality (meaning, once we really got to know the person well and saw their true colors, realizing that we don't love them so much after all)?

Many of the examples I gave above are things our society conditions us as being taboo topics, or "not nice" things to feel and certainly not to admit nor speak about.  However these are emotional experiences that we cannot often help.  They just...are.  There, within our hearts.  A few of the contradictions and paradoxes of human experience, close relationships and love.  To me, that doesn't make them "wrong" or "right."  It makes them part of authentic human emotion and life.  Maybe you have experienced one or more of these personally, or, if not, its likely that you know others who have (whether they talk about such openly to you or not).

So you see, love is, very often, (in fact, more often than not) inexplicable.  Its infinitely complex and layered.  Impossible to quantify.  Wild, fluid, ever changing and shifting, unpredictable.  Its such a fascinating, wide reaching, endlessly nuanced part of human experience and life.  The facets of attraction, the nuances of love and emotion, different types of loving, varying emotional experiences for the people in our lives.  And isn't this part of what makes life and relationships so magical, awe inspiring, intriguing, and incredible?

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