“Loving” versus “Being in Love”

Historically, I would have said being in love is the single most wonderful and important thing. It’s an arbiter of chemistry. However, some may argue being in love is an ephemeral sensation that is not sustainable. Perhaps loving and respecting someone are more important.

Here is the perspective of two of my close friends.

Being in love is ephemeral by friend A:

“At times I wonder if the sensation of being in love is a chemical imprinting phenomenon. The coveting, jealousy and exclusiveness might stem from the nature driven side of sex for reproduction- the desire to perpetuate ones offspring at the exclusion of competitors. This may sound unromantic but I think questioning the basis for behavior is at times important to evolve either into or beyond a state. All that you say resonates to be sure, yet too often have I seen madly passionate in-love individuals burn out of their passions. “Quick to light, quick to burn” I believe the old adage goes… And with it yes- the pain and fear…

Be assured in this I am not at all questioning our desire to feel in love; we all have this aspiration. I question only for myself, since this kind of irrational passion has changed for me and with it the feeling of being in love. I agree love and respect – are a given. Now rapture for someone must extend to a sense of great potential for that person as an individual and as a partner. Coveting and jealousy have evolved into deep feelings of contentment of knowing that you are watchful of and watched by someone. I can’t quite approximate the sensation with language but I am aware of the rare quality of person from whom I seek to give and receive that type of attention; their vision and affection becomes integral to one’s evolution, not simply supportive of it. I recall in one instance, years ago, that he and I were unable to make eye contact- we did not seek rapture in each other because the collective aura was too overwhelming, the brilliance and joy too blinding. We could not look at each other without seeing a future- and yet that feeling didn’t last. Was it meant to? Are all states of “being in love” eventually replaced by a deep mutual love, respect, affection, and (if lucky) persistent attraction. Perhaps those amazing couples- the Dan and Avery or Ted and Veronique of the world have insight.

I disagree with the comment that fraternal or familial love is a less personal alternative. The dedication of parents to children and vice versa is so deep. I cannot find substitutes for any people I love dearly, including my parents. Some families simply tolerate each other, and for others one could scarcely draw breath without knowledge of their co-existence in the world. I think there are many loves; some more virtuous perhaps than others but no highest form.

There was a study I chanced upon which compared the ability to be in love with an ability to have great faith, even religious faith. If your faith in yourself is a gauge of sorts, I am sure you will have no problem 🙂 For myself- I have faith in very few individuals, but in those cases that faith is very deep.”

Being in love is foundational by friend B:

Without a doubt, love and respect are centrally important. Without respect and trust you have nothing, maybe just some hormones.

BUT: there’s something Freud called ‘the over-valuation of the love object,’ and I think that’s essential. That’s the phenomenon of believing your love object is incredibly special, even if rationally you know that all people are imperfect. Your beloved’s eyes shine brighter, their remarks are cleverer, their smile is truer, their insights are more insightful, their comfort more comforting – generally that the world is a better place simply because they, apart from all others, are in it. Your life is a better and finer thing because that person is sharing it with you.

You have to feel that no substitute is possible because of the ineffable uniqueness and specialness of your loved one. And that feeling of eminence is partly delusional, and partly based on the lock-and-key-like fit of two unique yet compatible personalities coming together as they deepen their mutual understanding over time. To me, that set of feelings is “being-in-love,” and I believe no relationship can survive without. Without that feeling, you’re constantly aware that the world is full of adequate substitutes. I also believe that this sort of being-in-love is not ephemeral but foundational, even if it goes through fluctuations and phases.

Love,’ on the other hand, is by comparison a relatively non-relational way of caring for someone: it means that you care about and are committed to someone else’s happiness and wellbeing around equally to your own, and are willing to put in work toward achieving that. This sort of love is altruistic and relatively selfless *but* it doesn’t draw you to someone and make you want to inhabit some kind of private or exclusive sphere. That love you could have for a mother and a brother and humanity in general. It’s non-possessory. Does that make it a ‘better’ sort of love, higher, more virtuous? Perhaps, but also more tepid & impersonal, and lacking in any compelling sense of why you give love and effort to one person and not another.

In-love love is exclusionary, jealous, protective, devoted, involved, inspiring, and covetous (among other things). The flip side of being in love is the potential for real hurt and loss. And nearly everyone becomes more loss-averse and risk averse over time, as well as – more detrimentally – more self-protective and resilient. There are benefits, yet it means one build walls on all sides. So over time there’s a gap between one’s conceptual view of being-in-love and one’s ability to do it – or, really, to allow it.

The fact that it becomes harder or rarer doesn’t make it less real or less important.

Current Conclusion:

As I get more experienced I find myself willing to compromise less and less. I know what works for me and even more so what does not.

As for love, I have never been has hurt as when I have been in love. Similarly, I have never unintentionally hurt someone as much as when that person was in love with me and I was not (despite wanting to be). For that, I cannot apologize enough.

Despite my outward rationality and coldness, I am a romantic at heart. And, as an eternal optimist, I continue to believe in the quintessential importance of being in love.

What do you think?

  • I think ideally you should be able to find both.

    The person you fall “madly in love with” in the infatuation sense who then turns into the person you “love” as in long term friendship and trust etc. sense.

    And you shouldn’t compromise along the way. Compromise is always a receipy for disaster.

    I met my fiancee about 3 years ago (online) and she lived at the other end of the country. I felt as if I had known her forever within a few hours of meeting her.

    I was 32 and the feeling I have with her I could only describe as her being a perfect compliment to me. My ‘other half’. (something I’ve never felt in previous relationships) We are a team.

    As well as many other things she is kind and caring and see’s the good in everyone. I guess I’m not 🙂 But together we are both stronger.

    BTW I don’t know if you have had time to read it yet but there is an interesting chapter on love & the women behind successful men in that PDF I sent you Fabrice.

  • Love is what we do in spite the limit of our machine. No use looking towards the machine as its merely the wheel that we roll on. Thus one must painstakingly sort the true from illusion and under weight of time we see.

  • Some ascribe value to the duration of a happy feeling. Others ascribe value to the intensity of a happy feeling. The first group supports cool-headed loving and respect; the second favors head-over-heels love. When it comes to romance, I’m with group two. If presented with a choice, we should choose to love deeply and passionately rather than modulate our feelings. While a couple is in love two people feel intensely happy, whereas after a love ends typically only one person feels intensely sad- and at that point it may not be the person whose feelings you care about.

  • Hello Fabrice, your personal quest to find your inner self is getting more and more interesting. You’re cute 🙂

    I cannot agree more with your final conclusion !

    Here are my two cents : I believe that the other half one one’s life is the one who truly gets you..

    I found mine in 2002 and eventhough life has its twists of up and downs. We always managed to get back together even on the other side of the ocean.

    None of that could have been accomplished without a strong feeling of friendship, fun and yes : inconditional love of each’s other minds !

    You’ll find yours, no doubt.

  • I think love and finding a life partner require the matching up of many things like notches on a key or the combination to a safe.

    For starters, you must have the chemical/pheromonal thing going on, or you’re doomed. I have had lovers where the smell of their sweat was like an aphrodesiac and immediately turned me on and others where the experience of kissing them was akin to smelling sour milk. This type of thing one can not predict, but I suspect it has something to do with genetics, keeping the gene pool healthy and creating strong children. I also think that this type of strong attraction holds couples together and motivates them to work things out when they fight.

    On the other hand, this can be a cruel joke by Mother Nature. The few boyfriends and lovers over the years that I have had this intense chemical connection with, didn’t match up with me in other ways, which was really a friggin’ drag!

    Let’s start with maturity level and someone’s overall honesty quotient. Wherever one falls on the continuum of honesty (with others, but namely with themselves), I think the other person needs to match that. I have recently been noticing more and more how most people seem to have an inability to be honest with themselves to a greater or lesser degree. Ironically, most aren’t even aware of this fact. It’s too painful to look at. So I think this throws a really big monkey wrench into the whole process. I think one somehow needs to match up with someone who is on the same page with this, but somehow negotiate the whole ignorance with oneself thing. I don’t know if this is making any sense, but anyway…

    This rolls us right into whether or not you’re emotionally compatible with someone which is as vast and complex a subject as trying to explain or predict who you will or won’t have physical chemistry with.

    I also think you need to match up with on the looks front. You have to like looking at someone. You’re going to be looking at them for a long time. I don’t mean for this to sound shallow, but it’s really the truth. They need to have certain characteristics that will appeal to you even when you’re old. For me, for example I need for a guy’s shoulders to be shaped a certain way, or I just don’t find them attractive. I personally hate men’s shoulders that are shaped like clothes hangers and slope down. I will never find this attractive and it probably dates back to when my relatives were still in caves in Eastern Europe. I also like Mediterranean-looking men for whatever reason.

    Then of course, there’s the whole mental thing. If someone can’t carry on an intelligent conversation with me or spell, I have a huge problem wit ‘dat. However all those folks out there who can’t spell have a plethora of candidates to date and mate with. This is why we have so many children in this country that are inarticulate and can’t spell. 😛

    And let’s not forget the whole narcissistic versus altruistic spectrum that two people have to negotiate. That’s always a barrel of monkeys!

    All I know is that 5 months ago I finally found a dance partner. We’re not a couple off the floor, but the experience of partnering with this guy has been a great learning experience since a professional dance partnership is like a marriage in a lot of ways. It’s also a business relationship as well as a sports team. We fight, we laugh, we cry, we support each other, we depend on each other and at this point have a deep commitment to each other. It’s been interesting. The big thing that keeps me committed to it is our “chemistry” with each other on the floor and the fact that we are well-matched physically, which is key to partner dancing. It’s hard to find, and even harder to find a partner that you get along with and can negotiate with, especially in a world so narcissistic and wacky as ballroom. It’s literally been blood, sweat and tears. However, I consider it one of the top 3 things I’m grateful for in my life today; and I wouldn’t be competing and performing or have the outlet to put my choreography on the floor without him!

  • Love is truly the most complicated of emotions. I have not been in love for quite some time, but I love many. For me, there are two main kinds of love: the love for family and friends, and the love for your significant other. I know and understand the love for former, but struggle with the latter. Mostly because I experience many different types of love in this catagory. I have loved in the form of lust, loved as simple, gentle affection, and loved as a desire for what could be. I hear so many different takes on how two people fell in love. Some started as lust; others as affection. I often wonder how mine will begin…

  • Here is the “real insight” from friend C in one simple concise paragraph: Overanalyzing is the root of all evils. Being in Love is a chemical reaction. Loving is overrated. Respect and being able to put up with each other for the rest of your life is the key.

    P.S. Tell friend A and friend B that they have WAY too much time in their hands. 🙂

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    […] to understand a failed one. I thought I’d written enough for you but I just came across this article where the author discusses being in love as being either ephemeral or foundational. I was […]