Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

What is love?

I am sure you have asked yourself that question before, whether you were in the throes of a romantic relationship, when the endorphins are running high, whether you were heartbroken after a break up or when you were alone and wishing you had someone in your life.

It is easier to define love in terms of our children and parents. We love them because they are family, because they share genes with us, because they raised us or we raised them.

But romantic love is hard to define. Ask around, and people will say: “It’s when you miss the person you are dating/married to”, “It’s when you think and care about them”, “It’s when you care for their well being”, “It’s when you feel physical desire for them”, “It’s when no one else in the world attracts you”, “It’s a shared past, goals and common interests”, etc. It can also be all these things together.

It seems to me though that the media, through romantic movies such as “The Notebook” and “New Moon” have advertised a feeling that is really fleeting, and that sometimes makes young people make some very bad decisions. If you believe that love conquers all (it doesn’t), and that there is only one person in the world for you, you are more vulnerable to obsessive and self destructive behaviors. 

The “Twilight” series teaches us that for true love you might even accept becoming a vampire. The Romeo and Juliet saga teaches us that to defend your love, you may even consider killing yourself. Some suicide stories we see are from young men or women who just couldn’t cope with a breakup. They idealize their mate, and are sold out in the concept that they will never love anyone else in life that much.

As we get older, we know that is not true. The immense love you felt for that boy in High School didn’t last long. You have fallen in love several times after that, and after some disappointments, you can even become cynical about it.

Even more prone to the idea that love is the most powerful thing in the world are young women. My generation specially grew up reading romance novels. Even at the age of 12 I used to devour book after book with torrid love stories. They were impossible, they were complicated, but at the end, love would conquer all. It is easy to see how many teenage girls can buy into this belief that the more difficult the love affair is, the more intense and real that love is. Therefore they lust over the bad boys, the guys that treat them with indifference, men who are not availbable or married to someone else, men who have nothing in common with them.

Just like a young man who watches too much porn and starts objectifying women (and thinking that all women like the moves he sees in those “movies”), a young girl who watches or reads too many sugary love stories might think that love means sacrifice and suffering, when in reality love should be simple, uncomplicated and feel good.

So what is romantic love? Neuroscience shows that it is more of a chemical reaction in our brains that anything. They say it lasts about 2 years and is closely intertwined with lust, that is, with sexual attraction for another human being. After that period, you need to have other elements to hold you together. That is when shared interests, common goals, similar worldview and a real friendship kick in. And that is why so many relationships and marriages unravel after the initial lust wanes.

What does that teach us about romantic love? That we need to be friends first with our partners. That we need to know them well before making major commitments and that we need to understand what works for us in a relationship. Those red flags that bother you now will not disappear and will become giant pink elephants in the room. If more people made decisions about love based on that, we would probably see a lot less divorce, international parental child abduction and the general cynicism about marriage we see in the most recent generations.



March 3, 2010 - Posted by | Relationships, Society


  1. Wow… I am just like the “about essay”…cept I am …a guy , don’t have an MBA, or live near D.C….other than that….2 peas in a pod.

    Comment by Wall Dodger | March 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks Wall. The MBA is from the 80’s now…and I live in the “burbs”. How about that?

    Comment by Brasilmagic | March 23, 2010 | Reply

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