WHAT IS LOVE? Well, it’s not fantasy.

Where the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being, not our dream, but a human being with flaws. – Anais Nin

People are endlessly musing on love and it’s complexity. A favorite trope is to discuss the fantasy that love is often built upon, i.e. we fall in love with an idealized version of someone. I am still hovering at the entry point of life’s many layers of loving, but I’d like to posit that that fantasy-harboring idea really applies only to infatuation. Sometimes our infatuations melt into a deeper love, but more often they explode in the face of both parties. This usually happens after the curtain drops and a reality is revealed that one—or both—people can’t face or accept.

I know a lot of people caught up in lust, but only a few who are in love.

People mistake infatuation for love, I think, because of it’s initial all-consuming effect on their physical state. Our nerves are constantly buzzing, our excitement is peaked, and our sex drive feels insatiable. We generally can’t relax around the apples of our eye. What is lovely about being so nervous you can’t form sentences? Nothing, actually, because intimidation does not a relationship make. Is that feeling really love or just a spastic chemical reaction brought on by the hyped-up physical union of two people? I know less about science than pretty much everyone, but I’m going to guess it’s something more along the lines of the latter.

This is not to say that you don’t experience any of the above crazy when falling in love. However, it’s probably tempered by a calm that strikes you as unusual because, well, it is. Instead of acting like a sex-crazed lunatic 24/7, you probably also feel eerily settled and self-assured—you can relax around your person. You are no longer just putting on an act. The sides of yourself you may often try to hide can peek out without much harm.

In the much-wiser words of Adrienne Rich:

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

And that last line is it. Love is rare because it is hard. Much harder then stripping your clothes off and letting someone explore your body for a few generally vapid moments. Love is introducing someone to your inner child, your inner crazy, your every last complication. In lust, when these pieces start to slip out, people tend to run. But love allows for these human caveats and wholeheartedly accepts them, even if they’re messy –the antithesis of simple.

Am I right or totally wrong? Correct me, kids. Tell me what you think! I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking her to love him! JK, that’s love aficionado Julia Roberts circa Notting Hill.


If you’re as interested in this topic as I am, I highly recommend curling up in bed with a good cup of tea, or whatever libation you prefer (whiskey is welcome) and reading all the posts on Brain Pickings tagged under love [where the above two quotes were sourced from]. Clicky clicky.

5 replies »

  1. “It is necessary to fall in love, if only to provide an alibi for all the random despair you are going to feel anyway.”

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