Monday, 4 January 2016

How (and Why) Not To Fall in Love

On my FB newsfeed (aka my reading list) appeared a New York Times article called 'To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This'. It is about a study basically saying that you can make men and women fall in love by using a set method. In the study, 'a heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes.' And apparently that's enough to fall in love.

It sounded interesting, of course, to this INTJ who likes to analyze everything.

Of course it made sense that certain circumstances can increase the chance of being attracted to someone. As I've heard my mother repeat throughout my life, 'Propinquity!'

But I guess the real question is, what does it mean to be in love? And of what use is this study?

Being in love- intense attraction? No, it's more than just a passing infatuation. You can feel an intense attraction for someone without being in love. Perhaps it is attraction that passes the test of time? Attraction that is not just about the highs that you feel (cue all the 'love' songs that are really about 'the way you make ME feel'), a bonding that makes you want to slay dragons and do whatever it takes to make the other person happy? A bonding that causes you to take responsibility for the other person?

I know, I know, there are heaps of studies and opinions, and articles, and blog posts about what it all means and where it comes from. Nothing super original and insightful here.

Some people reduce being in love to our brain's production of oxytocin, a merely chemical reaction, that will run its course. Some people coughcynicscough think none of that stuff is important in making life choices. Other coughidiotscough think that the feeling of being in love is EVERYTHING and 'follow your heart' (follow your emotions of the moment) is the only true mantra for a happy life.

As for me, I think that God gave us some pretty cool gifts, including the chemical oxytocin... for a good reason. And like all his gifts, they can be misused. FALLING in love helps two naturally selfish human beings to make a choice to STAY in love. Falling in love can possibly just *happen*, but staying in love is always a deliberate choice. Falling in love and staying in love is what helps us become who we were meant to be, persons whose lives reflect the self-gift of God, who created us like Him. And people who fall in love and stay in love create happy, stable families, the only way really to change this broken, hurting world.

So how can we misuse the gift of being in love? Why, separate it from commitment, from prudence, and from wisdom, and use it as a drug, for the fleeting pleasure of the moment, to be discarded once the high wears off, to never allow it to change us, and move us from our self-obsession to self-gift, from staring at ourselves reflected in the eyes of another, to really SEEING and loving the other.

We are so ready to fall in love, that we'll do anything to get that experience:

Creating and chasing intimacy with anyone regardless of whether it is the right time or a person you would consider marrying: Lonely spouses sharing their marital problems with coworkers of the other sex, teenagers opening their hearts in late night texts to any person who shows them some attention, asking those deeply personal and intimate questions to anyone who shows they are semi-interested.

Here is something you need to know- when you bare your heart to someone, intimacy happens. When you make yourself vulnerable to another human being, you are opening yourself to the chance of falling in love with them, and them with you.

  • If you (the guy.. sue me, I'm sexist) are not available to pursue the girl, if you (the girl) are not ready to be pursued, if either of you are not able or ready to be married anytime soon, or there is some insurmountable obstacle, if you are in college and years away from being able to commit, if you are in a committed relationship, if either of you are MARRIED ALREADY- DON'T START WHAT YOU CAN'T FINISH. 
  • Don't share personal, intimate details of your life with someone of the opposite sex.
  • Find people of the same sex to have deep conversations with
  • Don't create or remain in intimacy-producing circumstances, like talking to each other for hours, especially late at night, or at parties or weddings with romantic music in the background.
  • Don't hang out alone too long or too often. 
  • Don't flirt or pay focussed attention to someone you are not serious about. 
  • Keep a little bit of internal distance from someone who you are a little attracted to, if it's not the right time. Don't be needy, or too attached. If you don't fall in love too easily, it's far more likely to stick when you do.
Or as the Good Book says,

Your imprudent and unwise choices to fall in love with the wrong person, or allow them to fall in love with you can have some hard and ugly consequences.

Decisions that are later regretted.

Broken hearts.

Broken trust and empty promises.

Broken families.

  • The most important way to prevent yourself from looking for love in all the wrong places is to look for it in the right place first. When you feel that need for intimacy, to be seen, to be known, turn to the One who can truly fulfil those desires. Choose to fall in love with Him first, and then you won't be so quick to fall in love with the wrong people, and your heart will be far more ready to fall in love with the right one.
First things first.

The other side of the study is that it seems that you can choose to keep the romance alive in a marriage, that it is again not just random whether or not you stay in love with your own spouse, whether or not you have a successful marriage.

You can choose to regularly ask those intimate questions, to create and sustain intimacy, vulnerability and bonding (aka date nights). You can choose to set aside other distractions to look into each other's eyes, and to give each other the focussed, accepting attention that every person craves.

Love can be far more of a verb than a noun, something we create or tap into, than something that happens to us. Although we can't control everything that happens to us, we have far more control over our lives than we realize. God didn't set us up to fail. Happily ever afters (with or without a spouse) are possible.

Related: Guys, Stop Texting Girls! And Other Super Helpful Advice for the 'Good' Guys  

1 comment:

  1. Just wait for Cupid's arrow-it hits brain and heart with gushes of Oxytocylin or whatever chemical makes all thought processes and logical brain functioning go right out of the window! heady feeling enjoy it while it lasts. The potion lasts 24 hours or a lifetime depending on immunity! God's grace definitely adds the booster doses required from time to time. So sit back relax and let it hit you In HIS time!