Jan 29

Love and Human Nature

In Brief—An exploration of what is meant by “Love” and its possible sources. Is it real or merely a transitory experience?


“Love is a serious mental disease.” (Plato)

stupid-love“I love you” may be the most common expression in the human repertoire, but its vagueness avoids some truths that are the core of human nature.

Love is said to be a strong emotional attachment that embraces commitment, selflessness and harmony. Wait a second! Is that true? Let’s examine that more closely in light of what we see around us every day and what our own lives reveal.

Views of Love—

Like life, thinkers through the ages have tried to define love. Religionists, philosophers, scientists, psychologists and others have taken a whack at it depending on their particular orientation, but few have been able to define it satisfactorily. Instead, I will look at this emotion from a realistic and some would say a cynical point-of-view.

Religionists and those claiming to be spiritual but not religious have their own takes on love. Religious people assert that God is love without realizing that if God is love, he has a strange way of showing it. The deity permits his creations to suffer and die without stepping in to stop it.

The “spiritual” adherents often talk in terms of using adversity to strengthen oneself. Gaining strength through suffering is their mantra. We might ask those suffering if they prefer their pain over their spiritual gain. You can also find the tarot card and Gaia crowd crowing about how “spiritual” they are.

Philosophers too often pontificate about the types of love: philia (brotherly love), agape (love of God), pragma (companionate or married love), eros (sexual love), philautia (love of the self) and storge (love for a child).

Scientists speak of love in terms of hormones, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, neurotransmitters, brain states and psychology. My view reflects this position.

Practical Situations—

It is said that true love is instantly recognizable and will last a lifetime with that one special person. If that is true, then how do you account for the young falling in love with one today, then next week another? How do you account for divorce? What about multiple marriages, most taking place in religious surroundings under the eye of the deity? ‘Til death do you part, and all that stuff.

Here are some interesting facts about love and marriage.

  • People married while young are more likely to divorce.
  • People who work in the same place are more likely to marry. The person in the next cubicle is a big attraction.
  • Roughly half of all American marriages end in divorce.
  • Divorce is more common where one’s parents were divorced. Other risk factors include, Youth, Limited education, Low income, Cohabitation, Religious differences and Insecurity of one or both partners.

So you don’t believe in marriage? Here are some facts about living outside of marriage, continued cohabitation, marrying later or separating.

  • Approximately three-quarters of American women below thirty have lived with a partner without being married. Some married their partner, some continued to cohabitate and about thirty percent separated. Continued cohabitation or multiple partners depend to a substantial degree on lower income and level of education.
  • Part of the issue is cultural. That is, people are not marrying as much these days. Traditions are changing.

So what does this have to do with love? Could it be cynicism about love? Could it be reality intruding? Could it be the current fad? Is love just a transitory state of mind? I believe it involves all the above, but mostly the latter.

Although I am only one among billions of humans and not necessarily representative, here is my history and my views. Every individual has a different history and view.

I have been married three times. Fortunately, it appears I paid attention and grew since the third relationship has lasted forty years. A couple of years of cohabitation with my present wife convinced me that this one was right (consider this: maybe I just got lucky). Despite coming from different cultures an ocean apart, our values were similar. We don’t subscribe to ownership of the other and, though we may disagree at times, we respect each other. Today finds us in a new phase of the relationship and we’re feeling our way. Still, it feels solid.

My first two marriages show that love is temporary. We were young and immature (I certainly was), but I sensed that the marriages didn’t feel right. I suspect that the women did, too. More importantly, it takes two to tango; that is, both of us contributed to the breakup. The results point to love being transitory.

I came from a family where, for two prior generations, divorce was common. That probably made it easier to end the relationships, but we seem to be better for the divorces…at least it was for me.

What is your view? Are you better off now after a divorce? Is your ex-partner better off? Why? Those readers who have made their marriages work, what is the relationship for you? Those who have remained single, Why? We’re all different, so share how it is for you.

The Weekly Sampler—

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4 comments

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    • Dave Meyers on January 29, 2017 at 17:39

    Love really doesn’t ‘happen’.
    Oh sure, you may ‘fall’ in love. But that’s not love yet, it’s a strong attraction, that if nurtured and cared for may blossom into love.
    Love is strictly ONE SIDED. If you feel you love someone you must allow them to be who they are, give them space to act and react as they might if you didn’t exist, support them at every turn, assist them with advice and counsel, but be able to have that advice rejected without your condemnation. That’s love, even though you might not receive the same considerations in return. If you do, you’re in a ‘loving relationship’…..if not, you have to decide whether to stay or go, because, as I say…..it’s one-sided at that point.
    Things like faithfulness and monogamy follow the preceding traits. If they don’t, then respect is not part of the relationship and it will surly fail.
    The old joke about women needing to change men is surely based in fact, just as men often try to force women to behave they way they would like them to. But if this need to mold someone into the person you want them to be is the primary challenge, then we aren’t talking about love here…we’re talking about domination.
    Many relationships and marriages fail, it’s true. We live in a disposable world. Nothing is built to last anymore and we easily give up on anything that requires a bit of work. So, it’s no wonder that the divorce numbers keep rising. I don’t know what the solution to that is, other than to say, if you feel your partner is worth keeping, than do the right thing……respect them as a human being with all the same needs and concerns that you have……and SHOW IT. People do sometimes grow apart….that can’t be helped, and most likely can’t be saved. Move on.

    Love of God….waste of time.
    Analyzing the chemical makeup of love…waste of time.
    Psychoanalyzing love….waste of time.

    Recognize one thing; Love yourself, accept yourself, strive to be the best that you can be, and you can love someone else.

      • Don Bay on January 29, 2017 at 19:09
        Author

      You said it all! Each person has the responsibility of being the rational best s/he can be. If a person tries to shape someone else to her/his specifications, that is wrong. Ewa and I pledged in our wedding ceremony that each of us would respect the other. So far, so good.

      As to weddings, why does that have to be the proof of one’s commitment? Can’t commitment exist without marriage? Of course it can! But that’s a subject for a future blog piece.

      Thanks for your thoughts. You nailed it.

  1. Dave, I also think you nailed it. Thanks for your thoughts and values.

    But most of this is about primary relationship or couple love. Between a man and a woman or a woman and a woman or a man and a man. What about love for a child? What about love your neighbor? What about Peck’s “love is contributing to the spiritual growth of another?” Are you going to take up these and other facets of love? If so I’ll wait for that. If not I have a thousand words to say.

      • Don Bay on January 31, 2017 at 11:33
        Author

      While I agree that this piece is primarily about marital love, I didn’t intend to explore the affection one feels for a child or a neighbor. “Spiritual” growth is just more pablum in my view.

      Your suggestion of same-sex love and marriage itself can be explored in another piece. As to same-sex love—whether inside or outside of marriage—my view is that it can be looked at in the same way as I have discussed in this piece, namely that it is as acceptable as heterosexual love and that marriage is unnecessary.

      As to the latter, marriage itself, I have already said that marriage is simply a contractual matter and should be treated as such. I don’t recall the title of that piece, so you are welcome to look for it. For guidance, I suspect that the piece has to do with contracts and can be identified by the image of a contact. In any case, thanks for the suggestion. Naturally, I look forward to any additional observations you make.

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