In Love v. Being “In Love”
“Loving v. Being in Love”
Someone said to me this morning that he believes it to be true, that people can be in love, but not “in” love. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this belief stated. So, I wanted to venture off to do some research of my own on this “Loving versus “Being in Love” concept. I would have said being in love is the single most wonderful and important thing. It’s an arbiter of chemistry. However, I have found that like some, it may be argued that being in love is a short-lived sensation that is not sustainable. Perhaps loving and respecting someone are more important.
Being in love is short-lived:
At times I wonder if the sensation of being in love is a chemical imprinting phenomenon perhaps even exclusive to heterosexuals. 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.
In our society, the traditional heterosexual marriage model is the only socially supported model for establishing and maintaining long-term sexual and affectional relationships among gays and lesbians. This model has never been really appropriate or functional for same sex relationships. Although many same-sex couples still try to adapt the marriage model in one form or another, most now avoid relationships that completely conform to it in favor of relationships in which roles are not so rigidly formulated by gender role stereotypes.
Naturally, this movement away from the marriage pattern, along with the realities of same-gender relationships, makes for differences between gay and non-gay partnerships. There are also differences between kinds of relationship characteristics typical of gay male and lesbian couples because of differences between genders and the ways men and women are socialized. These differences create different problems and raise different issues. In spite of these differences, however, there are some general relationship issues that are common to both gay and non-gay couples.
Same-sex relationships are similar to opposite-sex relationships in that they are both built on love, mutual caring, and trust, communication is an essential element to the continuing success of the relationship, and both must negotiate roles, rules, and expectations. One of the biggest differences between gay and non-gay relationships, however, is that same-sex relationships lack roles models.
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 individual’s burn out of their passions. “Quick to light, quickly to burn” I believe the old adage goes… And with it yes- the pain and fear…
Be assured I am not at all questioning our desire to feel in love; we all have this aspiration. I question only for myself, since my partner has communicated to me on several occasions that this kind of 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 a 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 the time when my last partner and I met, and those weeks and months in the beginning of our relationship that he and I were unable to make even simple eye contact with one another because the rapture, the overwhelming brilliance and joy seemed blinding. We could not look at each other without seeing a future- and yet, has that feeling not lasted? 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.
Being in love is foundational:
Without a doubt, love and respect are centrally important. Without respect and trust you have nothing, maybe just some hormones.
However, 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 short-lived but foundational, even if it goes through fluctuations and phases.
Love, however, 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 well-being 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 a 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.
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 as 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 archetypal importance of being in love.
- The Rules of Relationships (psychologytoday.com)
- Two Unique Sexual Beings In One Relationship (psychologytoday.com)
- Can We Extend Love to Those Who Love Differently From Us? (socyberty.com)
- I want to be a better lover (vanguardngr.com)
Posted on December 21, 2010, in connection, coupling, feelings, Gay Relationship, Intimacy, Life, Opinions, Personal Growth, Personality, Purpose of Life, Relationships, Self concept, Self Discovery, Self-improvement and tagged Advice, Family and Relationships, Gay, Gay Lesbian and Bisexual, Hope, Intimacy, Intimate relationship, LGBT, Life, Love, Marriage, Personal Growth, relationship, Relationships, Respect, Same-sex relationship, Sexuality. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.