Is Romantic Love All There Is To It?
To love is to desire something more than what we can presently have. It is to desire more of what is wanted without having to work for it. Love encompasses a broad spectrum of positive and strong emotional and mental states, ranging from the sublime, all-encompassing love for our spouses and children, to the most subliminal, all-encompassing love for a good exercise, a good laugh, a great meal, or a warm shower. It’s hard to define love, since everyone’s definition of love is different; but whatever love is, it is always worth having.
The most basic, fundamental definition of love is “the delight you feel when your other half is in your life”. When we are in a loving relationship, this happiness is expressed not through material possessions or through sexual activity, but through feelings of deep satisfaction with another person. These feelings are felt in the context of a meaningful relationship, and they are shared by the partners in the relationship. This sharing generates a bond of intimacy, and it is this intimacy which creates that substance which we call “love”. The more we grow into and understand this bond, the more fulfillment we will experience in our relationships, and the easier it will be to share the love we feel with another person.
But love also includes an awareness of the importance of being in a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships are those in which two people feel mutually connected with each other, and in which there is a sense of balance and harmony between the two individuals. This sense of balance and harmony is essential to our health as human beings. And while love may be one of those positive emotions, it is certainly not the only one.
Emotions such as love may not be accompanied by physical feelings such as lust or arousal. For instance, falling in love with my husband did not result in me experiencing physical sensations of arousal. Nonetheless, these feelings did accompany my relationship with my husband. This was because he was the one I fell in love with. As I said, love may be one of those emotions alongside physical sensations such as attraction or desire, but without the emotional component, those feelings would have been impossible to sustain.
Love is not something that can be cultivated or established just like that. Love must be practiced consistently and in a certain way. It cannot be simply learned by observing another person in love with another person. Love has to become part of our lives, part of our hearts, so to speak. This can only be achieved through consistent and conscious effort on our part – constant modeling of appropriate affection for another person, understanding our own strong emotions and how to manage them, and developing strong feelings for another person who is different from ourselves, or for ourselves.
This kind of brain region (the one that processes information about others) is called the “amygdala”. It does not control all of our behavior; in fact, it only deals with very specific kinds of behavior (for example, our response to anger). However, the amygdala does play a key role in many aspects of our lives, especially in relating to others and relating to romantic love. When we are in love, this part of the brain actually does its work – tuning up the emotions and heart to create passionate love. That’s why when you are in a very loving and very familiar relationship, even when everything is going smoothly, there will be times when your amygdala is triggered to produce a flood of positive emotions.