At the heart of all relationships, from the one with our parents to the ones with our pets, lies a love story.
If you’re alive you’ve probably felt love, and according to Stephanie Meyer, life isn’t even a qualification. But what exactly is love? The single word has so many different meanings to people that trying to make it tangible is like trying to find a missing person using only scribbled pieces of description left by our society and a sketch of a face we saw in a dream. We all want to meet that special someone, but what exactly does love look like? Is it a beautiful woman whose curves drive you wild and calm you at the same time? Or is it a stunning painter whose eyes walk through your walls and haunt you? The feelings of “rightness” you have when you’re in their arms may be intense, but how do you know if they’re right? Out of all the fish in the sea, what exactly makes you love salmon? What is love, and more importantly, why do we want it?
“Love is a psychological adaptation to seek a physical need,” Tex Dietbridge said. “It begins with mutual interest in doing something with one person more than anyone else and then over time two people grow apart or change.”
From a scientific perspective, love makes sense as an evolutionary trait. Love releases hormones in our brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. While serotonin and dopaminerelieve depression and promote an overall state of well-being necessary for health and survival, oxytocin is a bonding hormone that keeps a couple together long enough to raise a child.
However, our hormones don’t necessarily decide who we fall in love with. I find the whole concept of “falling in love” to be rather passive. We don’t trip and land in Olive Garden sharing a bottle of wine on our first date. Animals mate. Human beings are given the power to make their own decisions, to choose. The reasons why we choose are different, depending on each person’s idea of what love is.
“Love is when you are with someone, and you know them on a level you know yourself. Simply being around them is enjoyable because it’s like being with yourself,” Cici Kristler said.
We fall in love with people we spend a lot of time with and trust, but also who we believe is attached to us. Commitment is needed on both sides to fall in love and to stay together. Dietbridge says he doesn’t believe love exists at all. It’s more of an obligation.
“Human beings are all obsessed with the desire to know. When you’re single or playing the field, nothing is certain,” Dietbridge said. Still, I refuse to believe that love is just a game of tiddlywinks to kill time and fulfill our libidos. In a study with rats, rats had sex with each other because they found it rewarding and seeked more of it. However, rats are not monogamous. In a study with prairie voles, the animals became addicted to each other by using oxytocin and vasopressin to identify traits of a specific vole. When we fall in love, our brains release hormones found in cocaine and we feel euphoric, shaky, terrified and incredibly alive. Sitting outside with a sexy musician, I told him how I used to play bass in a Christian band before I lost my faith. The musician kissed me like I was a star, and I began to believe it.
“Love is a spiritual, otherworldly connection when another person’s wellbeing is more important than your own self. It gives you everything,” said Joanna Aliaga, a psychology major. “You can’t fake a look. It comes from your eyes.”
There are three different phases of love: lust, romantic love and long-term attachment. Lust is a cloud of chemicals which induces a faux kind of bonding. When I first fell in “love” with a Baptist Sunday school teacher, I never left her bed. Romantic love is the intertwining of two people we see in Savage Garden music videos and Hallmark cards. While romantic love can be fun, some researchers have found that intrusive thoughts and highs and lows of romantic love are likened to manic depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Long-term attachment is a calm emotional union of two people over time. It can best be described as unconditional and committed.
“It’s like a staircase of little deeds that add up. You can count on someone without asking or expecting it. It’s a radiant blanket of warmth,” said Jeffrey Beiderwolf, an English major said.
Jesse Millner, one of the professors at FGCU, talked about cooking dinner for his wife.
“Love is always giving her the juiciest, softest, most orange sweet potato,” Millner said.
According to Millner, love becomes tangible when we are given choices and choose to do something for someone else in a different series of ways over our entire lives. Love isn’t a part of Darwin’s theory, and it certainly isn’t kissing in the rain 24 hours a day. Love is allowing someone to breathe their lives into you until you are so filled with their solitudes and joys, that given the choice, you will be their parachute, their rock and their destiny.
After an emotional day, a friend of mine took me out to dinner. She had an hour-long drive home but knew I was upset. Sitting at the table, I stared at the wine and wondered: Would I ever fall in love, a love that was sacred and envelopes you like a crimson ribbon? She placed a piece of bread on my plate, and I said, “I love you.” She laughed and said she loved me too. We cheered our glasses, and I attempted to carry her over the threshold. After all, it was only our first date.