So what exactly is true love?
In last week’s article, we discussed that true love can only develop over time as it takes time to get to know a person adequately. We also mentioned that lasting love can only be built around person’s core character attributes, which are enduring.
So the biggest question is, what creates love between two individuals? And of course, we are talking about romantic love here. I believe there are essential ingredients which are needed for true and lasting love.
The first ingredient has to be what we call “chemistry”, which is visceral and physiologic response to somebody. It consists of an irresistible attraction which is almost entirely based on external stimuli such as looks, mannerisms, smell, etc. For example, a man meets a woman for the very first time and totally gets enamored by the way he/she looks, smiles, talks and walks, etc. We do know that during this phase of romantic attraction, very powerful chemical are released in our brain which do not only give us the “high” feelings but, please pay attention, also cloud our judgement! This phase has actually been called ‘limerance’ during which the person who has fallen in “love” believes that his or her “object of love” cannot do anything wrong or bad. People almost always believe during this phase that the person they are attracted to is almost perfect. Believe it or not, this phase can last anywhere from six months to three years. It is not surprising that most break-ups occur during this time frame, as reality takes over the initial euphoria.
So it is clear that “chemistry” is the critical first step towards the discovery of true and lasting love. Almost all of us have experienced having good or great chemistry with certain people at some points in our lives. However, very few of us are fortunate to have experienced true and lasting love. People often stay in a relationship for a long time for reasons which have nothing to do with love. We also know that a great conjugal life, unordinary wealth, or great looks alone cannot hold any relationship together for a significant length of time.
Lastly, given that no human being is perfect, we should not be looking for a mate without flaws. So, once we get past the stage of limerance, what factors can keep the flame going? Once we begin to recognize the human flaws in the “love of our life”, what aspects of person are the best predictors of lasting, fulfilling relationship?
Romantic love is a two way street. That means it has to work for both parties and both parties receive something profound and compelling from participating in the relationship. True love should offer opportunities to both parties for self-expansion, growth and fulfillment. A love relationship will be true and lasting if it offers both parties greater possibilities in life when they are together as compared to when they are not. For this to happen, both people must not only have admiration for each other but also respect and kindness for each other. It is not surprising that research shows the two most important attributes in a potential lover that people, especially women value are: intelligence and kindness. Intelligence denotes an ability to solve problems, create possibilities and enhance effectiveness. These are the kind of tasks that all of strive to accomplish in our lives. Abilities to perform these tasks, I believe are central to human growth. Kindness is a predictor of sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Now, different people have different concepts about what constitutes growth for them. It is essential that both parties understand each other other’s concept of growth and fulfillment. So an intellectual compatibility or let’s call it, an “intellectual chemistry” rather than the limerance, which is more visceral in nature, is a much better predictor of true and lasting love.
Ladder of Love
Is it surprising to you that even though the physical attraction is the starting point of love, but by itself it does not carry any relationship? So, it seems the physical chemistry may be the first rung on the ladder of love. To be able to get to the top of the ladder, or to be able to experience the most blissful love, you must also have an intellectual connection and compatibility, I find it very interesting that the physical attraction is controlled by the limbic system of our brain, whereas intellectual functions are controlled by prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is considered to be the highest in the hierarchy of brain parts.
Before we talk about how to find true and lasting love in next week’s article, I would like to poll our readers on the following questions
Q1: What was the time frame for most of your break ups?
A: 3 months
B: 6 months
C: 1 year
D: 2 years
Q2: If you were to find your true love, what would you value the most about him/her?
A: Physical appearance
B: Intellectual abilities
C: Being kind and sensitive
D: Ability to be able to financially support the family.
Please register your answers via firstname.lastname@example.org Results will be published in next week’s article.
The purpose of this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychiatric issue. Dr. Rakesh Ranjan is a practicing psychiatrist and a researcher. He is a recipient of several research awards and has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapter on psychiatric illnesses and their treatments. He is a national speaker for several organizations and serves on the medical advisory board for NAMI for Greater Cleveland. If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms that would lead you to believe that there could be a mental imbalance, please email your questions to Dr. Ranjan at email@example.com. Each Wednesday, Dr. Ranjan will address some of these questions in this column. All contact info will be kept confidential.