Lately I have been thinking about those tens of thousands of passed-over stories and all the questions and lessons about love they represent. When taken together, what does all this writing reveal about us, or about love? Here’s what I have found.
First, and most basic: How we write about love depends on how old we are.
The young overwhelmingly write with a mixture of anxiety and hope. Their stories ask: What is it going to be for me?
Those in midlife are more often driven to their keyboards by feelings of malaise and disillusionment. Their stories ask: Is this really what it is for me?
And older people almost always write from a place of appreciation, regardless of how difficult things may be. Their message: All things considered, I feel pretty lucky.
In writing about love, the story of how we met looms large because a lot of us believe, validly or not, that a good meeting story bodes well for the relationship.
What do we consider to be a good meeting story? When it involves chance more than effort. You get bonus points if the chance encounter suggests compatibility, like mistakenly wheeling off with each other’s shopping carts at Whole Foods because your items had so much overlap, you got the carts mixed up.
“I get those beets all the time!” “You like Erewhon Supergrains, too?”
Pretty soon it’s time to get a room.
It seems the harder we work at finding love, the more prone we are to second-guessing the results. High-volume online daters worry about this, along with those who routinely attend singles events.
The fear is we may force things or compromise after pushing so hard for so long. We may admire hard work in most endeavors, but we admire laziness when it comes to finding love. (If you manage to stay together over the long haul, however, it will be because of effort, not chance.)
When some people write about love, they can’t find the right words to capture the intensity of their feelings, so they rely on stock terms that are best avoided. These include (but are not limited to): amazing, gorgeous, devastating, crushed, smitten, soul mate and electrifying.
Popular phrases include: “meet cute,” “heart pounded,” “heart melted,” “I’ll always remember,” “I’ll never forget” and “Reader, I married him.” Then there is everyone’s favorite stock word regardless of subject: literally. As in, “our date was literally electrifying.”
Women and men may feel love similarly, but they write about it differently.
A lot of men’s stories seem tinged by regret and nostalgia. They wish previous relationships hadn’t ended or romantic opportunities hadn’t slipped away. They lament not having been more emotionally open with lovers, wives, parents and children.
Women are more inclined to write with restlessness. They want to figure love out. Many keep mental lists of their expectations, detailing the characteristics of their hoped-for partner with alarming specificity and then evaluating how a new romantic interest does or doesn’t match that type.
They write something like, “I always pictured myself with someone taller, a guy with cropped brown hair and wire-rim glasses who wears khakis or jeans, the kind of person who would bring me tea in bed and read the Sunday paper with me on the couch.”
Men almost never describe the characteristics of their ideal partner in this way. Even if they have a specific picture in mind, few will put that vision to paper. I wonder if they’re embarrassed to.
Another list women frequently pull together is “The List of Flawed Men,” in which they dismiss each man they have gone out with over the last year with a single phrase. There was the slob with the sideburns, the med student who smoked too much pot, the gentle Texan who made felt hats but couldn’t commit, and the physically affectionate finance guy who always dropped her hand when he saw his friends.
This series of bad encounters has left them exasperated to the point of hopelessness, so they try to see the humor in it.
Men rarely compose that kind of list, either. In this case, I wonder if it’s because they’re afraid to, not wanting to be seen as belittling women. In general, men write more cautiously about women than the other way around.
Love stories are full of romantic delusion, idealizing love to an unhealthy degree. But in the accounts I see, men and women delude themselves in opposite directions.
A woman is more likely to believe her romantic ideal awaits somewhere in the future, where her long-held fantasy becomes a flesh-and-blood reality.
A man’s romantic ideal typically exists somewhere in the past in the form of an actual person he loved but let go of, or who got away. And he keeps going back to her in his mind, and probably also on Facebook and Instagram, thinking, “What if?”
I don’t know if men are worse than women when it comes to romantic rejection; they are clearly worse when it comes to literary rejection. Even though only 20 percent of submissions come from men, they send more than 90 percent of the angry emails I receive in response to being turned down. To these men, no does not mean no. No means the start of an inquiry as to how this possibly could have happened.
One man sneered at me: “You didn’t even read it, dude.”
To which I replied, sincerely: “Dude, I totally did.”
Writing about love can be similar to falling in love in that we must be as vulnerable on the page as we are in person when revealing ourselves to someone we hope will love us back. That means exposing our flaws and weaknesses and trusting we will be seen as more appealing, not less, for having done so.
Good writing about love features the same virtues that define a good relationship: honesty, generosity, open-mindedness, curiosity, humor and self-deprecation. Bad writing about love suffers from the same flaws that define a bad relationship: dishonesty, withholding, defensiveness, blame, pettiness and egotism.
It has been remarkable to watch the evolution in stories I have received from gay and lesbian writers. A decade ago, their stories focused on issues of marginalization, identity, coming out, and of strains with family members. Within a few years, their focus had turned overtly political in the fight for equality and marriage.
Today, gay writers have largely shed that baggage. They write about looking for love, marrying, starting a family, being a parent, even getting divorced. Sexual orientation that had once been central is now incidental. Which seems like a nice change.
With Valentine’s Day near and the right words about love always so hard to find, let me close by simply wishing you an amazing celebration of electrifying romance you never forget and always remember.
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Don't let the word love define your LOVE
Love is the most powerful emotion a human being can experience. The strange think is, that almost nobody knows what love is. Why is it so difficult to find love? That is easy to understand, if you know that the word "love" is not the same as one's feeling of love.
The word "love" is used and abused for the expression of different sets of feelings.
The word love is used as an expression of affection towards someone else (I love you) but it also expresses pleasure (I love chocolate). To make it a little more complicated, the word "love" also expresses a human virtue that is based on compassion, affection and kindness. This is a state of being, that has nothing to do, with something or someone outside yourself. This is the purest form of Love.
The ancient Greek used 7 words to define the different states of love:
Storge: natural affection, the love you share with your family.
Philia: the love that you have for friends.
Eros: sexual and erotic desire kind of love (positive or negative)
Agape: this is the unconditional love, or divine love
Ludus: this is playful love, like childish love or flirting.
Pragma: long standing love. The love in a married couple.
Philautia: the love of the self (negative or positive)
These are 7 different kind of feelings. The love you feel for your partner is not the same as the love you feel for your mother. Even the love for your partner changes in time. You feel different emotions for different situations and people.
But still, we use the same word. It is easy to understand that a confusion is easy made while communicating. I can say "I love you" to two different people (and mean it), but I am actually feeling in a different way.
This confusion is not only the case while 2 people are talking, your own brain does not get it.
What you feel is controlled by the right side of your brain and language is controlled by your left side. If you use the word "love" 10 times a day with different situations, it losses power. Your left part or your brain does not get fully activated when you really mean "I love you" and want to get exited about it. 50% of your brain is a lot.
The first thing that you need to do is learn the differences of the (7?) states of love. Not the words, but how they feel. It is easy if you recognize the words. It is basic training. Awareness, that is the secret to love.
Love is a practice, it is not something you find or don't find. You can practice love for the rest of your life.
Don't abuse the word love. Use other words where you are not addressing emotion towards other people.
Example: I love chocolate, becomes: I enjoy chocolate. I love my job, becomes: I have passion for what I do.
Enjoying, loving and passion are 3 different emotions. It is essential to learn (again) the true meaning of words, not merely to communicate with someone else, but also so learn to experience them. Words are very powerful instruments. Not only to communicate with others, but also with your self. The words you use, creates awareness and eventually your reality.
If you use words wisely, you can learn to recognize what kind of love you are feeling, and enjoy the different kinds of love. With one person of different ones.
If you don't know how to find love with in you, you will never find it outside you.
Words are agreements to express ideas or feelings. The meaning of words is not absolute, it is always a personal interpretation. The group of feelings associated with the word "love" is difficult to understand, and even more difficult to express to other person. Let put is this way: it is impossible with only one word.
With the creation of a word, you can give it a special meaning. Some lovers create words to express what they feel to each other. A word creates and agreement or memories. This moments can be repeated when you use that word or when you think about it.
In other languages exist words, related to love, that expresses different situations that don't have a translation to English. When you know this words, you recognize this feelings. You get more grip in what you are experiencing.
Beautiful words in other languages:
Yuanfen (Chinese): A love relationship that has been established by lot, based on principles of Chinese culture.
Mamihlapinatapei (Yaghan): A look that without words is shared by two people who want to initiate something, but neither start.
Cafuné (Brazilian Portugees): Slowly stroking your fingers through someone else's hair.
Retrouvailles (France): The happiness of seeing someone again after a long time.
La Douleur Exquise (France): The enormous pain in your heart when you desire someone you cannot have.
Ya'aburnee (Arabic): The hope that you will die earlier than the other, so you don't need to live without the other.
Forelsket (Nordic): The euphoria you feel when you fall in love for the first time.
Saudade (Portugees): The feeling of longing for someone you love, but is far away.
This "moments" are so important in other cultures that they have words to express them. My point is, don't use just one word to define your love. Learn this "words" and recognize them when you are living them.
With love, you get what you put in
Love is an emotion in action. You can learn how to feel and cultivate your love... First learn and know the different situations of love. Learn how to recognize them when you are feeling them. Then you go and share your love with others.
Love between 2 people can only begin if the interaction is based on truth, trust and respect. That is something you start giving. This is essential to grown mutual love between 2 individuals. If the other person gives you wat you give, then you start feeling love for each other and it can grow...
It is not difficult to understand love, once you know how love works.
It is very easy to fall in love with someone. The difficulty is to stay in love. But if it is difficult to stay in love, that means, that it is not the love of your life. It is a love experience. Love is always beautiful, if it is not beautiful, it is not love. Time to move on. Sometimes, love just fades away. It is better to move on when you don't feel anything, then when you feel the opposite of love.
Finding your loved one or a relationship...
If you want to find the love of your life, start being aware of your use of the word love. Saying and thinking I want to find the love of my life and not I want a relationship is fundamental. You find what you are looking for.
"Being in a relationship" is a marketing term invented in magazines. Everyone that is not single is in a relationship. To address a large group of people it is perfect, but it is to vague to define your personal situation.
The only important question for you should be: "Am I experiencing love or not?"
This is the first philosophy essay forming a series under the name: "Natural Philosophy" about the most important matters of life, trying to define a "Theory of everything". Continue reading here.
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