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“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return” – Eden Abhez
Having had tough experiences with love, I have found myself giving up on love repeatedly, which raised the question – do we really need love? From my experience, love brings a ton of pain, hurt, and letdowns with so many negative emotions produced because of love. Is all the pain and hurt really worth it? Is love really necessary? However, despite all the times I have given up on love, I still find myself longing for love. Longing for my family to love me, my friends to love me. This deep desire for my kids to understand and know my love for them and for them to love me in return. Most of all, I crave love from the man of my dreams – the man God has out there for me to spend the rest of my life with. Although I feel like I have found him, I still find myself craving love from him. It’s not that he doesn’t love me – I know he loves me… my point is simply, despite the fact I continually give up on love, I still find myself craving love in so many areas of my life. This makes me question – do we really need love?
Do We Choose Love or Need Love
Do we choose to love or is it something we cannot live without in our lives? The latest research emphasizes love is not a swelling of emotions someone feels, but instead, is a physical drive – described to be as powerful as hunger. If science believes, we physically desire love as much as we desire food, and if we cannot live without food, does that mean we cannot live without love?
A study performed by Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love, used a group of men and women who claimed to be in love. The participants looked at pictures of their beloved while having their brains scanned. The brain scans showed activity in the brain’s reward system, which leads researchers to believe love creates a physical drive that perseveres until it receives the prize, thus, we crave love until we receive love. The physical drive for love compels people to yearn for someone else for as long as it takes them to be together. So, even though our bodies and brains make us long for love, is it something we really need?
The physical drive for love is very different from sexual urges. Author Helen Fisher, of the book, Why We Love, says, scientifically sex and romantic love are two different things, and what we commonly think of as the drive for love is actually three different desires: sex drive, romantic love, and attachment. Fisher says, “The sex drive… gets you out there looking for anything remotely appropriate… romantic love, that giddiness of first love…enables you to focus that mating energy and conserve your courtship time” which ultimately leads to attachment. “The most powerful of these three”, says Fisher, “is romantic love”. Still, do we need love?
The fact of the matter is, people do not die for sex or for attachment… they die for love; looking at what we have defined as the perfect example of love, Jesus, who died for us because of His love for us. Fisher says, “People don’t die for sex… People live for love, they die for love, they sing for love, they dance for love.”
As a woman, it is easy to agree with Fisher when she says many women are convinced men’s brains are wired for sex and sex alone. I mean, what man romances you anymore these days? All they want is to get in your pants? Right? Or, am I the only one who feels this way? Nevertheless, Fisher says differently. She says men are actually wired for romance and that “men fall in love faster than women do because men are so visual.” Statistics show that 3 out of 4 men would die or kill for someone they love whereas women will not. Men not only fall in love faster than women do, but they fall in love just as powerfully as women do – only in a different kind of powerful way. If Fisher is right about this, then that could explain a lot – it could explain why the guy tends to say “I love you” first and why they try to have sex with you before you try to have sex with them – because they have powerfully fallen in love with you before you have powerfully fallen in love with them.
When I think back to all my relationships, it was the guy who admitted to being in love first. But, if I could ask Fisher one question, it would be, “If men fall in love faster and just as powerfully as women, why do their ACTIONS not portray them as staying in love with that same passion?” I feel like the more my passion grows, the more the man’s passion fades. I have this desire to be needed, for conversation, to be snuggled and cuddled, to feel wanted. Does that make me needy or is it because I so passionately love him that I want those things from him? In my relationship now, it would never be a question in the beginning and I would never have to ask to snuggle and watch a movie. I would never have to ask to be kissed or held or to have a casual conversation. Now, it feels like that’s all I do – ask to be touched, ask for conversation, ask for kisses, ask to be held. I have seen this be a repeated pattern in all my relationships – not just the one I am in now. The more I fall in love with someone, the more I want to be around him, the more I want to kiss him, talk to him, and be in his arms. However, it feels like the opposite happens with men. That the more they claim to love you, the less they feel like they need to have conversations with you and touch you and hold you and kiss you. I have seen this happen in other relationships too.
All my friends are male, and I watch them do the same things as my boyfriend. I watched it with my father, now with my brother (who is a romantic and does not even know it). The only exception to this pattern, I can honestly say, is my grandfather – who visually portrays over and over again on a daily basis just how passionately in love he still is with my grandmother. It makes me wonder what they have that I cannot seem to find; that so many of us in the world cannot seem to find. What makes him still so passionately in love after 60+ years with the same woman and why is that such a rare commodity today? If I know it is possible, why can I not have it? Is all the hurt and pain of trying to find it worth it, or is having love from my kids enough for me? Do we really need love?
In the study, when the men participants looked at their beloved, the part of their brains that lit up was associated with visual stimuli. By contrast, the women participants’ brains were activated in a different part associated with emotional reactions such as joy, endorphins, and obsessive thinking. Women also showed brain activity in their memory recall… meaning, science proves women remember more about a relationship than men, according to Fisher and her study.
Nonetheless, not all this explains whether or not we need love, only that our brains cause us to crave and desire love. Still, do we NEED love?
The Need to Belong
Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary (1995) argue that as humans, we need to belong; that it is a fundamental humanistic need that we form and maintain at least a minimal amount of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships. Baumeister and Leary further suggest satisfying this need to belong requires two things: (1) frequent, positive interactions with the same person, and (2) engaging in these interactions within a framework of long-term, stable care and concern. These scientists claim humans are “naturally driven towards establishing and sustaining belongingness.” They argue that, as humans, we are reluctant to dissolve even destructive relationships because of our deep desire to belong to someone.
The need to belong goes beyond the need for superficial social connections and relationships and even beyond the sexual interactions – it is a need for meaningful, profound bonds with one individual over a long period, which “is crucial to our well-being.”
The lack of belonging causes undesirable effects such as decrease in levels of health, unhappiness, and trouble with adjustments. Baumeister and Leary further assert that the lack of belonging cause greater levels in mental health and physical issues and these people are more prone to broad ranges of behavioral problems.
People refer to relationships in which both parties give and receive care, but, mutuality strengths the romantic relationship. Unequal involvement is therefore a strong indicator of romantic love ending. However, when both parties are equally involved in the relationship, the likelihood of their future togetherness increases. Baumeister and Leary conclude, “Love is highly satisfying and desirable only if it is mutual.” Hence, when love arises without belongingness, as in unrequited love, the result is typically distress and disappointment.
Belongingness creates a sense of meaningful quality and is indeed significant to a meaningful life.
Answer the question already – do we need love?
Love is a motivating goal for humans and that our brains explain by our attempts to achieve a certain goal. In 2005, a study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) found visual evidence that supports the theory that love is a motivator. The motivator is linked to the reward system of our brain. Once we achieve a goal, the brain releases dopamine into the region called the nucleus acumens, which causes us to experience a profound sense of pleasure and excitement.
Personally, I think we need love. We need love to feel complete, to feel that sense of belongingness. We need love, because without it, we will always be searching for it.
Nevertheless, this leads me to question – if we have found love, then why are we always still searching for it. I think that answer lies in the way we SHOW love – which will be our next topic in the LOVE series. So, stay tuned to find out how we show love and how that plays a part in our need for love within the different types of love. (It is interesting how this all ties together, huh?) ;-P
Food for Thought:
“The fear of losing something that in some sense belongs to you is as significant as the hope of gaining some kind of meaningful togetherness” – Baumeister and Leary (1995)