What is this affliction we call ‘falling in love’ anyway? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to broach this topic. What is this silly romantic notion that we have one day a year to prove our love, anyway?  Valentine’s Day, in my opinion is just another retail scheme to guilt us into buying goods and services at prices that mysteriously go up in late January to mid-February. Why does this phenomenon work so well every year? I’ll say it again, sex is always the answer. Men will do just about anything to get laid, and if they don’t show up with flowers or chocolates or something, they may have to spend the next few days or maybe even weeks making love to their right hand. So they will gladly part with a c-note in exchange for a bouquet of roses they could pick up for $20 on February 15th.

Let’s break down the term ‘falling in love’. Taking a fall is rarely a good thing. When people fall, they usually get hurt. If you fall long and hard, it could kill you. If you fall on your head it may cause blurry vision, you could become delusional and may suffer memory loss. Do you see the correlation here? No wonder we call it ‘falling’ in love. The act itself could be terribly painful even if it’s not fatal. ‘Love is blind’ and may skew our perception of reality. It may make us forget all of our ‘rules’ and all the things we promised ourselves we would never do, leading to irrational behavior. I love what famous actress, recording artist, and empowered woman, Grace Jones said about love, as relayed to me by her brother in LA. She said “I don’t fall in love, I stand in love. That way I can always walk away.” Why is it that when we ‘fall’ for someone we seem to take leave of our senses? Suddenly, all of our boundaries dissolve. We become distracted and can lose our focus and objectivity. Sometimes our friends have to slap us upside the head before we go totally over the edge. Really, I’m not bitter and cynical. I’m a romantic at heart & often wish my life was more like a 1940’s movie. All I’m saying is, “Let’s get a grip and be real about what love is, and what it isn’t.”

Here’s my take on the subject: Falling in love is an idealistic notion that we spend our lives searching for and when it happens, if it doesn’t measure up to our ideals, it leads to disappointment and agony. Have you ever felt like you were ‘in love’ and hated feeling that way? My theory is that falling in love is really a combination of lust, infatuation, and obsession.  These feelings are like a quick ‘fix’. Typically, they are temporary but act like a drug that stimulates endorphins in the brain and makes us feel as though we are walking on clouds – the ultimate high, if you will. This is a very addictive drug and when ‘in love’ we feel as though we can’t live without the person who is the subject of our affection. In fact, separating from them can become physically painful, thus the term ‘suffering from a broken heart’. Even for the most secure and well-adjusted mature individuals being in love can lead to possessiveness, jealousy, and insecurity if the object of our affection does not meet our expectations.  But I don’t think that being in love with someone allows us to see the other person or circumstances as they really are. Instead, the effect of the chemicals released in the brain causes us to see them and the world around us through our ‘rose-colored glasses’. As a result, falling in love is most often followed by falling out of love or disenchantment. This is why so many relationships are doomed from the start.

Of course, there’s a flip side to this. I like to call this ‘growing in love’. This is where two people can enjoy the party, but once the initial high wears off they come to realize that relationships lead to personal growth. It’s sort of like graduating from doing shots of Jäger just to get drunk, to learning how to enjoy the nuances of fine wine and drinking for the pleasure of it, while still enjoying a pleasant buzz. This of course takes effort. If we are willing to make the effort and do the work, the relationship matures and we find new common ground – fertile soil which can produce delectable fruit that we can enjoy for years to come. I have had people tell me that they are, or know couples who have managed to stay ‘in love’ for many years, even decades. That may sound encouraging, but I can guarantee you that they are simply enjoying the fruits of their labor. There’s nothing magical about it. The spontaneous combustion that initially occurred when their stars collided is not sustainable, but they may be able to bask in the afterglow for a long time after.

Of course, there will always be those people who become addicted to the ‘high’ of falling in love. I call them excitement junkies. They are typically risk-takers who are constantly seeking their next ‘fix’. Perhaps that’s why we see so much bedroom hopping, serial marriage, or sex scandals in the lives of those who are in high powered or very public positions. Take a look at politicians, the extremely wealthy, and Hollywood for examples. Relationship behaviors can often be predicted by lifestyle choices and addictions.

I met a man recently who asked me how many times I’d been in love. When I replied “More than five and less than ten”, he said he was impressed. He told me he’d been in lust many times, but never in love. The truth is love begins with lust. If there is chemistry and compatibility it can grow into love but that’s not a matter of getting lucky, or of two perfect people creating the perfect couple. It’s a matter of deciding what you want and a willingness to work for it. The Italians have two different words for the term ‘lover’. Innamorato has a romantic context and is used to describe a person you love, or a sweetheart. Amante has a sexual context and means someone you are very fond of or a mistress or male lover. Loving someone or having an innamorato is different than falling in love or lust as I call it, with your amante. And before you lose your head and start throwing four letter words around, I think it’s important to know the difference, no matter what language you speak.