On Falling in "Love"

As I've mentioned before, for this course we're working with M. Scott Peck's definition of love, which is, "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's sopritual growth." At the beginning of his section on Falling in "Love" he writes,
Of all the misconceptions about love the most powerful and pervasive is the belief that "falling in love" is love or at least one of the manifestations of love. It is a potent misconception, because falling in love is subjectively experienced in a very powerful fashion as as an experience of love. when a person falls in love what he or she certainly feels is "I love him" or "I love her." But two problems are immediately apparent. The first is that the experience of falling in love is specifically a sex-linked erotic experience. We do not fall in love with our children, even though we may love them very deeply... we fall in love only when we are consciously or unconsciously sexually motivated. The second problem is that the experience of falling in love is invariably temporary. No matter whom we fall in love with, we sooner or later fall out of love if the relationship continues long enough. This is not to say that we invariably cease loving the person with who we fell in love. But it is to say that the feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes. The honeymoon always ends. The bloom of romance always fades.
Our culture is obsessed with falling in love. So much so that they glorify it in almost all avenues. Movies, music, advertising, television, theater. And it makes sense, because the feeling of falling in love is overwhelmingly powerful at times. We feel in in the deepest parts of ourselves and naturally assume that because this feeling is so deep and all consuming, it must be true love.

When we fall in love, we lose a sense of self. Because the feeling is all consuming, we want to give ourselves over to it, lose ourselves in it. The feeling of being united with another person is exhilarating, thrilling, and sexually stimulating. But ultimately, falling in love is another way to lose yourself in someone else. We have this sense of unity with something other than ourselves and it gives us a sense of belonging and comfort, and we merge our identity with another person's. As Peck says,
The sudden release of oneself from oneself, the explosive pouring out of oneself into the beloved, and the dramatic surcease of loneliness accompanying this collapse of ego boundaries is experienced by most of us as ecstatic. We and our beloved are one! Loneliness is no more! ... All things seem possible! United with our beloved we feel we can conquer all obstacles. We believe that the strength of our love will cause the forces of opposition to bow down in submission and melt away into darkness.
Doesn't that sound like the plot line to many a great love story? Our culture holds up this idea of a love which is unsustainable and isn't actually love at all. Eventually the feeling of unity will fade as we rediscover our separateness. Different likes, different preferences, different friends, different passions in life. That rediscovery can often be coupled with immense fear and private distress that they aren't one, but that they are distinct individuals. This sense is often perceived as falling out of love. "At this point they begin either to dissolve the ties of their relationship or to initiate the work of real loving."

Real loving. The work of real loving. I feel like I don't see that in movies and songs quite so much. The daily grind of loving another, distinct, and unique human being. When I see elderly couples who still love each other after sixty years of working at love, I see more beauty than in any flashy couple hot for each other at the age of 20. Of course, this is not to say that 20 year olds can't truly love, but in older couples I see the love in the wrinkles in their skin and the twinkle in their eyes. It's as if love has come into them and is something they wear on their skin. Truly beautiful. But I digress.

One of my favorite lines from Peck's section on falling in love is this: "Real love often occurs in a context in which the feeling of love is lacking." That is a litmus test for real love if I ever saw it. It's so easy to act lovingly towards someone when you're feeling all twitterpated and lovey-dovey. It's quite another thing to love when everything inside you doesn't want to. Real love, contrary to falling in love, is a permanently self-enlarging experience (remember talking about growth zones?). Even though we often feel like our boundaries and limits are extending when we are falling in love, the opposite is true. It's easy to fall in love. It takes no effort at all and can often happen when we're least expecting it, or at inconvenient times. "We can choose how to respond to the experience of falling in love, but we cannot choose the experience itself... Falling in love has little to do with purposively nurturing one's spiritual development."

Falling in love is something that will happen in life, and probably already has for most of you. What's important, though, is choosing what do to with that experience. I'll leave you with one last quote from Peck:
A true acceptance of their own and each other's individuality and separateness is the only foundation upon which a mature [relationship] can be based and real love can grow.
All quotes from The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.