Photo by PK Pearry on Unsplash
Human beings are a little obsessed with love.
In 2018, researchers Christenson, Roberts and ter Bogt analyzed Top 40 music from 1960–2010 and found 67% of the songs related to love and relationships and an additional 29% related to lust or sex. It’s a wonder then, with all of that musing, that even in 2021, we lack consensus on what love actually is.
Most of us define love based on the fantasies we developed as children.
How about you? Do you agree with Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Cinderella?
Love at First Sight: It’s extremely useful to note that Ariel is 16 years old in this classic scene. Impulsivity and peak emotional experiences characterize adolescence and have made their way into our expectations for love. When love bursts onto the scene we expect it to be immediate and overwhelming.
The Stars Align for Love: Lucky Sleeping Beauty is fantasizing in a forest when her prince stumbles upon her. Even in 2021, many expect love to arise within a context of profound and magical coincidence. We expect the stars to align for love.
Love = Rescuing: There is nothing more romantic than mistaking a savior complex for love. It’s not just Cinderella who expects to be rescued by her handsome prince. Here, true love unfolds when Belle can see past the Beast’s violent tendencies. In Hollywood, worrisome flaws are depicted as endearing opportunities for redemption.
“Happily Ever After”: The most consistent and egregious message Hollywood sends about love comes when films fade to black once a couple comes together. In these scenes, we get the impression that love is a mountain to be summited, and that once we arrive, we hold steady in breathtaking bliss at the peak. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What these four Disney fantasies have in common is a profound lack of effort.
Love, we dream, is something that happens to us. But, this can’t be further from the truth. Love is a verb — the most active verb around. It’s time that we stop hoping to blissfully stumble into love and instead start committing ourselves to making the consistent efforts of loving.
Love is not something that happens to us. It’s something we make happen. It’s the most important effort we expend, because as all of those Top 40 songs attest, love really is what makes life worth living. As Mother Teresa so beautifully said, “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, He will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather He will ask, ‘How much did love did you put into what you did?”
Love is the hottest, sweetest fire around, it makes life worth living, but its embers need to be fanned daily if we expect them to warm us for a lifetime.
How Can I Make Love Happen?
Relationship gurus Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt’s say that the key to lasting love is consistent effort.
The giving of unexpected gifts or offerings of acts of service is a key ingredient in their IMAGO approach to healthy relationships. When our love surprises us with an unexpected gift, whether physical or a helping hand, we can’t help but respond with an excitement similar to what a child feels when they are offered an unexpected sweet treat. The brain responds to novel (ie. unexpected) positive stimulus automatically.
Having love in our lives lightens our burdens and makes life sweeter, but only when we work at it. If you’ve been blessed with love, commit now to doing at least one act of service for your love every day.
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