The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Monday, January 12, 2015

On Being In Love

Hello loyal Her/Story readers!  It’s been a long time, I know, but life has been crazy the past few months with new job, new city, and new adult life.  But I’m back, and today, I want to talk about love.  Yes, I’ve posted about it before, several times in fact, in several of its many forms.  I’ve talked about how we should love each other as Jesus did, what real love feels like (glorious, painful, terrifying, and exciting), and that there are all types of love.  Let’s face it, love is a favorite subject of mine.  I’ve always been fascinated by the concept.  I read about it, write about it, talk about it, and try to understand it.  I’ve written all my past posts, specifically in regards to romantic love, mostly from an observatory standpoint because I’ve never been in love.  At least…I don’t think I have.  Recently, the question of whether or not I’ve ever been in love has been on my mind a lot.  Before we get to into that, however, a little bit of background first.  In an attempt to branch out and break out of my comfort zone as a part of my new adult life, I’ve started the online dating thing.  It took a lot of convincing from friends and family, but I finally got myself a profile and have started to intentionally look for someone to fall in love with.  I’ve never done this kind of thing before (intentionally seek out a relationship), and it’s made me really wonder what it’s like to fall in love.  It’s also made me really wonder if maybe I’ve already been in love, but didn’t recognize what I was feeling.  I never thought so before, but now I’m not so sure.  I’ve never been in a relationship before, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never had feelings for anyone.  Could some of those feeling have ever been love?  How do you know if you’re in love?  Can you fall in love with someone you’re not in a relationship with?  How do you know if you’re falling in love with someone you are in a relationship with?  These, and different variations of these questions have been racing through my head for the past few weeks.  So, ever the inquiring mind, I took to the streets to try and find some answers.  And by streets, I mean mostly Facebook and some texting.  I asked several people who I knew to be in love, or to have ever been in love before, how it was they knew what they were feeling.  The answers I received were thoughtful and honest, and there were a few similarities among almost all of them that I was able to pick out.  Put together, I think they offer very helpful insight into how people fall in love, and how you can tell if you might be on your way to jumping off the deep end yourself.

Among many of the people I spoke with, a common occurrence I found was that people had said the words “I love you” in previous relationships without really understanding what that meant.  A few maintained that they did feel some form of love in those situations, but it wasn't necessarily the type of love that you can build a life on.  It wasn't until they had actually fallen in love that they realized the times they had thought themselves in love before were really more diluted experiences of the emotion.  They loved, but weren't necessarily in love.  Love is a spectrum, and it takes many forms.  Oftentimes, we do not realize exactly where on the spectrum we fall, and this is especially true when we are young and not that experienced in love.  To those I talked to, many found that as they matured and were able to better understand who they were as an individual, it became much easier for them to understand when they were truly and deeply in love with someone, and what it was they needed from a steady and committed relationship.

A lot of people said that falling really in love was a slow build for them, and they didn't actually realize it was happening until it had already happened.  Some observed that when they finally said the words "I love you," it felt almost naturally because they'd had those feelings for so long, but hadn't fully understood what they'd meant.  Some resisted, some recognized what was happening, and some were surprised when they finally realized just how long they'd been falling in love.  Those who resisted did so mostly out of fear of being hurt, especially if they'd suffered similar pain in the past.  Yet in the end, though it may have taken them a little longer than most, when they finally admitted to being in love, it freed them to be even more open and genuine with their significant other.  Several people also answered me by saying that they realized they were in love because they missed the other person in a way they'd never missed anyone before, to the point of aching.  Some would come away from Skyping or talking on the phone with their significant other with huge smiles that they couldn't fight. 

One person's story in particular stood out to me, because she was reflecting on a love that she wasn't sure was actually returned (at least at the time).  She told me she’d had feelings for someone for a long time, but never realized that what she was feeling was love.  In fact, she adamantly denied that what she was in love, even when other people would point it out to her.  When she finally acknowledged what the emotion actually was, she described it as a full body reaction that she’d never had towards anyone else.  Just thinking of him would make her chest ache, her heart pound, and her legs go a little numb.  He was the only person she'd ever thought of having a future with, and also the only guy who'd ever held her attention for very long.  While she wasn't really sure she was all the way in love with him, she eventually realized that she was definitely on that path.  

Finally, the majority of the people I talked to reported back the same thing: they could be their genuine selves with the other person.  They didn't have to hide any part of who they were, or try to adjust themselves to fit the other person's ideals.  In a few instances, people realized they were in love with their significant other because they were put in a vulnerable situation, but it didn't bother or frighten them that that one person was present to witness it.  As one individual put it, "love is finding somebody who not only accepts, but who also understands the weird in you...Love is mutual weirdness."

So, put together, what can all this tell us about falling in love, and knowing when we are really in love?  It tells us that people recognize the feeling at different points in their relationship, for different reasons.  It doesn't always strike like a lightning bolt out of nowhere.  A lot of the time, it's a natural build up over time.  Being in love, like really, really in love, can be complicated, confusing, and scary.  It can be unlike anything you've ever experienced before, and it can be ever-changing, evolving as you grow and mature as an individual and as a couple.  There might not be one right way to fall in love and be in love, but it seems to really be one of those experiences that you know its happening when it finally happens.

Until next time,
Erin B.    

Mostly because the whole series is on Netflix and I'm binge-watching it, one of the best, most love-filled moments from Friends :)

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