5.28.2008

In some ways it is almost amazing to me that divorce rates are as low as they are.(I should note that divorce rates are much lower than is commonly repeated. Divorce rates have never been 50% in the U.S. and have been steadily declining since the 70's when a variety of factors caused a spike. Both Catholics and Lutherans have a slightly lower divorce rate than Mormons. 24% vs. 21%)

I think I would consider romantic love a delusion, albeit a useful one. It is a well studied fact that the initial feelings of being in love last from 1-3 years. Many researchers speculate this is because it takes that long have and raise a child from infancy.

It is not that liking someone a whole lot is something I would consider delusional, since an emotional state is a subjective thing. It is that when we feel that initial stage of romantic love, or infatuation, our lover seems far better than they may actually be and appear after that infatuation wanes. Flaws or traits that may later lead to conflict or annoyance may not even be noticed in those initial times, and if they are may not be taken seriously.

The way we view them compared to others is far out of proportion with a rational assessment. Of all the billions of people in the world, this one person, who may be just slightly more suited to us than others we know takes on the status of being enormously better than everyone else on earth. They are infinitely smarter and prettier and funnier and more enjoyable to be around than all others. Out of everyone else, you want to spend every moment of the rest of your life with them. Not only that, but with only them. (you will still have friends, family and children, but only that person will you choose to live with for the rest of your life)
 
Think of every other sort of relationship in our life. Friendships and familial relationships. Almost never do we meet one friend and see them infinitely beyond all other possible friends and choose to be their friend in a way that is exclusionary to even the possibility of other friendships. Sure we have may have best friends but not to the exclusion of our others. And we normally see them for what they are, just a bit better than our other friends, not infinitely better than everyone ever.
After the first couple years when that chemically induced infatuation wears off, it is no wonder a certain disillusionment happens. It is like stepping out of a mania and seeing this person for who they really are. 

Even if your lover is an otherwise great perso
n, it can lead to disappointment or resentment to see the infatuation you had felt wasn't quite in touch with reality. Not that you may not continue to love them, but the nature of it changes, both chemically and manifestly.

It makes sense that an active sex life can play such an vital role in a healthy marriage. since sex releases Oxytocin and other chemicals which create a sense of closeness and intimacy. It is as if we need a certain amount chemical prodding, because otherwise they would more like a sibling.

There are interesting connections between Mania and romantic infatuation. It makes me wonder if perhaps a part of what happens when a person becomes manic, is connected with our ability to be in love. As if when manic we become in love with and infatuated with ourselves.
When manic, a person feels Euphoric and has a grandiose sense of self. (the exact opposite of a depression, where a person is sad, with an often dimensionally low sense of self worth and status compared to others ) The manic individual see themselves as much smarter or good looking or creative or whatever or all of it than everyone else. Isn't that similar to how one feels when in love? Except instead of towards oneself, it is towards your lover?

When a person suddenly develops this grandiose view of their self, it is easy to see as a chemically induced delusion. But when it is about another person, it is 'being in love'.

It is almost like we are 'tricked' into getting married. Our chemicals make us think some person is the greatest being ever and that our lives won't be complete with out them, so then we go and have kids and commit to spend a life time with them, then we find out, psych1, they are just pretty cool. So it is no wonder divorce is not uncommon.
I wonder, if this crazy head over heals in love stage did not happen, if divorce(and perhaps marriage as well) would be less common. It would help us make more reasonable choices about our mates.

3 comments:

paul maurice martin said...

I've come to share your essential outlook on romance - that the psychological aspect, which seems so strong and even profound, is part of a whole psychophysiological predisposition built into us for the purpose of making babies.

You can see why it would have had to be a strong impulse when we were competing with the lions and tigers and bears. But it's at a point where our species could, unfortunately, be looked at as a kind of pest to the planet. If we don't control our numbers somehow, the earth will do it for us, the hard way...

Anonymous said...

Your ideas on love and marriage are very selfish and depressing. Take one look at your own life and ask yourself where you would be without your family (specifically your mom and dad), who out of love for each other, brought you into this world. Love is distorted and construed by your words and would suggest that it stops after infatuation. That it has no power to endure. Love it is about trust, common commitment, serving your partner while putting your own selfish needs aside. You do not come to that point all at once. It begins with the first initial commitment which is born out of something within us all called attraction. You seem to think this attraction is some sort of psychological trickery. Love, true love, takes time and effort, it is not always simple and easy. Because it is hard, it is good and because it requires work, it will last. But again, this phenomenon is something a cynic may never experience.

chrisalmond said...

Dear anonymous. I don't think you read my post very closely. Several of your comments were either specifically addressed within the entry, or do not apply to what I said.