What, exactly, is up with love?

What, exactly, is up with love? With romance? And how, oh how, do we get love to “stay?”

The ques­tion itself comes from an essen­tial mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion regard­ing the mean­ing and pur­pose of life.

Wayne C. Allen

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The book most close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with today’s arti­cle is:


The. Best. Relationship. Ever.

Ele­gant, Inti­mate Relat­ing is an art. It requires atten­tion, focus and per­sis­tence. My book, The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever., is packed with guid­ance, exer­cis­es, and direc­tions for dras­ti­cal­ly improv­ing your relationship.

We’re starting with a quote from 

a book by Tom Robbins — Still Life with Woodpacker.

On the fourth day, she decid­ed to think, in an orga­nized man­ner, about the prob­lem of romance. “When we’re incom­plete, we’re always search­ing for some­body to com­plete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a rela­tion­ship, we find that we’re still unful­filled; we blame our part­ners and take up with some­body more promis­ing. This can go on and on- series polygamy- until we admit that while a part­ner can add sweet dimen­sions to our lives, we, each of us, are respon­si­ble for our own ful­fill­ment. Nobody else can pro­vide it for us, and to believe oth­er­wise is to delude our­selves dan­ger­ous­ly and to pro­gram for even­tu­al fail­ure every rela­tion­ship we enter. Hey, that’s pret­ty good. If I had pen­cil and paper, I’d write that down.” Alas, she had no pen­cil, while the roll of paper that sat by the cham­ber pot was des­tined for a dif­fer­ent end.

Next, she thought, “When two peo­ple meet and fall in love, there’s a sud­den rush of mag­ic. Mag­ic is just nat­u­ral­ly present then. We tend to feed on that gra­tu­itous mag­ic with­out striv­ing to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the mag­ic is gone. We hus­tle to get it back, but by then it’s usu­al­ly too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at mak­ing addi­tion­al mag­ic right from the start. It’s hard work, espe­cial­ly when it seems super­flu­ous or redun­dant, but if we can remem­ber to do it, we great­ly improve our chances of mak­ing love stay.” She was unsure if that idea was pro­found or trite. She was only sure that it mattered.

Tom Rob­bins, Still Life With Wood­peck­er, pp. 157–158


who knows how to make love stay?

From “Slug­col­o­gy” and “Music for the Hard of Thinking”

Doug and the Slugs

Who knows how to make love stay?
Help before it gets away.
That’s the ques­tion of the day.
Who knows how to make love stay? 

The famous Cana­di­an band Doug and the Slugs asked the same musi­cal ques­tion that is posed through­out Tom Rob­bins’ Still Life with Wood­peck­er. What, exact­ly, is up with love? With romance? And how, oh how, do we get love to “stay?”

The question itself comes from an essential misinterpretation regarding the meaning and purpose of life. 

One answer to the “Mean­ing Ques­tion” is: We are dri­ven by a bio­log­i­cal imper­a­tive to “fall in love,” and the bio­log­i­cal pur­pose of falling in love is repro­duc­tion of our DNA, ala Richard Dawkins in The Self­ish Gene.

The ini­tial flush of falling in love is akin to an endor­phin rush, and as we know, endor­phin is the hero­in of hor­mones. No won­der we feel so flushed and full of beans when we meet some­one new. 

Although some peo­ple would argue that the bio­log­i­cal imper­a­tive is “all” that life is about, we look at things dif­fer­ent­ly. It’s like­ly why I like Tom Rob­bins so much. In each of his books, and in a mul­ti­tude of dif­fer­ent ways, he returns to the same theme — which is our answer to the “Mean­ing Question” -

“self-development requires self-responsibility.”

Which is the point in the first part of today’s quote. Many peo­ple who have rela­tion­ship issues admit to hav­ing pret­ty much no idea as to why they are in the rela­tion­ship they are in. They talk about what Rob­bins calls “mag­ic” — the sap­py, sim­plis­tic blast of hor­mon­al ener­gy that makes knees weak, stom­achs queasy and brains to oper­ate on half cylinders. 

I pre­fer to elim­i­nate the bio­log­i­cal imper­a­tive from this equa­tion, not because I find it unim­por­tant, but because that’s what every­one does any­way. Peo­ple sel­dom com­plain that their rela­tion­ship is on the rocks because of repro­duc­tive incom­pat­i­bil­i­ty. They are con­sid­er­ing end­ing the rela­tion­ship because the mag­ic died, and they could­n’t get love “to stay.” 

In other words, relationships end for

A rela­tion­ship is sim­ply one more are­na where we play the only game we ever play — fig­ur­ing our­selves out. But it is impos­si­ble to fig­ure your­self out through a rela­tion­ship. Think­ing you can tends to mean one thing: I now have my part­ner to blame for my inabil­i­ty to fig­ure myself out. 

As Rob­bins put it:

…we, each of us, are respon­si­ble for our own ful­fill­ment. Nobody else can pro­vide it for us, and to believe oth­er­wise is to delude our­selves dan­ger­ous­ly and to pro­gram for even­tu­al fail­ure every rela­tion­ship we enter. 

My sense is that most people mistakenly enter relationships in an attempt to (over) compensate for their upbringing… or to avoid dealing with their resistance to self-discipline.

It’s not unusu­al for peo­ple to latch on to oth­ers to try to work through dys­func­tion­al rela­tion­ships with their par­ents. Or, because peo­ple sense what a dif­fi­cult dis­ci­pline “get­ting over them­selves” entails, they avoid deal­ing with their issues, need­i­ness and incom­plete­ness by draft­ing anoth­er per­son to fill the gap. 

The intent is to fill in the blanks so that, between two peo­ple there is one whole per­son. Thus the expres­sion, “(S)he makes me feel complete.”

As Rob­bins writes, love leaves… and the mag­ic dies… at approx­i­mate­ly the moment that the first of the two peo­ple real­ize that the oth­er has failed at the task of mak­ing them feel bet­ter about themselves.

Then, that per­son starts with the, “How dare (s)he! Does­n’t (s)he know how much ener­gy I’ve put into this rela­tion­ship?” Rough trans­la­tion: “I’ve wast­ed years! Now I have to go out and find some­one else to make me bet­ter, or make it bet­ter for me.”

If, on the oth­er hand, this gets played out anoth­er way, in a self-respon­si­ble way, then, from the get-go, 

  • I won’t be look­ing to “be tak­en care of” or “to be under­stood” or “to be loved the way I should have been when I was grow­ing up.”
  • I will have got­ten over the need to look out­side of myself for some­one to blame, or for some­one to res­cue me.
  • I will be quite will­ing to do what­ev­er I have to do to know myself and be respon­si­ble for myself. And
  • I will be respon­si­ble for “keep­ing the mag­ic alive” because I’m the only one who can — I’m the only one who can keep it alive for me.

Rob­bins: “work like hell”, “it’s hard work.” Indeed. Much eas­i­er to look out­side and to sigh and won­der when “it’s all going to mag­i­cal­ly work out.”

Too bad easy doesn’t happen and magic isn’t. 

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

2 thoughts on “What, exactly, is up with love?”

  1. Oooh. This is good. I’ve just been intro­duced to the con­cept of co-reg­u­la­tion. Con­tem­plat­ing the inte­gra­tion of both.

    1. It’s sort of like pairs ice skat­ing. The goal is to com­plete the cir­cuit per­fect­ly. The process is step-by-step, and co-reg­u­lat­ed because of the indi­vid­ual actions of the skaters, which by def­i­n­i­tion can nev­er go com­plete­ly as planned. The key is to focus on the goal, not the mis-step.
      Hey! I just invent­ed that! Not bad for a Mon­day morning!

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