“I'm such a profound believer that timing is everything; I would tattoo that on my arm.” Drew Barrymore
Many people have claimed that timing is everything in life and love. I believe that timing, which is mainly a one-off task, is valuable in bringing two people together; however, time, rather than timing, is more essential in maintaining and enhancing profound love.
Are you lucky in love?
“I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson
The experience of being lucky or unlucky, rather than merely feeling good or bad about something, is crucial for many emotions, including romantic love. Thus the claim, "I am lucky to have such a good partner" clearly expresses more intense gratitude than the claim that "It is good that I have a good partner." Comparing yourself with others seems more significant in the first sentence.
Feeling lucky in love, which is perceived as an exceptional experience, may refer to (a) the exceptional nature of the generation of this love, and (b) the exceptional nature of the profundity of this love. In the first sense, it refers to a brief, almost instantaneous event and may involve only a small measure of responsibility on the part of the lovers; in the second sense, it refers to a long-term process in which the lovers’ joint activities and personal development play a major role. The first sense is all about timing; the second about time.
Romantic timing and time
“Timing is everything with relationships.” Rashida Jones
Timing refers to a specific point in time that in retrospect is thought to have had a good or bad effect on the outcome. Time has a wider reference, including, for example, duration, frequency, and development. Timing is of greater importance in finding a partner, while time is more significant for long-term profound love.
Romantic timing may be due to sheer luck. Two lovers might meet accidently on a train where they just happened to encounter each other. In this case, the highly likely alternative of not having ever met underlies their feeling of being lucky. However, timing may also involve a sort of skill or aptitude of doing something at the most suitable moment. Timing may involve both the luck of being in optimal circumstances at the right time, as well as the skill of being smart enough to recognize such circumstances. In both cases, the agent’s actions or responses are short-term, sometimes almost instantaneous.
Timing is of great value in generating romantic experiences, such as finding a new partner, or intense romantic experiences, like sexual desire. In both cases, the role of change is crucial in generating romantic experience. Change is not something that is lasting or permanent—it is highly related to specific, often momentary, circumstances. Thus, sexual desire is influenced by the timing of previous sexual interactions, present moods, and momentary arousal. You can say, “I have a headache at the moment and am not in the mood for having sex with you”; you cannot say, “I have a headache now and am not in the mood to love you.” Long-term profound love exists even when one or both lovers are sad; it continues to exist in a dispositional manner even when the lovers are not thinking about each other. Conversely, sad emotional circumstances are not optimal for sexual interactions, though when the sadness passes, makeup sex may be quite intense.
Profound long-term love may be lucky in its generation, but it may be also the case that its generation was not that unique or lucky at all—the lovers may have been class mates for a few years. When couples in long-term profound love consider themselves to be lucky they more often than not allude to the fact that such profound love is statistically rare; the alternative to their situation, that is, a loveless relationship, is quite common.
When timing is more central than time
“You don't have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it'll go.” Yogi Berra
The issue of speed has become central in our throwaway and restless society (Rosa, 2013), which is based upon overconsumption and excessive production of short-lived or disposable items, and where many people feel that staying in one place is tantamount to going backward; they feel, it involves compromising on or relinquishing the chance of finding a better option. In such a society, slow people often fall victim to rapid pace; the fast and often more superficial people seem to have an edge. Credit cards are useful in this regard, as they almost eliminate the waiting time until the desired object is acquired; accordingly, they were advertised as "Taking the waiting out of wanting." The internet and various social networks make the connection between people faster and less profound thereby significantly decreasing the possibility of long-term profound relationships (Ben-Ze’ev, 2004) and, not surprisingly, increasing the problem of loneliness—as loneliness is not generated by lack of social connections, but by lack of meaningful, profound social connections.
In accordance with the dominance of speed in our society, timing has become more important than time. When timing comes to be the major concern, lovers are indeed always restless. As optimal timing is often associated with sheer luck, lovers continuously worry that they might be missing an alluring opportunity or that an alluring opportunity will ruin their loving relationships. In such circumstances, lovers always need to be on their toes, ready to catch or prevent the temptation of a fleeting opportunity.
Restless lovers always search for a new partner, and need to be clever enough to identify optimal timing to make contact with a lonesome soul (Ben-Ze’ev & Goussinsky, 2008). Thus, it is good timing to approach someone who seems lonely and might be open for a new romantic option. In the graphic words of Carole King, “When my soul was in the lost-and-found, you came along to claim it.” When love is all about timing, the lover's role does not go much beyond the technical task of catching the romantic moment, even if she has to do so many times until she finds the right partner.
In light of the many alluring romantic alternatives in our society, timing has acquired greater significance. If there are so many accessible, even superior alternatives, it makes no sense to invest your time and other resources in the current relationship if it requires much work to make it more profound. As with many other products and experiences, a prevailing requirement for love today is that of instant satisfaction. Timing in finding the next new opportunity is very important here. Romantic satisfaction is expected to be achieved quickly, even instantaneously.
When time is more central than timing
"I'll love you when your hair turns grey. I'll still want you if you gain a little weight. The way I feel for you will always be the same, just as long as your love doesn't change." Unknown
When we deal with profound love that extends over a long time, lovers play a greater role; success is not sheer luck, but rather the expression of ongoing romantic feelings and activities. Profound love requires investing a lot of time in shared activities and emotional experiences (Krebs, 2014). It seems that nowadays more people give up on the search for enduring romantic profundity and are satisfied with occasional instant sexual intensity that is dependent on getting the timing right. Although the latter is easier to achieve, at the end of the day it is more tiresome and depressing to be reliant on such serendipitous and ultimately superficial experiences. Accordingly, many people still yearn for romantic profundity, which brings them the romantic calmness, stability, and certainty that are of great value in life.
In profound love, lovers carry a lot of responsibility; there are ongoing challenges that often require the lovers to exercise many of their capacities and resources and that are frequently perceived as being against all odds. Despite the fact that the lovers’ role and responsibility in profound love is greater, people feel calmer and more secure in such relationships. The realization that enhancing their love depends to a great extent on themselves makes people calmer than when they are in a series of short, unstable relationships that can quickly end due to arbitrary, externally circumstances. Calmness is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: the calmer you are about the likelihood that your relationship will endure, the greater is your willingness to invest in it and the greater the likelihood that it will endure.
The incentive to invest further in a romantic relationship can be increased by the threat of losing the partner (hence the tactic of generating moderate jealousy), but it can also be increased by developing a deep trust that enables you to be calm and open (hence taking the partner for granted in a positive manner). I have argued elsewhere that the second manner is more valuable for a long-term profound relationship (see here and here).
To sum up, luck in the sense of good timing is valuable in romantic love—many love stories have begun in this way. However, good timing is limited in its scope and it is of hardly any value in long-term profound love. Both timing and time are important in various circumstances, as romantic intensity and profundity are both important elements in romantic love. Understanding the nature of each may enable lovers to make the best of their romantic connection.
Ben-Ze'ev, A. (2004). Love online: Emotions on the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ben-Ze'ev, A. & Goussinsky, R. (2008). In the name of love: Romantic Ideology and its victims. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Krebs, A. (2014). Between I and Thou – On the dialogical nature of love. In C. Maurer, T. Milligan, and K. Pacovská (Eds.), Love and its objects. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 7-24.
Rosa, H. (2013). Social acceleration: A new theory of modernity. New York: Columbia University Press.