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Christopher Ryan Ph.D.

On "Falling in Love" vs "Loving"

One can interfere with the other.

"Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being 'in love' which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away..."
—Louis de Bernières, Correlli's Mandolin

I've come to the conclusion that the more energy we put into "falling in love," the less we have for actually loving other people. From my perspective, what we call "falling in love" is primarily narcissism, while "loving" is generous and selfless. We call it "falling" because we tell ourselves and everyone else that it's out of our control, which very conveniently provides the perfect excuse to cover all the damage we do to each other.

I read an article recently proposing that the evolutionary reason for falling in love is not really about the person we're connecting to (seemingly) but about the relationship we're desperate to get out of. In other words, we project lots of crazy stuff on someone because the frenzy we then create in ourselves provides a powerful lever to help us get away from someone else. "It's not you. It's me. I fell in love. What can I do?"

Looking back on my life, I can see where I've done this. I used the new woman to help me pull away from the woman I wanted to leave, but couldn't, for one reason or another (cowardice? weakness? love?). Or maybe it wasn't even a relationship I wanted to escape, but a dead-end job or just a phase of my life I wanted to leave behind.

But using someone as an escape pod is a messy business because then you're in a relationship with the new person when the new person was really just a way to get away from the old person. It's like you're dancing with some guy and notice he's got bad breath but you can't just walk away and leave him on the dance floor, so when another guy comes up and asks to break in, you go for it to get away from bad breath guy before you really consider who the new guy is. Then you notice what a bad dancer he is. And around you go.