Love Isn’t Easy. Why? What Is Love?

What is love? Oh, baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more. Ha! Good luck getting that out of your head for the rest of the essay. Sorry, Haddaway on the brain when I wrote the title. Anyway…

What-Is-Love

We all want to be loved by someone great. We also want to have someone to love who is worth loving. Experiencing both of these is a fundamental part of our emotional wellbeing. But we’re faced with a problem.

Love isn’t easy and there doesn’t seem to be a blueprint to follow towards building a perfect relationship. (Believe me, I checked. The architect whose blueprint files I was snooping through yelled it at me as he threw me out of his office.) Our ignorance causes us so much anxiety because we know that we want this fantastic, beautiful ideal, and not knowing how to reach it is frustrating. We want love more than anything else in life, until the desire feels all-consuming, but we worry because if we don’t know how to get it, we can’t get it, and that’s just heartbreaking. Out of all the people in the world, who do we choose? And once we chosen someone, how do we make it work?

Worry no longer because there’s hope. We may not have an exact blueprint for every relationship we might get into, but if we understand how the system operates, and how people work, then we can understand the bigger blueprint for Life and Love, and that will give us a huge advantage in dealing with our own personal experiences. To dig deeper, always begin with the golden question: Why?

Why are romantic relationships so important to us? Why does practically every book and movie have a love story? Why does the romance genre dominate the book industry? Why is the net covered in sexy people putting huge, crazy things inside each other?

Because mating is our purpose. Yes, life really is all about sex. Or, to be more specific, what sex is used to accomplish. Our purpose in life is to secure our genetic heritage in future generations. We live to create offspring and give them as many advantages as we can in order to improve their own chances of survival and successful reproduction. Literally, the biggest part of our lives is about finding the best match and having babies, then giving those babies all the good food and education and tools we can so that they can have an even easier job doing the same. That’s how our species continues to exist. It’s our method of operation. All the anxiety and worry we have about love and relationships is, not-so-deep down, about making the best partnership to produce the best offspring and the best conditions for their future success. It’s about mating.

Most species go about this with far less fanfare. In Spring, it gets warm and there’s a rising urge to chase down members of the opposite sex, jump them and rut wildly. They don’t put much thought into it, they just go with their instincts. Equally, we treat the mating process of all other creatures with the same nonchalance. Spring comes around and we admire the way that the flowers of the peach tree scatter in the wind, and grumble as their pollen tickles our allergies. We don’t give any thought to the fact that we’re witnessing procreation at work. We don’t think about how, four months later, we’re biting into a peach that is really a baby, the product of two trees fucking. Technically, that peach used to be a sex organ. See a tree covered in flowers? That’s a tree with a hard-on and stiff nipples. Take a picture and you’ve just made tree porn.

It’s no big deal to us. Life multiplies. We don’t think about out, it just happens. Except when it happens to us – that’s another story completely. We don’t care if two birds mating are going to produce the best children, we just admire the cute chicks. But with our own mating, we over-analyze it like crazy. Then we romanticize the hell out of it and call it Love. We build monuments to it, write libraries full of books about it, compose millions of songs to it, worry over it every waking moment of our youth. We turn mating into Love and frame it as an Ideal, and cherish it, and give it Innocence (for some weird reason). Then when it comes right down to the actual act, we guzzle a bunch of alcohol to give us an excuse to forget all the cultural frills and just get down to the good, fun business of fucking.

Where does it all begin? One needs only look at kids and see how, at their earliest age, they’re vaguely aware of the mating process. Why else would a five year old boy get defensive if you ask him if he has a girlfriend? Why else would a six year old girl differentiate between male and female friends? Why do kids treat genders differently instead of treating everyone the same, at least before puberty?

Because we are instinctively aware of the mating process and from the moment we’re born we spend our entire youth preparing for it. While this is a vague idea at best when we’re little kids, once puberty comes, awareness hits us like a freight train and all of a sudden gender differences and being with the opposite gender take on an entirely new perspective. It’s all we think about.

Think back to your youth. Ah, remember the wild, heady days of young desire and the faint idea of love when you first began to experience it? Not, not you, you’re too young to wax nostalgically. I’m talking to older readers. People who have a few broken hearts and some perspective under their belt. Or in your pocket, or where-ever you keep important things like that. Remember how anxious we were about finding someone, even as just a teenager?

When we’re young, before we ever get into a real relationship, the prospect of one always seems so elusive. All around us we see movies and books full of love stories, couples everywhere, the internet full of porn. We are very aware that men and women are connecting everywhere and we’re still alone. Our purpose in life seems unfulfilled. At the tender, ignorant age of sixteen we lament that there’s something wrong with us because we’re not passionately involved with someone else (and on a biological level, we wonder why we don’t already have three babies when puberty hit ages ago). Our older, wiser, modern self will one day look back, slap their impatient younger self soundly across the face, calmly tell us that we’re being Utterly Ridiculous and ask us to please be patient. We deserved that.

Feels so real at the time though, doesn’t it? We’re so emotional as teens. Why do we feel this way? Because our still-growing brains are physically more sensitive to emotion at that age, and our inexperience makes us feel like things are more unique and a bigger deal than they really are. And, most importantly, because we know that mating is the most important thing in our life, so we’re anxious to get on with our main purpose.

Then we meet someone and everything changes. While we relentlessly pine for love while single, we when we do connect for the first few times with people it’s Romeo and Juliet and they must be The One. Suddenly everything is super serious and dramatic and tearful and we need to discuss it endlessly with everyone and write about it and sing about it and make this teenage fancy live up to Love The Ideal.

With young love, we’re always on the edge of our seat. We examine each word said, inflection given, words not said, and every single touch is a Very Important Detail. It’s an exciting, nerve-wracking, sometimes painful, often embarrassing, and hopefully occasionally orgasmic experience.

And then, two weeks later, we break up and: “Oh-my-goodness the sky is falling and I’m in pieces and I’ll never be happy ever again in the next seventy years of my life. Kill me now, it’s all hopeless, love is a lie!” Ugh. My eyes are rolling comically. Did you see that? Of course not, I’m an author and this isn’t television, it’s a book. Stop asking silly questions and read on.

Things aren’t meant to be this complicated, and they weren’t for the first two million years of human existence. Living as wild animals roaming the savanna, cave people were free to mate as other animals do. They probably didn’t put much thought into it. If a cave-guy saw a cute cave-girl he’d nudge his buddy, say, “Man, I really like the hairy boobs on that one.” and his buddy would say, “Yeah, butt I love the hairy ass on her friend.” and then they’d drag them to their cave for some really hairy sex. Babies would result, end of story.

There were a lot fewer people in the world back then, and they were more spread out. If you were lucky enough to run into a member of the opposite gender that wasn’t family, you probably hooked up.

(Honestly, you probably hooked up with family a lot too. Wanna see something neat? Go to the biggest online erotica site, Literotica, and check out their most popular stories ever. Almost all the top ones are about incest. Evidently, women secretly love fantasizing about it.)

But living in big communities necessarily means that the process is more complicated. We have to worry about competition, and not mating with other people’s partners, and caring about people’s feelings, when we have to live in productive harmony with them in the future.

We also have more choice. This potentially allows us to come across better matches, but it’s also a huge challenge. Science has shown that when faced with too many choices, humans have difficulty making decisions. The greatest anxiety comes about because there’s so much pressure to make the Best Choice. Ideally, we don’t like more than two choices at a time, so how hard is it when we live in a city of ten million to choose just one for a partner? Really hard. We’ll hesitate from making a commitment, boys and girls alike.

Even when we’ve made a decision, the urban environment provides a constant plethora of choices not yet taken, always at hand, always tempting, often leaving us with regrets or avenues to cheat. So we’ve had to adapt and create culture and systems to cope. But these coping mechanisms have obscured the natural mechanics of what’s going on, leaving us in ignorance about the simple ‘birds and the bees’.

It’s no longer about just boy meets girl and produces mini versions. We’ve turned the basic necessity mating into something very complicated and, in turn, it’s become much more emotional and confusing than it naturally is. When it comes to mating, we dress everything up, call it Love, invent Romance, write poetry, compose music, bestow meaning on everything, and create elaborate rituals.

Combine the following challenges we have in our youth that are already challenges we must work with:

Emotional turbulence due to still developing biology
High sex drive
Ignorance about ourselves
Ignorance about the other gender
Ignorance about relationships
Over-abundance of choice and the pressure to make the right decision
Pressure of competition
Now add to that the confusion caused by cultural constructs; all the ways in which we actively make the process of mating more complicated and difficult, thereby increasing our confusion and stress and making finding love harder.

For example:

Religion
Social norms
Prejudices
Forced innocence
Poor sex education
Stereotypes
Laws
Arbitrarily determined age of adulthood
Tradition
‘Hollywood’ and ‘romance novel’ style fantasies which teach unrealistic things about relationships
It’s no wonder we’re so stressed. We’ve created an abundance of cultural rules that confuse the issue terribly. In fact, people growing up in this system have lost touch with the natural act of mating and what’s really going on. Culture can make falling in love with the best person, and making it work, extra challenging.

We don’t want to repeat a cycle of meet the wrong person then have a messy breakup, with its melodramatic ups and downs. We want something more successful. So where does that leave us? We’re lost. What do we do about it?

We work hard on becoming better people. Attack our own ignorance and focus on building strengths and developing values. It’s pointless in trying to make a long-term match with someone if we’re still a blank slate. We need to get on the road to becoming who we want to be before we’re even ready to become a partner.
We take careful study as we go through relationships, honestly analyzing ourselves as much as our partners. This requires a lot of communication in order to develop understanding.
We turn to those with experience in order to benefit from their wisdom. No need to re-invent the wheel. Hence, essays like this one.
We go to science. Biology and psychology are filled with useful information about what we’re going through. Studying that will help us understand what’s going on behind our feelings and actions. They all have rational explanations that we can understand, which gives us the tools we need to become better people and make better decisions.
Besides the pressure of making a choice, the other major cause of anxiety is Ignorance. The more we know, the less stressful our love life becomes.

Don’t fear that the science and biology of mating will take the fun or romance out of Love. The more we know about life, the better we can celebrate it.

What should we study? Here’s a list to start with:

Evolutionary biology
Evolutionary psychology
Self Esteem
Social, Economic and Sexual Capital
Sexual Selection
Selfishness
Cheating (biology)
Competition vs Cooperation
Gender differences (We are VERY different. We have different goals, different methods, different operating parameters. We cannot judge the opposite gender by our own perspective, we must learn to understand them from their own, and accept this difference.)
Mate choice
Interpersonal attraction
Decision-making
Wikipedia is a great place to start for any of those.

I love Love. It can inspire noble acts and create noble people in its name. It can inspire and motivate us to become better people. It adds so much hope and suspense to our lives, gives us things to live and fight for.

Because of culture, the mating game may have become more complicated than ‘wack girl on head, take girl to cave’, but it can also more fun to play now. And not just because girls are less hairy, although that’s definitely a huge bonus.

Finding Love feels hard because we’re not only dealing with natural challenges, but man-made ones too. But if we learn about them, we can turn them to our advantage. Modern society gives us so many choices it can lock our brains up and prevent us from choosing properly. But knowing that means we can focus on learning how to narrow our choices to the best ones. Modern cultural constructs confuse us, put social barriers in our way and increase our ignorance. But modern society can also be a fun playground to experience far more people and romantic relationships than we ever could as cave people. When we understand how culture works, we can better navigate through it, and improve it.

By understanding the underlying causes of our emotions and experiences, we can enjoy the game of love much more than when we’re ignorant. We’re not going to have fun playing a game when we don’t know any of the rules or the mechanics of it and we constantly feel like we’re losing. We’re going to have fun when we do understand these things and we feel like we have a chance to win.

* * *

Like what you read? Wanna be awesome?

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A Letter About Bad Decisions

fuck you

By Timothy Baril

Dear Us,

fuck you
Seriously.

This is a letter about all the bad decisions in the world. The rude, the crude, the lazy, the ignorant, the selfish things we do. The decisions that spread pain and suffering. We make the world more difficult for everyone else each time we make one of these ugly choices. To all of the poor choices out there I want to say this:

Fuck that.

Fuck choosing to smoke. It spreads stink and cancer-causing smoke in public and drags down our health care systems. We’re sick of smelling like an ashtray because of it. Let’s choose health and consideration for others.

Fuck choosing to make smoking legal, when it’s scientifically proven to be harmful to everyone’s health. We knowingly let greedy businesses poison the public just so we can harvest taxes from addicts. By that logic, as long as its taxed properly, we may as well legalize heroine and murder. Let’s choose to outlaw tobacco and do what’s best for our constituents.

Fuck choosing to be fat and forcing stores to carry eighteen different sizes instead of eighteen different styles and placing increasing burdens on our health care systems. We’re surrounded by information on how to live a healthy life, so ignorance is not an excuse. Let’s choose to be healthy and fit.

Fuck choosing to believe that we’re the exception to the rule, the one-in-a-million in order to not be responsible for our decisions. Odds are, we’re not an exception. We’re not allowed to blame rare genes until we’ve proven that the vegetables and exercise don’t work. Let’s choose not to make excuses.

Fuck choosing to be uncomfortable with the word Fuck. Let’s grow up. We should not be scared of words. If we don’t want our kids to use fuck as every second word, then let’s teach them how to use it properly!

Still just a word though.
Still just a word though.

Fuck choosing to drink and drive. Fuck even thinking one drink is ok before we get behind the wheel. Killing someone because of our gross negligence is not ok. Let’s choose to drive responsibly.

Fuck choosing to take what we don’t earn and choosing to murder what’s irreplaceable. This applies to corporations and nations too. Let’s choose to take only what we earn and to preserve the sanctity of life.

Fuck choosing think that enforcing the law is more important than thinking about whether we should really have those laws in the first place. Are we someone else’s blind tool, robots controlled by political corruption and greed? Or are we members of our community whose first concern is the welfare of the people we’re supposed to be helping? Let’s choose to question our laws and only have rules that really improve life for all of us.

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Fuck supporting wealth inequality by choosing to make as much as possible, whether we deserve it or not. That applies to the doctors and lawyers who overcharge for services, and double to all the bankers and financiers and stock traders and everyone else who creates so-called wealth out of nothing. Our currency wars, mortgage schemes, empty investments and illusionary economy are hurting all the people doing real work. Let’s choose wealth fairness, where everyone gets what they deserve.

Fuck choosing to make education a commodity, choosing to be more concerned with making profits than raising quality people. Corporate education only seeks to create mindless worker drones and consumer slaves. This is a system designed to create further wealth disparity, and that is totally wrong. Let’s choose a public education system that focuses on creating healthy, wise and cooperative people.

Fuck choosing to become part of the “one percent” and thinking that profit is a good thing. The wealth disparity we create gives rise to most of our social ills. Nothing we can possibly do makes us deserve a thousand times more than anyone else. Profit = unequal. Let’s choose to do away with the ability to be rich.

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Fuck choosing to have and support a military. Whether we’re soldiers or the politicians who send them overseas, our job is murder, and we profit from it. And every dollar spent on guns is a dollar less for education, health care and science. Let’s choose to stop spending money and lives on death and start spending it on life.

Fuck choosing not to believe in evolution. Let’s choose science over imaginative fears and misplaced faith.

Fuck choosing to spend more time with a television than with friends and family because fictional relationships are safer. Let’s choose to spend time with real people and have real relationships.

Fuck choosing to spend more time at work than with friends and family, just so we can buy more things we don’t need. Let’s choose better priorities.

Fuck choosing to rape. And fuck choosing to lump all the great guys in the world with a few bad apples, talking about ‘rape culture’ like men are born with some kind of fault that makes them naturally evil. Let’s believe the best in people and treat everyone with respect.

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Fuck choosing to be a self-absorbed princess-types who think it’s the man’s responsibility to make us happy in life. Fuck choosing to marry for money or status or anything other than true love. Let’s work to be equal partners, and to love and support someone because we believe in who they are.

Fuck choosing to give up on personal fitness and romance once kids come along. We deserve better, and so do our spouses. Let’s choose to be the best we can be for the people we love.

Fuck choosing to have beer guts and never learning to communicate emotionally. Let’s choose to become someone’s knight in shining armor or Prince Charming instead.

Fuck choosing to be parents who use their kids as an excuse. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Let’s stop using our children as an excuse to not be with friends, to never exercise, to stop being involved with our community. Our friends are happy to hang out when our kids are around, and we’ve got friends and family and babysitters to give us time off from parenting. Let’s help each other enjoy our lives and relationships even when we’re parents. Let’s stop trying to do everything by ourselves.

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Fuck choosing to waste food. Let’s produce and eat only what we need.

Fuck choosing to genetically engineering our food without public, scientific oversight. Fuck choosing to smother the land in chemicals that poison the planet and all of us on it. Let’s be smart about how we grow our food.

Fuck choosing to care more about getting re-elected than getting things done for the right people and for the right reasons. Let’s do what’s in the best interests of the people, not our political careers.

Fuck choosing to allow profiteers to hide behind corporate masks, buying our politicians and manipulating our governments. Let’s stop caring more about profits than people and take control of our collective future.

Fuck choosing to be CEOs and other executives with golden handshakes and golden parachutes and golden fucking bathroom faucets in fucking sixteen bedroom mansions. Let’s share our wealth with all the good people doing the actual work in our companies.

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Fuck choosing to be ignorant voters who eagerly swallow wholesale garbage about how to think and feel about the issues at hand. We fought to live in a democracy where we have the power to decide our own fate. Let’s do our civic duty to learn about issues and participate more in politics. 

Fuck choosing to slut-shame our peers or jump on the anti-sexuality bandwagon just to ingratiate ourselves with haters. Let’s support the freedom to choose our own level of sexuality, and to be open about it.

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Fuck choosing to bully others, thinking bullying is a legitimate life strategy. Let’s cooperate and treat each other with respect and dignity. 

Fuck choosing to tie our identity to material things and superficial, meaningless choices such as what we like or don’t like. Let’s base our indentity on values and principles and our relationships.

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Fuck choosing to not give a shit. To not care. To not try. Then somehow finding the energy to insult and drag down everyone that does. Not caring doesn’t make us cool. Let’s care and let’s do our best, because it makes life better for us and everyone around us.

Fuck choosing racism or forcing everyone to think and act the same way. Diversity is a vital necessity in society, in culture, in the living world. Let’s choose to understand that being different is often a good thing.

Fuck choosing believe in imaginary beings more than in ourselves and each other. And worse, using these beliefs to hurt other people. Religious differences having been tearing us apart and causing pain for thousands of years. Let’s choose to believe in ourselves and support each other first, and make the best of this life, together.

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Fuck choosing to make Christmas too commercial, or to give up on it because other people have over-commercialized it. Let’s stop trying to suck the magic out of it for those of us who still believe in love and goodwill towards man. Let’s get out there and make Christmas something worthwhile for us all. 

Fuck choosing to think Halloween is stupid because we’re too scared to wear a costume in public. Why are we trying to make each other feel bad for looking silly or sexy or being enthusiastic about holidays like this? Let’s have fun and encourage each other to dress up and celebrate without fear of embarrassment.

Fuck choosing to reply with a smart-ass ‘witty’ comment instead of something constructive to contribute. Our attempt to be ‘funny’ is still an attack on others. Mockery and ridicule hurt. Let’s try saying something supportive or constructive instead.

Fuck choosing to be a terrorist and choosing to fund them and hide such people. Fuck choosing to opportunitistically jump all over terrorism as an excuse to sell stuff, to get our face on camera, to get votes, and to pass bullshit laws. Let’s spend more time working together, caring about each other and being constructive instead of destructive.

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Fuck choosing to lie, to market with manipulation, to sell insurance people don’t need, and to peddling doomsday scenarios to further our own careers. Let’s be honest and focus on how to make everyone’s lives better, not how to make profits for ourselves.

Fuck choosing to make education a financial burden that many of us can’t afford, and which chains us to shitty jobs for decades just so we can pay off our student loans. Let’s make education cheap and available to all, because the more educated we all are, the better off we all are.

Fuck choosing to Cheat, trying to get something for nothing, or an unfairly better result than the person we’re dealing with. Fuck choosing to approach every situation with a ‘Me Win – You Lose’ attitude. The more we cheat each other, the worse society gets for all of us as we undermine trust and relationships. Let’s be fair and kind to each other, building trust and improving relationships. Let’s think win-win.

Fuck choosing to limit nudity and label anything sexual as somehow immoral or wrong. The human body and sex are COMPLETELY NATURAL. They bring pleasure. They are necessary for reproduction. Let’s stop making people feel ashamed of themselves, which only spreads pain and causes negative self image. Let’s celebrate the human body and support sexual freedom.

Breasts. Because fuck you they're awesome.
Breasts. Because fuck you they’re awesome.

Fuck choosing to take the environment for granted and raping it for unnecessary, unsustainable commercial purposes. All life is connected, and when we destroy part of it, we put the rest at risk. We’re selfishly putting our future at risk for a shiner new TV. Let’s realize that we live in a highly interconnected ecosystem shared by many other living things and that it is our duty and responsibility to protect the evironment, not just for us, but also for our children.

Fuck choosing to be selfish. That causes nothing but pain. Let’s be cooperative instead.

Fuck choosing to be ignorant. In the age of information, ignorance is no longer an excuse. It’s a choice and ignorance is holding us back from happiness, health and prosperity. Let’s choose to constantly be learning.

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Humanity is a team. Progress and happiness are shared goals and the more we all work together and collaborate, the better off we all are. The reason why we’re not achieving our potential as a species and as communities, is because of all the bad decisions out there sabatoging our team and dragging us down. This includes choosing to be apathetic.

It’s difficult to label people as simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because we’re usually a mixed bag of development. We all develop at different rates, and, even within ourselves, different parts of us grow at varying times. At any given time there are parts of us that are awesome, and parts which need a lot of work.

Don’t worry, just because we’re not perfect doesn’t mean we’re a bad person. Even if we’re guilty of making some of the decisions in this letter, we may still be a good person, or at least still have that potential. As long as we’re actively trying to improve and make the best decisions in life, we’re doing our part. We may have made mistakes in the past, but we can be forgiven as soon as we prove we’ve learned and are now capable of better decisions.

Who we are is a result of our decisions, and therefore completely changeable at all times. Who we are is completely within our control. If we want to be good people and take the steps to make that so, it will happen. We must not lose hope in ourselves.

Let’s choose to actively work towards helping humanity become the best team it can be, by being the best invidviduals we can be. For those who are, thank you. We are proud to stand alongside you. 🙂

 

the-reason-i-swear-so-much-is-because-fuck-you

 

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