Adolescence, Altruism, Beauty, Compassion, Kindness, Love

I Didn’t Believe in Love

As a teen, I thought I was a hard-nosed realist. I questioned everything. I willingly suffered the emotional pain of giving up cherished ideas when I found them to be wrong. I embraced ideas only after I was convinced by logic and evidence that they were true — and never because I merely hoped they were true. Of course, I was also quite naive.

For instance: I was quite skeptical of whether love had any value. Looking back, I understand how naive I was as a teen. The “love” I disvalued was what today I would not call love — instead I’d call it “infatuation”. Infatuation concerned me because, like many teens before or since, I was quite often infatuated with one person or another. And even as a teen, when I analyzed those infatuations they seemed to me more often curses than feelings to be valued. So I didn’t believe in “love”. At least, I didn’t believe in what I thought was love.

Perhaps oddly enough, I’ve now seen precisely the same cynical mistake made by several of my younger friends. In some things, every generation repeats the mistakes of the generations that came before it. And to confuse infatuation with love is one of those mistakes that often gets repeated.

As a hard-nosed teenage realist, I not only confused infatuation with love and consequently disvalued love, but I also scorned what I thought were soft, illogical descriptions of love unsupported by any convincing weight of evidence.

I guess my confused thinking ran along these lines, “If love (actually, infatuation) is a curse, then how can those “soft” descriptions of love (actually, genuine love) be true?” For example, I might read something like “love is healing”. Of course, I would snort at any such notion. Nothing in my experience of “love” as a teen fit with the notion that love is healing. Therefore, love couldn’t possibly be healing and any person who said that it was must be a sappy idiot.

I also see that cynical mistake echoed by some of my younger friends. It all comes from (1) confusing what today I would call “infatuation” with love, and (2) from having little or no experience of genuine love.

Of course, genuine love is at times tremendously healing. At least that’s been my experience in the years since I was a teenage “realist”. Those sappy idiots who said love is healing knew what they were talking about, after all. So, was there any value in all those misguided reflections on love when I was a teen?

Actually, I think there was great value in those reflections. I did a pretty good job analyzing infatuation. I might have mistakenly called infatuation “love”, and falsely concluded that “love” was overblown, but once I’d corrected that mistake, pretty much everything I’d noticed about infatuation still held true. The hours of reflecting on it were not wasted.

I have also learned a lesson that’s somehow more important to me than knowing a bit about infatuation. I’ve learned how extraordinarily difficult it sometimes is to understand what others are talking about when we have little or no experience of what they are talking about.

That seems particularly true of things like love, beauty, kindness, generosity, altruism, gratitude — all those things one can so easily dismiss as “sappy”. Until we ourselves have given with pure generosity, pure generosity seems to us an unobtainable ideal — at best — and a scam at worst. Until we ourselves have experienced a thing, the experiences of others who have experienced that thing can seem to us mistaken, absurd, ludicrous, delusional, or inconsequential. Communication depends to a great extent on shared experiences.

As a hard nosed teenage realist who questioned “everything”, I would have done better if I’d been even a little bit more hard nosed and realistic. That is, I should have even questioned whether my own experience was definitive. I should have recognized that others might have experienced things I hadn’t. And instead of saying, “love is overblown” and “all those fools who believe in it are sappy idiots”, I would have been more honest and realistic to simply say, “That’s not been my own experience of what I call ‘love'”. For the really hard nosed and realistic approach to life begins with recognizing the limits of our own experience.

11 thoughts on “I Didn’t Believe in Love”

  1. Well, as a teenager I thought of two types of love. One “normal love” like the deep sort of thing we feel after years and the other as “romantic love” which I believed was sexual attraction. And somehow I always believed that sexual attraction was nature’s way of telling us something. And of late research is saying that this attraction happens nature realises that two people who feel that strong “chemistry’ might actually produce great kids together from the evolutionary point of view.

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  2. ah yes, the eternal question. From the point of view of psychiatry, romantic love is a form of madness. I agree generosity, selflessness, etc can be very healing, but i find they are rare in today’s world. so sad.

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  3. Hi Nita! You were way ahead of me as a teenager! I only had infatuations until sometime in my late teens and so I didn’t learn much until then either about romantic love or “normal” love.

    It’s fascinating how the Theory of Evolution helps to explain so many things about us! I guess some people feel that evolutionary explanations take the mystery out of life, but for me they only add to the wonder of it all.

    Hi Nezha! Welcome to the blog! I’ve found in my own life that such things as generosity, selfishness, and so forth are to some extent tastes that I’ve acquired with age. It makes me wonder if that is true for other people, too.

    By the way, thank you so much for the link on your blog — I’ve added a link to yours on my sidebar.

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  4. Well, that was indeed a great article. You remind me of myself when i was a bit younger. Even though, at that time, i haven’t experience real “love”, i knew that i can distinguish between this love and just any type of attraction or what you call it “infatuation”.

    I was having fun of those who claim to fall in love and i found it back then so ridiculous and unreasonable. Nevertheless, when i thought that i fell in “real love” i started taking my words back, and at the same time, my girl confessed to me that she had fun of those who claimed to be lovers because she didn’t know what was love about.

    I believe in what i call, the “soulmate” theory which states that there must be a soulmate out there for each person on this planet. No matter what we do, we will never know what is love if we didn’t meet that particular person, and even if we felt that we somehow could manage to love someone, so it won’t be as perfect as our soulmates’.

    That’s why, i agree with you when you say:

    ” I’ve learned how extraordinarily difficult it sometimes is to understand what others are talking about when we have little or no experience of what they are talking about.” 🙂

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  5. Thank you, Faisal! As it turns out, I agree with you that people have soulmates. In my experience, however, it it possible for someone to have more than one soulmate in life. But more important than that, I am very pleased you have found a soulmate!

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  6. Love, real love, sure is a gift. And I love (er, have a strong liking for) your post on who-you-were-then and who-you-are-becoming. A lovely thing to think on.

    Realized that my WordPress login doesn’t have my blog attached, so for whatever it’s worth:

    http://chatoyance.blogspot.com

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  7. It’s frightening to me how many adults never do learn to distinguish between infatuation and love. The difference has always been quite clear to me, and knowing the difference has led to some painful communications with partners who claimed they loved me after having known me for six weeks. My idea of love can’t happen in six weeks or even perhaps in six months.

    I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced what I would truly describe as love, at least not in a male-female relationship. I have it with my mother, and with my best friend. But I’ve known both of them far longer than six weeks.

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  8. I think some adults are romance junkies, David. I have friends who get into one relationship after the other seeking romance. When the romance dies, they move on to their next relationship. They simply are not all that interested in any other kind of love apart from the very romantic kind.

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  9. As always, Shakespeare says it best:
    “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove; o no! it is an ever fixed mark tht looks on tempests and is never shaken;…”
    That is the kind of love I’m looking for!

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