“Some try to hand me money, they don’t understand.
I’m not broke, I’m just a broken-hearted man.” – The Script
An odd thing, love. Having studied psychology and anatomy, I understand the mechanics of love. I know about the brain’s release of dopamine, endorphins, and other hormones. I know the effect is to focus the attention on the subject, even to the detriment of sleep, food, and peace of mind. It is a quiet obsession, love, and it’s all in the favor of the female of the species.
No, that’s not intended to be a batch of sexist drivel, although I can’t completely absolve myself of some spurned-male bitterness. No, it’s purely evolution. Humans, being big-brained, have to kick the baby out of the womb before it’s too big to to take its leave without killing the mother. As such, we newborn humans are a helpless lot, weak of body and undeveloped of mind. The female, though it is debatable whether long-term monogamy is natural, needs help caring for the infant during this 2-3 year period. True, she does most (or all) of the childcare, but the male is needed for providing, for protection, for … fathering.
And that’s when the chemistry of love kicks in. The couple releases dopamine and other love crack hormones and voilà, instant “We’re in love.” But as we all know, this kind of burning, passionate love doesn’t last. In fact, it only lasts, on average, from 6 to 24 months. That’s how long it takes for the brain to stop producing dopamine and for the newborn to be past the infant mortality stage. The “magic” wears off, the male (butterfly) flutters off to find another mate (flower).
It’s all so programmed, so perfectly birds and the bees. Nature in it’s perfection.
But every so often, a couple gets lucky, or unlucky, and they make it past the love crack stage. They learn to find new things to do together. They blaze new trails; they keep it fresh. In chemical terms, they continue the brain’s endorphin production, which creates the euphoric semi-love-crack state, and the male and female remain deep in love. On even rarer occasions, they beat all odds, and make it to the point where the mate-for-life chemical, oxytocin, which promotes trust and bonding, begins being produced in volume. This is the chemical thought to be responsible for the few animals that really mate for life, such as some bird species. It’s the only thing – short of God – that would explain my parents. For the record, I believe in both factors.
So, the man and the woman fight against the odds. They do the work, and the “magic” turns to something real, something lasting. It is no longer chemistry; now it’s love. But what if they don’t make it? What if one (or both) make it to the point that their brains produce a flood of oxytocin, but other circumstances don’t work out?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, you see.
What if you give your heart to someone, and they leave, but forget to give it back? What if your “soul” – which I am not entirely certain I believe exists – finds its mate, and s/he finds yours, but you are both too broken to make things work? In romantic comedies, things always work out in the last 25% of the book. In tragedies, of course, they never do. He dies; she kills herself, or in the nightmare of reality, he does them both. All too often we hear these stories. Each of us knows someone like that – the leftover bits after the bad breakup.
But I’m coming to the conclusion that long-term love isn’t always meant to be romantic partners. I’ve had no place in my life for love for years, so perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part. Maybe I’m trying to justify my being alone. I don’t think so, however.
I keep coming back to those damned lyrics.”Some try to hand me money, they don’t understand / I’m not broke, I’m just a broken-hearted man.” There is a difference, you know. Broken hearts can mend. Often, they mend for the better. I love better, and far less indiscriminately. My soulmate no longer lives with me, but she lives in me. I still have a best friend and a best love.
For some of us, once you’ve had that, the rest doesn’t matter. So if you see someone – like me – who’s been through love crack rehab, don’t sympathize. If you’ve never been there, never walked through hell, if you’ve never been an Orpheus to your Eurydice, don’t weep for us.
I’ve been to that mountaintop, and the view was glorious. See, the love of one’s life should be exactly that. I may never love so well again, but damn was the ride worth it. At my age, I’m pretty near the last 25% of my book. Needless to say, I’m hoping this is a romantic comedy. I know exactly whom I’d get to play the lead.