The Science of Love (2 of 3): The Love In Romantic Relationships

The Familiar Story

He looked into her eyes and she looked back. Her eyes were eyes he can get lost in forever, eyes that he can’t live without, and because he can’t live without them, he wouldn’t live at all. You see, theirs was a forbidden love. Their parents were against it, stating that there were more important things in life. Their parents said they were too young to love so much, but they both knew better and, since they couldn’t have each other in this life, perhaps they could have each other in the next. He took her hand into his, stared into those eyes just one more time, and simply and without question, they jumped. [to be continued]

The Truth about Romantic Love

We know the stories all too well. Romeo and Juliet made them classics, romantic comedies keep them light, and it even has its own holiday (Saint Valentine, we’ll see you again next year). However, the concept of romance is actually relatively new. Before the 1900s, marriage had a more functional role. Thus, in the times of Jane Austen, arranged marriages were very commonplace in western culture and, if people were lucky, they would learn to love their spouse over time. However, marriage was an institution that was set for a means of survival, both financially and socially (hence, the rich merchant was more appealing than the bad boy stable boy with the mighty steed). In other words, marriage had very little to do with love and more to do with function and survival.

Fast forward to our time. Practically speaking, it’s more possible this day in age for a woman to be able to fend for herself so financially speaking, marriage generally doesn’t have that appeal. In addition, social status is usually accompanied with financial gain and thus further changes the appeal of marriage. So what’s left? Why do we get married? To have kids? Nope, you can have children even without a mate–we have donors, surrogate mothers, and adoption is only an application and a few thousand dollars away. So, why marry? Well, for nothing else but for love. And here is where it all falls apart. In a world with so many definitions…what is “love”?

The Definition of Love

What is love? Not just a general definition of love, but what is love in terms of relationships? What does real love look like? The answers to these questions are vital. In fact, if one has the wrong definition here, they may find themselves in the disarray of divorce or perhaps in a marriage that is unfulfilling. This is important because it makes up the foundation of a relationship and a good foundation is critical. Have you ever tried to build a house on a poor or weak foundation? Perhaps not, so let me tell you, if the foundation is wrong, everything else is wrong. Just as you can’t build a good house on a poor foundation, you can’t build real love on a poor definition. So let’s use the closest definition we can possibly get from that which love was created.

Love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~ I Corinthians 13:4-8

So let’s quickly break down some of these qualities of “love”.

  • Patience, in its truest sense, requires stillness despite the presence of a desire or outcome. Thus, it should not be confused with the mere ability to tolerate an annoyance. Instead, patience is the virtue in which one is not perturbed or otherwise annoyed despite things not turning out as one would like. Thus, the only way to actually be truly patient is to have peace of mind.
  • Kindness is a genuine quality. Only authenticity can bring about true kindness. Not kindness brought on for manipulation, not kindness meant to control, but kindness as the genuine article simply because one’s character is in fact, kind.

Love doesn’t boast, nor is it proud, it doesn’t seek out for itself and the definition of love goes on from there. The overall thing I’m seeing here is: love is not insecure, it isn’t needy, it isn’t incomplete and therefore need someone else to help make it complete. If patience requires peace of mind and kindness requires authenticity, then what kind of character needs to be able to have both? Of course, one that is not only half a person, but indeed, a whole and complete individual.

As stated in a movie about Sylvia Plath,

“We’re not even two people. Even before we met, we were just these two halves, walking around with big gaping holes in the shape like the other person. And when we found each other we were finally whole.”

This may sound beautiful, but the quote continues,

“And then it was as if we couldn’t stand being happy so we ripped ourselves in half again.”

Sylvia Plath then went on to take her own life. If we believe that love is about finally becoming complete, this cannot be love.

The issues with Romeo and Juliet and the true-to-life Sylvia Plath may be on the extreme side and thankfully, most relationships don’t end in suicide(!). However, the issue with finding our happiness in someone else is still prominent. Just ask the typical person that has just initiated a divorce. They’ll most likely say something about finances, how he or she is like this or he or she is like that. And, if you listen long enough, they’ll eventually tell you something along the lines of, “I just wasn’t happy” or, worst of all, “I fell out of love”. Now, I’m not saying there’s no need for us as individuals to be happy or love our spouses–not at all. I believe we should have both of those in our relationships, but what seems to be the major issue is this: we’re basing our happiness on the other person and we’re basing “love” on a feeling rather than something much deeper.

Going back to our definition, love is persistent. It isn’t a moment of passion, a single bright flash in the night of which one is discarded after the night is done. Instead, it’s a strong burning fire that remains to withstand time. Nor is it a relationship that only holds together as long as it feels good. Love is strong, love carries on (perseveres) even when we lose that which we love. Love always hopes, it does not indulge in self-pity and then throws itself into a river…which brings me back to the story that started this article.

The Familiar Story Continued

Before I go on, let me ask you a question, and please answer honestly. Did the story at the beginning sound in fact beautiful as you read it? I hope so, because that’s exactly how I wanted to make it. In fact, that’s the way Hollywood wants to portray it. The way I put it actually romanticizes…well, romance. But the honest truth is, this was actually based on a true story.

In 1995, in the small town of Sweetwater, Florida, the bodies of Maryling Flores and Christian Davila were found in the murky waters of Tamiami Canal. The couple wrote suicide letters and jumped into the water knowing that neither one could swim. The suicides came about after Maryling’s parents prohibited her from seeing Christian, but the truly awful part about the story is, Christian was only 14 years old, and Maryling was only 13. Indeed, this was a real life Romeo and Juliet story, it should be romantic. Yet somehow knowing that it’s true, makes it just a bit less beautiful.

So what does this all have to do with love in relationships affecting our health? Well, it has everything to do with love in relationships and our health. Happily married couples have stronger immune systems, better heart conditions, higher quality of life, and even live longer. Which makes it more distressing when in America, 50% of marriages end in divorce and the majority of the marriages that stay together aren’t exactly happy. Now, of course, there are other issues that can bring about a marriage, but deeply rooted in probably 90% of failed marriages out there is this deep-seated lie about what love really is in a relationship. It’s as if love is something that is based on feeling alone and if in fact we no longer “feel” love, than we ought to abandon ship as soon as possible. However, love is not something that looks out only for personal gain or to only feel better for the moment. Nope, it must be deeper than that if it is to last.

A Different Story

He was a prince, a real life prince. One day, as he walked around the marketplace amidst his assistants, he was struck by the eyes of one that wore silk and glass beads. He was 14, she was 15. Five years later, they were married. Everywhere he went, she went. When he had business over seas, he wanted her there. Soon the prince became the king and needless to say, he loved his wife and trusted her even to the point of appointing her the title, Muntaz Mahal, meaning “Jewel of the Palace”. Sadly, due to complications while giving birth to their 14th child (yes, 14) she passed away after 25 years of marriage. Before she passed however, the king promised her that he would never remarry and that he would build the greatest mausoleum atop her grave. 35 years later and at the age of 74, Shah Jahan, emperor of India, passed away, but not before building one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, on behalf of his beloved wife.

Now, looking at this story, Shah Jahan could have taken his life the moment his wife died, but he didn’t. The truth of the matter is, love, I mean, real love, can help you live for someone. In fact, real love can even help you live with that someone (easier said than done sometimes). But most and foremost, real love allows you to live without that someone when they pass or in more practical situations, if that someone decides to live without you. Love “always hopes” and it “always perseveres.” I’ll leave you with this quote:

“It’s one thing to be willing to die for someone, but it’s another thing to be willing to live with that someone. And if by chance you part ways, it’s another thing to have the strength to live without that someone. This is how love really works, it doesn’t take life, it strengthens it.” -Anonymous

Rolando Fulgencio, ND

Dr. Rolando Fulgencio is a Naturopathic Physican in the Seattle area. Founder of Fulgencio Natural Health Center, he did his undergrad in Walla Walla University and received his medical degree from Bastyr University. He's also the media director and program director for F5 Challenge, a ministry that promotes fitness, health, and fellowship through outdoor activities.

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