I’ve always wondered how love happens; it has always remained a mystery to me, so I did some research on the topic.
Deep down I hoped that whatever I found in the course of my research will help me take control of this thing called love and not the other way round (thereby rendering myself immune to the pain and suffering associated with love).
But as Alain De Botton wrote in Essays In Love:
We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.
So truly, the knowledge of how love happens won’t stop you from falling prey to it; but I do promise you this: understanding love will make it less mysterious to you (familiar, even); and with understanding comes wisdom.
I hope this article helps you as much as writing it did for me.
How Love Happens
Love is unplanned, involuntary and sometimes uncontrollable; love is always ascribed as being mysterious, magical and unexplainable. In recent times though, scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers have all tried to explain this thing called love. They have removed a lot of the fog that seemed to cover the topic of love, but a lot still remains a mystery.
There are various kinds of love, but for this article, I will be focusing on romantic love. So wherever you see ‘love’ in this article, I’m referring to ‘romantic love’— the mysterious fire in our hearts.
So how does love happen?
The Unconsciousness of Love
Romantic love happens unconsciously—without one’s realizing. We don’t get to choose when, how, or who we all in love with. Much of the romantic attraction process happens behind closed doors—in the unconscious mind.
We may have our personal preferences and individualized lists, but most of the time the people we fall in love with do not perfectly match our criteria. This is because even though we know what we are looking for exactly in a romantic partner, our unconscious mind has other ideas. And love is controlled by the unconscious mind—it makes all the decisions regarding our romantic passion and we have no control whatsoever over who we fall in love with.
In the book The Mathematics of Love, Dr. Hannah Fry argues that the problem with love is that we don’t really know what we want until we find it. In essence, we are blind to the things that trigger us to fall in love with someone.
Put in simple terms: love is beyond our control.
Dr. Fry writes at length about the failure of science and internet dating sites to consistently and successfully help people find love. She states:
But there’s one problem – if the internet is the ultimate matchmaker, why are people still going on terrible dates? If the science is so good, surely that first date will be the last first date of your life? Shouldn’t the algorithm be able to deliver the perfect partner and leave it at that? Maybe the questionnaires and match percentages aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
We answer all the long questionnaires, put in all our preferences, and the algorithm searches through its huge data and brings us the perfect partner (or at least, someone who closely matches what we are looking for)—using the data we inputted.
And yet we still “go on terrible dates.”
Eighty-odd years of relationship science, Dr. Fry finds, has taught us one important thing: trying to use individual data to predict how well a couple will get along [fall in love] just does not work.
In summary, love is a mystery to our conscious mind.
How the Unconscious Mind Works
From infancy, we all experience different situations and environments that make each of us unique. These experiences form and mold our unconscious mind. And from these experiences, a “love map” is created in our unconscious mind.
A love map is a unique psychological chart that defines who we fall in love with. It’s like a guide in our heads that controls how and with who we fall in love.
In her book Why We Love, Dr. Fisher states that love maps are subtle and difficult to read. She maintains that this idiosyncratic psychological chart (love map) is enormously complex; people seek different characteristics in a partner.
One thing is clear, though: we all have different love maps — which we are largely unconscious of — that guide us in falling in love.
Dr. Fisher gives a perfect example of how love maps works:
. . . a good friend of mine . . . grew up with an alcoholic father. She acclimated to the unpredictability around the house. But she resolved she would never marry a man like dear ol’ dad. Indeed, she didn’t. She married an unpredictable, chaotic artist instead—a match that suited her largely unconscious love map.
From the beginning of this article have I tried to emphasize these points:
- Love is largely unconscious.
- We don’t know what we are looking for until we find it.
- Internet dating services are not much help in finding love.
Dr. Fisher reiterates these points in her own words:
“Love looks not with the eyes, but the mind,/And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind,” wrote Shakespeare. This is probably why it is so difficult to introduce single friends to one another and why internet dating services often fail: matchmakers don’t know the intricacies of their clients’ love templates. Often men and women don’t know their own love map either.
The Unconscious Signs of Love
Even though we do not realize when we are falling in love, there are some signs that our body gives off whenever we attracted to someone.
Let’s go back to the work of Dr. Hannah Fry. She writes that anyone who has met someone they immediately click with can tell you how exciting it feels, but they may not be aware of how their actions subtly shift to give telltale signs of the connection.
She goes on maintain that scientists have known for a long time that our body language will mirror that of someone we are attracted to: our pupils will become dilated, the words we use in conversation will adjust to mimic the language patterns of the other person and our laughter will begin to synchronize.
And the interesting part is that all this happens within a matter of minutes. Explains why some people can fall deeply in love with someone within just minutes of meeting them.
In Essays In Love, Alain De Botton writes of his feelings for Chloe (a girl he had just met):
In the taxi on the way into town, I felt a curious sense of loss. Could this really be love? To speak of love after we had barely spent a morning together was to encounter charges of romantic delusion and semantic folly. Yet we can perhaps only ever fall in love without knowing quite who we have fallen in love with.
It can be inferred that love happens within a couple of minutes; that is why we love fall in love at first sight (even for people who’ve known each other for a longer period of time before they eventually fall in love, the love process happens swiftly—suddenly they find themselves thinking obsessively about their loved one and wanting to be with them).
So you see; you can’t force yourself to love someone, neither can you force someone to love you. The choice of love is out of our hands.
But there are some things that are more likely to trigger love.
I do hope I’ve done a good job of explaining how love happens. Share your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.
If you’d like to read further: