The Science of Love: Stendhal’s Tips

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Love isn’t something that can be easily defined. Maybe it isn’t even something that needs to be defined, only felt. Marie-Henri Beyle (better known by his pen name Stendhal), a 19th century French writer, wrote an interesting study called On Love. The book is written with an attempt to rationalize love, explain its mechanisms. Sounds crazy, but there are many things that haven’t really changed since. Let’s see how these patterns function, two centuries later.

Science of love by Stendhal
Science of love by Stendhal

The way love is born

There are four steps that take us from feeling completely indifferent towards a person and feeling in love with them: admiration, acknowledgment, hope, and delight. After this, the first process of crystallization occurs, we will discuss it a bit later.

The first step, admiration, occurs when a person starts recognizing the qualities of the potenital partner.

The second step, acknowledgement, implies sudden realization about how wonderful it would be if a person we are admiring would recognize us as their potential partners as well. How wonderful it would be to kiss them and have their attention, etc.

The third step, hope, is a more concrete feeling, a formed desire that everything we acknowledged as potentialy pleasant regarding that person – actually comes true.

Fourth step, delight, means feeling warm and feeling sweeped of feet, as well as feeling joy in hope we would be loved in return.

Then the process of cristalization occurs, when a person starts idealizing their loved ones, always discovering new ways they are perfect. This unusual process derives from our natural need to enjoy ourselves, it’s caused by a new chemical order in our bodies when we feel love and the rush of the blood in the head, the excitement.

Idealization can be pretty bad given the fact it can make you overlook the flaws of the person and trap you in an unhealthy relationship.

In the 21st century, it is basically the same. I myself have been a witness of relationships that seemed to be born completely ex nihilo, where it didn’t seem as if there was any love potential whatsoever.

Admiration has an important role in the process, because it works as a starting force. When people admire someone an that admiration has a love seed in it, it is a starting point in the process of falling for someone. It is interesting that today, both women and men have a certain hunting instinct (which was mostly reserved for males in the past times): love is understood as a battle field and we feel the need to conquer.

When our admiration is really firm, it works as a solid basis for all the next steps, which makes our desire even stronger. There are people that are also driven by the possibility of gaining some social points: if they manage to make a successful person their partner, then they feel like winners given the fact their partner was a target for many.

 

The process of crystallization – where does it lead us?

When idealizing a person, one can hit a wall at one point. This is explained by human nature: we tend to feel like we are fed up with everything that is too much, even when it comes to happiness. There are three main mistakes here that people make:

Mistake #1: Suspicion arises – given the fact that humans adapt rather quickly to every state, it comes as a logical conclusion that one can get used to being happy. So, a person keeps wanting more and more; the previous love confirmations from the partner are not enough anymore.

He or she starts feeling suspicious: is this all there is, why am I not happier, how can I know if he or she truly loves me, etc. Finally, a person turns to seeking happiness in other fields of life and feels deeply disappointed when he or she finds out that all the things lost their shine.

 

Mistake #2: She loves me- she loves me not

Let’s say a man falls in love madly with a woman. After the troublesome period of suspecting, he makes a concious decision not to overthink anything. But still, he keeps spinning around these three thoughts: she has all perfection inside of her, she loves me, but how can I get a proof of her love? T

hat is where love games find their place, usually through the power of jealousy. Childish games (that everybody seem to play) have a lot to do with ego and dominance and aren’t healthy in any way.

I won’t reply to his message just so that he gets worried and worked up about where I am. Or – she knows I’m out to see Kate, my colleague, I know she’s a bit jealous of her, so I’m putting my phone to silent mode.

This is a good start for turning a relationship into an obsession.

Eventually, a person that starts suspecting in the whole process of cristalization often seeks objective opinion from a third party, because he or she feels lost in his own head.

 

Mistake #3 – getting carried away

There is a whole different, even diametrical process that can occur. That is being carried away, losing your grip, getting lost along the way. Actually, according to medical studies, falling in love has the same effect on our brains as cocaine.

The study says that falling in love affects intellectual areas of the brain and triggers the same sensation of euphoria experienced by people when they take cocaine. You are, basically, high on love.

That’s why most people can’t reason with persons that lost touch with reality and are overwhelmed with the feeling of love. That is especially hard in situations where they cling on to a person that is not good for them but blinded with the good part of the relationship, like an addict – the are constantly coming back to their drug dealer.

Most of you have certainly heard the song Snap out of it by Arctic monkeys – that’s exactly it. Getting carried away is even worse if it occurs before an actual establishment of the relationship. Some people are prone to preconceptions and fantasizing.

When their fantasies don’t meet reality or they get rejected, their euphoria washes away and, because of the wounded vanity, they start to hate the person they worshiped before. Even worse, they start to generalize and spread stereotypes about men or women.

 

Where are we today?

I must admit that, the more I read about the psychology of love and relationships, the less I understand. I don’t really find myself in most of the normal processes regarding love. Here are some points I’d like to make about relationships today and share my own experience.

Mental games: Playing games are an unhealthy way of communication, where the relationship between people and its value is shifted to the periphery, and the focus is on the ego of each individual player. It all boils down to wrestling and fighting for dominance.

And that kind of behavior is usually a result of previous bad experiences: so, people choose to keep their mouth shut, they pretend, they lie or at least they are being tactful.

It’s a form of keeping ourselves safe – that way we are not exposed, we have our safe gard on, and therefore we are reducing the chances of being hurt while at the same time – we are increasing a chance to be dominant.

It is exhausting. It is childish. It is unnecessary. My friend once said: Well, you either play the game or you’re out. Ok then – I’m out. My point is, you don’t have to agree to this ultimatum. Yes, there are some games of love that are exciting and it’s usually linked to getting to know one another, exploring, anticipation of the first kiss, butterflies in stomach etc. But you shouldn’t confuse it with playing mental games, as explained before.

Well, I say to hell with that! It’s a bit cowardly approach. If you choose to keep yourself safe, your walls my protect you. But keep in mind that they don’t work in a selective way: if you put them up, they are there – for good stuff and for bad stuff.

The hook-up culture: I’m gonna make a concious generalization, because I can support with several examples. Today, we live in a hook-up culture, where people are interested only in short excitements and usually physical love.

It can be emotionally degrading for us and make us alienate even more. Not that there is something bad with occasional fun, but what about the actual need to love and to be loved? However, don’t think it’s something that you have to settle with, there are others who don’t seek only this type of fun.

 

The ultimate why – why do people complicate everything?

Through the discussion with many people, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know the answer to this question. In my head, it all seems very simple and meeting someone with whom you feel comfortable with and who catches your heart in a special way should be something beautiful, something to celebrate, and definitely not something to make an unnecessary drama about.

My personal experience says that, even though I’m a social person, and an extrovert in a way, I am also deeply asocial and get confused by the tips and rules of the game. I can be weird, I tend to confuse flirting with kidness, I unintentionally send mixed signals, my flirting skills vary between a high 10 and around – 4 (yes, bellow zero, that is when it comes to a person that I genuinely like).

My friends like to joke that I have a male brain, that is – I say what I want to say. Well, that seems pretty logical to me: no need to read between the lines, right?

Uncertainty of one relationship has its charm, but it can also be frustrating. Love can turn us into idiots, it happened to me, several times. It feels like someone rearranged your mind and a lot of stuff is going on inside your head and every time you try to speak up, it comes out wrong. And when you try to explain yourself, you’re just digging a deeper hole for yourself.

I believe that, in order to truly click with a person, he or she should be able to look past these weird sides of you and look deeper into who you are and what are your qualities.

Heck, he or she should even consider it charming! So, that is my point: love shouldn’t be a battlefield and it shouldn’t strip you from your identity. If you are goofy and a weirdo sometimes, then that’s who you are and your partner should accept you and love you for that.

It is very important that you are true to yourself and ok with who you are, before you enter a relationship. Also, it is crucial not to feel unfilled when being single.

Relationships should help you grow, not define who you are. You can’t hurry love and there is this simple analogy regarding that: the soap analogy. If you squeeze and clench too hard, soap will slip away and you will be left empty handed.

But, if you are relaxed, if you let your partner breathe – the soap will stay in your hands. Cherish your partner, but don’t suffocate him or her. That is not something that’s easy to do, that’s exactly what Sthendal was talking about – getting carried away and subordinating your whole life to one person.

Remember that love takes time and just like any other relationship (family or friends, etc.) it takes a lot of effort. But, just as the effort comes naturally to you when it comes to nurturing a friendship, it should be the same with your partner.

If you are tired of love failures, then you are pushing too hard. Try focusing on other things and the right person will come along when the time comes.

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