The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

May 16, 2013

Why do fools, and voles, fall in love?

ENID, Okla. — Two people meet. They shake hands, exchange pleasantries, share a meal or a drink.

Sometimes something happens, a switch flips, a tiny spark is ignited.

Often it is nothing more than a sense, a feeling, a niggling bit of intuition that this person you just met is someone you would like to see again.

Exactly what happens, precisely why one pair of human beings clicks and another doesn’t, is one of life’s great mysteries, though many people have tried to explain the phenomenon.

All of history’s great philosophers have tackled the question. One said: “Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”

The wise person uttering those words? The great thinker Bruce Lee, the late martial arts master and movie star.

I prefer the words of Aristotle, who was no Bruce Lee in terms of fighting ability, but was no slouch when it came to philosophy.

He said, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”

The website howstuff works.com has its own explanation of love.

It compares love to addiction, citing scientists who say the same chemical process in the brain that accompanies addiction takes place when we fall in love.

Falling in love with someone, says the site, involves several factors, appearance, personality and pheromones chief among them.

There are different stages of love, from lust, to attraction, to attachment.

All are triggered by chemicals in the brain like oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphins.

People in love have been found to have lower levels of serotonin, the same levels as those found in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders.

While humans are not unique among species in terms of falling in love, we are in the vast minority.

Studies have found that only about 3 percent of mammals (beside humans) form “family” relationships like we do.

One is the prairie vole, a small grayish-brown rodent that mates for life and much prefers spending time with its mate over hanging out with any of its vole pals.

There are various methods of determining whether your chosen one will love you back, going all the way back to the tried and true method of plucking flower petals and chanting “she loves me, she loves me not.”

The modern version of this comes in the form of various “love calculators,” available on the Internet.

Choosing one at random, I decided to test the efficacy of my relationship with my bride.

These love calculators involve typing in both parties’ first and last names, then clicking a button.

So here goes. We received a 79 percent rating from one site, which cautions, “this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work on the relationship.

Remember that every relationship needs spending time together, talking with each other, etc.”

Let’s try another. This one says our relationship has a 100 percent chance of succeeding. I like that one much better.

Why did my bride and I fall in love? I can’t speak for her, but when she smiles at me, my heart melts.

Not that the years haven’t carried with them challenges. No one gets out of this life unscathed, no relationship remains untested.

But the answer to our love hearkens back to the words of German psychologist Erich Fromm, who said “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says, ‘I need you because I love you.’”

Two people meet. The switch flips, the spark ignites.

It began as a sense, a feeling, a niggling bit of intuition that this person I just met is someone I would like to see again.

Now the feeling is stronger than ever, the feeling that the person I married 38 years ago today is someone with whom I want to spend every day of the rest of my life.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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