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Be My Valentine

Dr Savita Date Menon
Cleopatra wasn’t safe from it. Princess Diana experienced it, though late. Forsaking the crown was not too high a price for Edward V. Richard Burton couldn’t stay in it, but couldn’t stay out either, finally marrying Elizabeth Taylor for the third time. Closer home, Shah Jahan built a historical wonder in the name of his love.
Yet another monument to love is the Valentine’s Day, especially for all of you who currently see life through heart shaped glasses. While a clergyman who secretly married couples in ancient Rome is said to be the original Valentine, in 496 A.D, Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honour St. Valentine. Through the centuries, he has become a patron saint of lovers, religion and caste aside. While credit for the first Valentine’s Day card is said to go to Esther Howland from Massachusetts in the 1840s, sentimental verses and sweet nothings rule the roost with lovers till this day.

So what is this thing called love?
Is it much ado about nothing, or does the soft, rosy, picture presented down the ages truly exist?
It has been a familiar theme in our songs, stories, and movies. Everyday life is about anticipating love, living in it or getting out of it. Love seems to be a magic wand the fairy godmother has painted almost every human – male and female – alike with. There is much excitement when the magic happens. But when the magic goes sour, God help the two involved, since the other side of love is often hate.

Of the many types of love relationships, friends, siblings and family top the list. Close friends spend a lot of time together, stick through a variety of situations, provide emotional sustenance and are generous, sensitive and honest with each other. Casual friends are just ‘fun to be with’. While love between close friends goes along the saying, ‘birds of a feather block together,’ for lovers it is often opposites that attract.

While people fall in love, there is no experience of falling in friendship. Similarity and propinquity are major determinants of friendship. In love however, attractiveness, pleasing personality and chemistry play a stronger role. It is possible to experience love towards someone who doesn’t love you, but unrequited friendship is not heard of.

Passionate love is marked by preoccupation with the partner, perceiving perfection in the love object, emotional and sexual arousal, desire to be in constant contact, to be loved in return and despair at the thought of love ending.

What when love ends?
But yes, as often as not, love does end. It is sad, but true. Also often, the couple that was head over heels in love, willing to do or die for each other, is now willing to kill - in words if not in deed. ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is equally true for men too. All kinds of motives are imputed, intentions doubted, reputations torn to shreds.

A heartbreak is almost as difficult to handle as the loss of a secure job. Stable friends and good counsel can help mend a broken heart. Being dumped will shatter your ego. But actually, it does not have to challenge your self esteem. There are plenty of fish in the pond. So don’t go desperately chasing someone who doesn’t want you. Get on the recovery path, one step at a time. Don’t waste time on someone who doesn’t have time for you.

Moving on to find love once again
To move from heart break to lusty love: under the right condition, passionate love can arise suddenly and without warning. Even a brief contact with a stranger can sometimes lead to love at first sight. In a research study by Kellerman, Luis and Laird, when two opposite sex strangers in a laboratory experiment were asked to gaze into each others eyes for two minutes, they were likely to report feelings of passionate love for each other.

For those of you who want to walk this path, three conditions are required for passionate love to occur. First, you must learn what love is and have a socio-cultural background where love is expected to happen. This expectation will then infect you as well. While the West bases male female relationships on love, other cultures, like our Indian one, traditionally preferred a male-female relationship to be arranged by elders.

The second condition required is the presence of an appropriate person with whom one can fall in love. While the Mills and Boon series propounds the tall, dark, handsome, male, the Indian matrimonial columns popularise the fair, attractive and tall female. Whichever be the prescription, an attractive partner of the opposite gender is usually selected from a similar, socio-cultural background.

The third requirement for passionate true love is a state of emotional arousal in the presence of the love object. Attraction, romantic feelings and sexual desire are a part of the emotions experienced.

Passionate love may catapult you head over heels and make you blind. But unless it grows into enduring love with a more realistic foundation, it is not very likely to last. While opposites attract, it is similarities that tend to last.

Consider these:
  • The poor Daisy has to shed every petal for you to be sure – Love me? Love me not?
  • The most unfair love license: All is fair in Love and War.
  • The Bollywood barometer for love: If she turns back to look at you, that is it – it is a sure sign she loves you.
  • When lovers visit a holiday spot or pause by a tree, they have an irresistible urge to inscribe their love – for posterity.
  • Love/like/hate/adore games played with alphabets of both names reveal the true state of love to a tormented lover. Indeed!
  • The colour of rose you receive on Valentine’s Day indicates the type of love: yellow for friendly love, red for romantic love and black for passionate love.
  • With tattoos back in fashion, your lover’s name on your arm is a social announcement. But, if rules change your life, then make it a temporary tattoo.
  • Favourite love gifts: roses, red heart object d’arts, chocolates, candlelight dinner for two, and the all time winner - her best friend – a solitaire.
  • Love is blind. It starts with the eyes, ears, touch and other senses being bombarded. Somewhere along the way, vision loss certainly happens.
  • Big no-no in love: drunken brawls, catfights, slashed wrists, suicide.
Dr Savita Date Menon is Clinical psychologist, popular speaker, columnist and guest faculty member at Harvard Medical School, USA

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