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What is love? Is this love?

Part 1 in the "Love is..." series

Why do we fall in love? How does it happen that people fall out of love? Can you bring love back?

Is it even possible to understand love? To that question I can safely say, No. Not in the sense of summing it up. It’s like a magnificent chocolate cake. Even if you could list the ingredients, they still wouldn’t add up the experience of what that chocolate cake is.

But love is too important for us not to try to understand, and I’ve spent my entire career trying to do just that.

So let’s do that here. To understand how love works as a kind of living, breathing thing, let’s look at some of the most important truths we can say about love. Added all together, they will be a guide to knowing whether love is real and to bring love to life.

Today I want to talk about this piece of the picture: Love is energy.

Think about it. What is the thrill and excitement of love? The vitality of love? It comes from the fact that energy from me releases even more energy from you in a seemingly endless and thrilling cycle. John smiles at Jane, so Jane goes to hug John, and so John tells Jane he loves her, and next thing you know the giant rocket of an entire life with children and a house and everything is launched. Talk about a positive energy spiral. Out of almost nothing. That’s love! A big part of it, anyway.

But love as energy gives us a lot to think about it. As long as nothing interferes with the positive energy cycle, love, like a bull market, keeps hitting new highs. But! While love is a beautiful energy generating machine, there’s...what’s the word I’m looking for? Life!! That’s it! An energy sapping machine. Life makes us tired. Too often anyway. Certainly life with kids does.

Then try to calculate the net energy! There’s what love self generates. Then there’s what work and whiney kids suck out of you. For most people? A net negative!

And think of how this plays out. This brings us into relationship dynamics. Here John and Jane are, exhausted by everyday life, with less to give to each other than they’ve been giving. Now John may rationally know that Jane is tired—and he certainly knows he’s tired—but the way Jane acts feels to John like a withdrawal of love. She seems cold and withholding to him.

Which leads to a sad truth about love as an energy machine. If energy leads to even more energy, a withdrawal of energy typically leads to a withdrawal of even more energy. Just as the energy machine of love can wind itself up, it can wind itself down!!

This isn’t good.

Especially if you’re too tired to do anything about it!

But there are two pieces of huge good news here.

First, it might seem as though your love has gone—the garden has turned into a desert—but it might just be, and so often is, that you’re just tired. Bone tired. What looks like the loss of love is just the loss of energy. The roots of love are still there, strong and real and healthy.

Second, it pays to remember that love is an upward spiraling energy machine. The energy you put into it will pay you back more than you put into it. Especially if you keep putting energy into it. Maybe a teaspoon of love energy won’t turn things around, or a tablespoon. But a whole cupful, every day, could start the giant machine of love churning again, your partner giving love back to you, and you giving back to your partner, until your both back to Wow! again.

For more help with this, check out The Emotional Energy Factor and The Weekend Marriage.

Next time we’ll have the next installment in the Love is... series.


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