The Paradox of Love

Insight for Overcoming Love’s Paradox …

The elephant in the room of love would have to be it’s paradox — the balance between our drive for commitment and our drive for autonomy. Now for those that don’t know me, I love the beauty that is our natural need to, mentally, and literally, debate love and relationships. The honesty. The friction. The revelations! And since being in middle school listening to Love Phones under the covers on a Walkman, this has always been an area of interest that I have been motivated to build on — whether artistically or with what I am doing now. So as an adult, a lover, a writer, and now a father, it’s important that I distill these larger concepts down to something palatable and easily understood — a foundation for what we are trying to create here at ModPre as we build with these upcoming surveys and focus groups.

Tracing back to the balance I referenced, let’s first recognize these are not fluff concepts. In both Mating in Captivity and Why We Love, Esther Perel and Dr. Helen Fisher both cite this as the root of romantic turmoil. So let’s try and untangle what that might mean today and how we can use it to our advantage:

Drive for Commitment (Security): In short, we have an evolutionary drive to commit and remain in a stable monogamous relationship. Dr. Fisher indicates that romantic love is a primary motivation system — a fundamental mating drive. Think back to cavemen, famine, and times of raging infant mortality, what would be the glue that held your village together? The strength of the family unit and identification with the respective roles in that unit! Flings and thot-esque behavior sound good on paper and may be on the tip of your tongue if pressed for what your looking for, but your superficial desires do not trump scientific evidence that confirms how active the dopamine releasing regions of your brain are when you are in love with one person — not in lust with several! Fisher continues that this attraction mechanism evolved to facilitate mate choice and conserve energy — both of which are of course related to reproduction. It feels better and more rewarding when we are in love, which promotes reproduction, which promotes humanity. Simpler than you thought, huh?

Drive for Autonomy (Individuality): According to Esther Perel — “Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other.” This is important because if you follow me on Twitter, you will see that most of the discussions are coming from a frame of “This — or that”. A committed relationship online is touted as a one sizes fits all carbon copy of your favorite celebrity couple’s Instagram highlight reel. That’s NOT autonomy. And that’s why there are so many unfulfilled relationships because not only are we personally challenged to maintain autonomy, but our relationships are equally challenged, as they are expected to fit a stereotype driven for status on social media. If our need for individuality is necessary, and compliments the relationship, its essential we figure out how to cultivate this while being respectful and clear on our intent with our partner.

So what does this really mean in terms of how you can maintain sanity while balancing these polar opposites? The answer lies in letting go. Letting go of the idea that you have to be this mental saint. Letting go of the idea that you have to lose yourself to gain your partner. Letting go of the idea that a fantasy (that stays a fantasy) is sin. You’re simply going to have urges, desires, lust, and thoughts — its all about how you manage them.

So how does awareness of this paradox help you understand your current love woes? Which drive do you identify with more? How can you leverage the other drive to yield a more dynamic relationship? Remember, I don’t have all the answers, but I am passionate about creating the forum to uncover them.

-Jus’ Black

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