L.O.V.E (leaving oblivious victims estranged)
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.' (Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream - Act 1, Scene 1). Shakespeare description of love is something, not seen through the eyes but it is felt in the mind. Cupid also being blind suggests that the powerful emotions experienced 'blinds' the person in love to the reality of their situation. The lover is caught up in the strong, positive emotions that are felt and this facilitates a filtered or temporary 'blinded' version of reality influenced by these loving emotions.
Modern-day research supports the view that the blindness of love is not just a figurative matter, but rather has an origination in the brain. A research study in 2004 by University College London found that feelings of love suppressed the activity of the areas of the brain that control critical thought. By means of fMRI scans, this study suggested that strong emotional ties to another person inhibit not only negative emotions but also affect the network involved in making social judgments about that person. These strong ties activated regions of the brain that contain a high density of receptors for oxytocin and vasopressin, which play a role in social bonding. At the same time regions of the brain that are responsible for critical social assessment and for negative emotions are deactivated (Bartels & Zeki, 2004).
The temporary impact of the loving effect felt in the moment facilitates positive, loving emotions toward the object of affection. But what happens when these feeling subsides and the 'blindness' ceases, bringing reality into position? Very often, once loving relationships descend into a battlefield of hate, bitterness and anger. How does a once loving relationship flip from one of love to hate and is it possible to protect a relationship from such a vulnerability?
Figures from The Office of Statistics UK released in 2013 estimate that 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. It was also stated that the probability of getting divorced by the next wedding anniversary rises rapidly in the first five years of marriage and the percentage of marriages ending in divorce increases more rapidly in the first 10 years of marriage than the 10 years after that. The biggest reason for divorce highlighted that 36% of divorces granted to men and 54% of divorces granted to women were due to unreasonable behavior. These figures may highlight the initial 'blindness' of love in the initial stages of a relationship and then a movement toward a more realistic perspective. This movement may facilitate a shift in the relationship, leaving the relationship vulnerable to the reality it faces, which may prove too difficult for the relationship to sustain.
From a psychological perspective, the emotions and process involved in the opposing emotions of love and hate are actually quite similar. 'On the contrary, hatred shares many of the characteristics of love, especially its self-transcending aspects; the fixation on another, which turns into dependency and finally the relinquishing of a portion of one's own identity to the other. Just as the lover sighs for the beloved, and can't live without him or her, so does the hater sigh for the object of his hatred. Just like love, hate is essentially an expression of a burning and absolute desire, although here tragically inverted,' (Havel, 1996, p.19).
What can a couple do to give their relationship the best chance of sustaining the inevitable changes that occur in their relationship? The American Psychological Association lists nine psychological tasks for a good marriage. Among the tasks listed are to build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner's autonomy. They also list to keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time. Good boundaries for each partner together with sustaining initial loving feelings and managing the reality of the inevitable changes that will naturally occur in the relationship.
The reality of what love is and what love is not may help a couple deal with the changes from the initial 'blindness' that love can bring to the inevitable reality as the relationship changes. Such a perspective may help a couple who are 'blinded' by the initial feelings of love to protect the relationship from being vulnerable to becoming another statistic.
APA, (2016). (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/marriage.aspx).
Bartels, A & Zeki, S. (2004) The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love. NeuroImage, 21 (2004) 1155 – 1166.
Havel, V., (1996). The anatomy of hate. Diogenes, 44(176), p.19.
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About Mark Rackley
I'm a chartered psychologist working with adults, adolescents and couples.
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