I really need everyone’s input on this one because it does scare me if it is true. And I am curious if my own anecdotal experience with this carries any weight. I see a lot of people in my practice, and a lot of them are young. I must say most of these young ones are young men, so maybe my observation is skewed, but the stories they relate to me makes me ask the question: have we lost the ability to fall in love?
I listen to their sad stories about encounters with the opposite sex, and how typically things fizzle out after a brief encounter. Usually sex is involved, much quicker than I feel is healthy, but that is the way of the times.
It seems too as if they (mostly the young men I talk to) actually make effort to connect—they do nice gestures toward their “girl,” take them to nice places, treat them well—all the typical things you are supposed to do while “courting.” But then suddenly they get ghosted, or just dropped, or the most polite way of all but still hurtful, being told “it just isn’t working out.” I then usually ask the question, “well, were you in love with her?” The reply? “I don’t think so, I don’t even know what that is, what is it?”
What is falling in love?
We could all probably write a book about that word. It can mean so much. But a verbal definition isn’t even what I am fishing for when I ask that question to my young clients. In typical “therapist” fashion, I am looking for the feeling. Can anyone write a book on the feeling of being in love and accurately capture it so another person would fully understand it?
I think only poetry can do that, or music, or maybe visual art, or a good romantic film (which uses all the arts to convey its message). Those things can elicit the feeling of love within the person observing them, and thus convey the message. Usually, however, if you ask someone who has had the feeling of falling in love, they know what it is, and can say “yes” to the question. None of my clients have been able to do that.
By the time I was 23, I had fallen in love maybe 10 times (if not twice that). Of course, we can argue that the first 8 or 9 were a “crush” or “puppy love” but I don’t think I would take up the side of the argument that a crush is insignificant. The feeling of love is the feeling of love, no matter your age. And although when really young it may not have staying power or be based on the things that are deeply meaningful, it still can knock you for a loop—maybe even more so when you are young.
I certainly knew I was in love. And if asked if I was in love with so and so or whomever, I certainly could answer yes or no with great confidence. It doesn’t seem any of my clients can do that, regardless of their sex.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My older clients (meaning older than 25), if in a long-term relationship were asked if they loved their partner, they can more easily say yea or nay—although more often than not, I hear the ubiquitous, “I love my partner, but I am not IN love with them.” It is the “in love” feeling I am looking for. Where has that gone?
In my view, the further we get from the way the archetypes function, the more likely there will be aberrations in how we, as humans, behave. Human culture has maintained the very basics of archetypal systems for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years. Cultures throughout the world have adopted rituals, complex courting systems, and rites of passage, to maintain the integrity of archetypal forces. Each culture’s efforts to honor the archetypes have been unique and diverse, but they all have similar underpinnings.
I believe the last hundred years or so have ripped us away from even the most basic conscious adherence to these archetypal forces, and thus have sent us spinning into outer space with absolutely no grounding at all. This spinning out of orbit not only affects the way we connect with other humans in a romantic sense but has had negative effect on nearly everything about us we have in the past called “human”—compassion, empathy, positive regard for nature, resistance of power and ego inflation, appreciation of art and music, etc. You see, the archetypal powers are still fighting within, unconsciously, for their rightful position, and that unconscious turbulence causes a lot of problems.
Since this article is about falling in love, I will stick with that topic. And let me remind you again, I may be totally off with my interpretation of my observation, and I need help from you, dear reader, to let me know if I am. This is what it looks like: People seem to be pursuing relationships for all the wrong reasons.
Men are looking for a sexual encounter, but don’t even really know if that is what they want since they are continually told by the culture that interest in sex is wrong, ugly, toxic, objectifying, etc. It actually seems more like they are afraid of being alone, but don’t really know what that means either. More men I see than not, are actually looking for mother, which, of course, they do not fully comprehend.
It seems that women just don’t want to be alone, but to tell you the truth, my experience with women looking for love is not as complicated. If there is anything messed up there, it again typically points to the men they are courting. The same men I am talking about. They are often perpetual “boys,” fused to mother, living at home, no career plan, just the desire to play. What healthy woman wants that? The whole thing is a confusing mess.
Women are not without their “love” issues. But I will save that for another article.
What I do NOT hear, from both men and women, is, “I think I have fallen madly in love.” Remember the old romantic movies, where men and women “fall in love?” When they do, they know it, they go a bit goofy. They are giddy, the world is in super technicolor, everything is wonderful! “I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love with a wonderful guy! (or gal)” Yeah, like that. Nope, I don’t see it. At all. If there is anything close to “falling” it is not in love, it is infatuation. Which is quite a bit different. It is that clawing sort of obsession that turns everyone off. That isn’t love.
Falling in love is a beautiful thing. It is when a person is the kindest they have ever been. The world is beautiful. Life is grand. Nothing can go wrong. Remember looking into the eyes of the girl or guy you were/are in love with? You melt.
Is this experience gone? Is it old fashioned? Do kids today no longer have this capability? And if not, why? Maybe the “falling in love” phenomenon is a rather recent one—maybe it is a post-World War II thing and just recently fizzled out. It seems before that there was no time, or use, to “fall in love.” After that the cell phones and social media permeated the culture like the cancer they are and the post war “falling in love” paradigm was lost.
Before the war, people found partners for very pragmatic reasons—cooking, plowing, having babies to help on the farm, protecting the family from marauders. And before that, marriages were largely arranged in most cultures. Love was not a priority. However, if that is true, why has love, and falling in love, been found in most advanced cultures for centuries, expressed through art, literature, and poetry? This idea, and seemingly its manifestation, has been around a long time.
If I am right, and falling in love has fallen by the wayside, it isn’t rocket science to see why.
As mentioned earlier, cell phones, social media, as well as the breakdown of morals, a weakening of the spiritual foundation of culture, the emphasis on instant gratification, the prevalence of a consumer and materialist mindset, and the slow erosion of humanity in general, certainly would have an impact.
Love and falling in love are soul things, and soul is losing quite miserably in this current game.
Todd Hayen is a registered psychotherapist practicing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He holds a PhD in depth psychotherapy and an MA in Consciousness Studies. He specializes in Jungian, archetypal, psychology. Todd also writes for his own substack, which you can read here
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