What’s Love Got to Do?

I tried an experiment the other day. I turned on my iPod shuffle and made a list of the all topics the songs were about. Here is what came up:

Love Story by Taylor Swift–how timely. No explanation needed here.

Evacuate the Dancefloor by Rhianna–A song about two people who are hot for each other and want to hook up on the dance floor

I Want You Back by Jackson 5–A song about someone who broke up with someone else and now realizes they made a mistake

Whatever It Is by Zac Brown Band–A guy singing a song about a girl that he likes and can’t decide what he likes about her but just knows she has something special.

You get the picture. Above all aspects in our world, why are we so captivated, so focused on finding companionship? I see this theme beginning at a very young age–a majority of our high school experience revolves around who likes who, who is dating whom, who got ditched at prom, etc. And, the older I get, the more I realize that my peers and I are discussing the exact same topics, only using better words that, “He is so hot” and “I think he made eye contact with me today”. Instead, we say things like, “I really like his strong jawline” and “I enjoy his intellect”.

There is something inherent in our genetic makeup to find ‘the perfect mate’. We spend our entire lives hoping, searching, dreaming about who our significant other is going to be. We can see this everywhere: how many movies can you think of that don’t include some kind of love story? How many songs can you list are not about love/relationships/breakups? How many books have you read that don’t focus on two people searching for companionship?

So, I have been asking myself: Why is finding a mate so important to us?

For one, we can look at it evolutionarily: we want our gene pool to reproduce. We want our legacy, physically, to last on. When our traits continue on, it is a reminder that we were an influence on humanity. My family always jokes, because we are known to be tall, skinny, long limbs, bony, big noses, big ears, blonde (with like twenty pieces of very thin hair). I remember getting off the plane in Europe and feeling like I was amongst my people. My cousins share a story about when they were in Australia and saw a guy walking with an Ederveen stance. Sure enough, as they drove by, it turned out he was an Ederveen–my Opa’s cousin, in fact.

Having a companion allows us to experience emotions that are outside our realm. Mostly, we focus on the butterflies, the smitten-ness, the excitement. But, it also allows us to feel sorrow, disappointment, and sympathy. In my class this week, we read the story of Prometheus and discussed whether the concept of ignorance is bliss or knowledge is power is better. In this aspect, not being in a relationship saves you from heartache, but at the same time, you are not exposed to the expansive spectrum of emotions: being ignorant and withheld from those feelings, you maintain a safe, but small range of emotions. Companionship, while we do suffer from those hurtful emotions, we also get to experience the love, the jubilation, the spark.

We often define ourselves by being in a relationship with someone else. For some reason, ‘single’ sometimes has negative connotation in our society.  We use terms like “she is way out of your league” and “she is quite a catch” to make ourselves feel better. We create standards for ourselves. As one of my favorite young adult novels, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which revolutionized the way I look at the word), quotes, “We accept the love we think we think we deserve”. So, having a significant other means something about ourselves. For one, it obviously means that we are stable enough people to have someone stick around us. It means that we are good enough to be loved. It means that, whatever attractive traits our partner has, we must be just as quality.

I think another reason is because we want to validate our own existence. It really is a selfish reason when you inspect it. One of the best parts about being in a relationship with someone is to be able to share life experiences with someone else. We want someone to hear the funny story about the smelly kid we encountered; we want someone to praise us for blowing up balloons in our sister’s car for her birthday; we want someone to protect us when a fugitive is on the loose; we want someone to check in with us if there is severe weather in the area. There is something validating about having someone laugh at the same stories, show concern, point out things you didn’t see yourself. We want someone to care about us because that means we are living and doing something meaningful.

We have all heard the dream about “sitting in a rocking chair next to your loved one at 85 years old, reminiscing about the old days”. Companionship allows us to expand our boundaries, our emotions, our world, and share it with someone special. I don’t know why we are so focused on finding “the perfect one” but perhaps someday, when I find mine, I will understand.

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