This is a chapter from the book
The Teenager's Guide to the Real World
by Marshall Brain, ISBN 1-9657430-3-9. For more
information on the book please click here.
Love is THE Fact of Life
Love is a fact of life. For all human beings, and especially for teenagers, it could be said that love is THE fact of life. It is one thing that is central to all human existence. You might have come to this realization already. Simply by looking into your own mind and noticing how much of your time it spends thinking about people of the opposite sex, fantasizing about people of the opposite sex, dreaming about people of the opposite sex, wondering about people of the opposite sex, feeling depressed about people of the opposite sex and so on, you get a good idea of how important this topic is in the human realm.
Because it is so important and so central to human existence, love is something that can be extremely confusing and frustrating. I know that as a teenager love was extremely confusing and frustrating to me. I had a huge number of questions about the whole space, including (If you are a girl, please replace "girl" with "boy" in the following questions):
You might have asked one or two of these questions yourself. Obviously, this is a pretty big and complicated space.
- Why do girls hate me?
- Why do I feel so awkward around girls?
- Why is it that I think about girls all the time, despite the fact that I would rather not?
- Why does it hurt so much?
- Why does it seem like a lot of people donít have these problems? Why does it seem like they are able to walk up to girls, talk to them and the next minute they are going out together and having a really great time? Why are a lot of those people athletes?
- Why are pretty girls like they are?
- Why do a lot of girls seem attracted to guys who are obviously idiots and who treat them badly? I would treat a girl great, but that seems to make no difference. Why?
- What is jealousy, and why do I get so angry about it?
- Will I ever find someone who I can marry?
- Why canít it be now?
- How will I know when I have found the girl I should marry?
- Now that I think about it, what is marriage again? Why do we have marriage? Why donít we all just go around having sex with whoever we feel like all the time?
- For that matter, what is love? I mean, what the heck is going on here to begin with?
- Why does it seem like adults donít have these problems?
- Why do my parents say they are "in love," but it looks so different from what I mean when I say I am "in love"? In other words, why does their love seem so boring, why do they have fights and why do they never hold hands?
- And so on.
One way to begin to get a handle on love and to begin to understand it better is to try to tackle it one piece at a time. We will start with the fundamental facts of life concerning love. Once you understand these facts you have a foundation. Then you can move on to other areas.
THE FACTS OF LIFE CONCERNING LOVE
The first and most fundamental fact of life about love is: love is something that is fundamentally wired into the human brain. There is nothing that you can do about it. You cannot turn it on and off. It is there, it is active and thatís the end of it. In fact, it is nearly impossible to separate love from human existence. Especially as a teenager, they are one and the same.
The second fact of life is that there are different kinds of love, and we need to agree on what we are talking about when we say the word "love." Here are some of the different kinds of love that you might be familiar with:
This chapter is about "Love," and you understood it to mean "romantic love." That was a correct assumption, and in the rest of this chapter the word "love" implies the romantic meaning. However, it is good to recognize that there are all these other forms as well. Sometimes people get confused between them, and that can cause problems.
- Parental loveóParents love their children, and this sort of love, devotion and caring is different from all other types of love. When done well, parental love could be called perfect.
- Christian loveóJesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," and many people are able to do that. They love and care about those around them because they are fellow human beings.
- Friendship loveóA deep friendship between two people often involves a level of trust, devotion, commitment and caring that is love. So two women or two men or a man and a woman who have known each other for 20 years and have been through a lot together can say they love one another. There is not a bit of romantic or sexual attraction involved.
- Material loveóYou might hear someone say, "I love that car!" or "I love that movie!" It is love applied to an object. In this case the word "love" can mean a range of things from "I really like it" to "I must have it" all the way up to, in extreme cases, "I will (literally) kill myself if I donít get it." Another word for this is infatuation.
- Lustful loveóTo some extent lustful love is a form of material love, but it is applied to another person and tied almost completely to a sexual infatuation. So a girl might say, "I love Tom Cruise!" Or a guy might say, strictly on the basis of a girlís looks, "I love that girl!" This is lust.
- Romantic loveóWhen most teenagers think of "love", this is what they are talking about. It is the combination of friendship, sexual attraction and the search for someone to marry. It is the search for the one person with whom you can raise your family and spend the rest of your life.
Love is tied to sexual attraction, especially at the teenage level. That is the third fact of life about love. The link between love and sexual attraction is strong and important. Many people will tell you that love and sexual attraction can be separated. And that is true. But when you separate them you have friendship love, not romantic love. Or you get lustóthe sexual attraction without the friendship.
Which leads you to a fourth fact of life; sexual attraction is a fact of life. There are four important facts about sex that are easy to miss:
When you take all four of these things togetheróthe sex organs, the hormonal system, the brain structures and the biological imperative to reproduceóyou can see why sex is so important to people. You can also see another thing: Sex is not like anything else. Let me say that again because it is an important fact of life:
- Both men and women have entire sections of their anatomy devoted to sex and reproduction. This should come as no surprise to you. You have feet. Feet are a part of your anatomy devoted to walking. You have ears. Ears are a part of your anatomy devoted to hearing. You have a part of your anatomy devoted to sex and reproduction as well. Just to get it out in the open here so there is no confusion: In males it is the penis and testicles, and in females it is the vagina and female reproductive system, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, etc. In men the sexual organs produce sperm and provide a delivery mechanism, and in women the sexual organs accept sperm, produce eggs and provide an environment in which a baby can develop. When sperm and egg meet in a woman, a child is formed. Simple as that. Miraculous and totally mystifying, but simple.
- The sex organs produce sex hormones, which flow through the blood stream and affect certain parts of the brain as well as the sex organs themselves. In women the hormonal part is quite complicated because the female reproductive system is quite complicated and amazing. You can learn a lot by looking all of this up in a good book or encyclopedia.
- The brain has physical structures and systems specifically devoted to sex. Certain components in this system respond to the sex hormones flowing in the blood stream. Other parts respond to visual or tactile stimulation.
- There is a biological desire to reproduce that, if you feel like thinking about it this way, can be considered to be the core of human existence. You could say, "Humans exist in order to give birth to other humans," and that is true in a biological sense. You can get a better handle on this by thinking along these lines. Why do bacteria exist and do the things they do? To create other bacteria. No one would argue with you on that. Why do fruit flies exist and do the things they do? To produce other fruit flies. Plants? Fish? Mice? Dogs? Chimps? Same thing. And thus humans. Humans exist to produce other humans. Of course humans are wildly complicated and interesting, especially when compared to a simple bacteria. We do lots of other things besides reproducing. But we are still living things and living things live, fundamentally, to reproduce.
SEX IS NOT LIKE ANYTHING ELSE
When you find yourself asking things like, "Why do I think about Christina all the time?" this is the reason why. Sex simply is not like anything else. It is absolutely fundamental to human existence.
A lot of people simply do not understand that sex is different from everything else. They will say things like, "Eating is completely natural and you do it every day without thinking about it. Sex is the same way! Itís just like every thing else! Do it and have fun and donít worry about it!" That is an approach to life, but it is not true. Sex is not like everything else. Eating, for example, cannot create a new human life. Sex can. When someone tries to equate sex and eating, it is impossible to take them seriously.
Having said all of that, there is a fifth fact of life that people often completely ignore. It is funny that people ignore it, because it is so simple and obvious. It is this: The purpose of sex is to create a baby. That is another thing that needs emphasis:
THE PURPOSE OF SEX IS TO CREATE A BABY
You cannot separate sex from babies. The reason our bodies are equipped with sexual apparatus is to have babies and reproduce. If you try to separate sex from babies you are ignoring the obvious, because they cannot be separated. A lot of the "problems in todayís society" are caused by the fact that people forget this linkage.
It is the baby part of sex that leads to love and marriage. Babies link sex, love and marriage together.
The sixth fact of life is fairly simple: Love is a mechanism in our brains that encourages coupling. We "fall in love" to form a strong couple. "Falling in love" is another thing that is wired into our brains. It is a mechanism that ensures the survival of the species. You can now see that we have made a full circle, back to the first fact of love at the beginning of this section.
One of the more frustrating things about love is that it is a fairly messy emotion that has a number of rather strong psychological side effects. In order to form a strong coupling, the love mechanism seems to disconnect a variety of normal mental functions. "Falling in love" often means a loss of perspective and a focusing of attention that can drive those around you crazy. Everyone has heard the expression "Love is blind." It is also true that love is irrational at times. You cannot afford to be irrational, and yet a part of your brain is hooked up to make you that way. You need to take that into account in your own life.
The seventh fact of life is marriage. Our society (you can think of the word "society" to mean "the group of people we live in") has taken our natural coupling tendency and formalized it into a thing called marriage. A man and woman marry with the intention of staying together for life. Within that bond they have children and raise them.
Finally, here is the eighth fact of life. Sex feels good. You may be aware of this fact already. Part of the wiring between the sex organs and the sexual parts of the brain is a direct connection to the brainís "pleasure center" (time to pull out the psychology book). This connection is no doubt designed to further encourage the reproductive urge by providing direct positive stimulation for reproductive behavior. Many people (both teenagers and adults) seem to miss three important facts about the pleasure of sex:
All three of these facts are important. Inside a loving relationship between a husband and wife who care deeply about one another, for example, the pleasure of sex is highly magnified. By the same token, having sex with a prostitute is degrading and can actually feel bad. Ask anyone who has tried it. "Cheap sex" and "one-night stands" and "sex on the first date" all tend to fall into that same category. It often feels bad. It is inappropriate. It is also dangerous because of the disease problem [AIDS, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, clamydia and so on (all good things to look up in an encyclopedia)]. Teenagers today know all about these diseases.
- Much of the pleasure of sex is psychological.
- It is possible for sex to feel bad.
- The fact that sex is pleasurable doesnít mean that it is always appropriate.
The fact that something is pleasurable does not necessarily make it good. Many people live many years before they realize this simple fact.
So, here you were looking for an answer to questions like, "What is love?" and you get a six-page answer. That is why love is complicated, by the way. Love is important as far as our bodies, our brains, our biology and our evolution is concerned. There is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Look at all of the different topics discussed in this chapter:
These are all facts of life. The thing you will notice is that they are all intertwined, and that makes everything complicated. Love and marriage and sex and babies all go together. As a teenager it is at first difficult to see all the interconnections.
Teenagers get into problems in the love/marriage/sex/babies arena because they do not understand the interconnections. Or they happen because teenagers (and adults, for that matter) purposefully ignore them. For example, why does society frown, in general, on premarital sex? Because the purpose of sex is to have a baby, and a baby needs a stable family to raise it. Teenagers, because they have never had a baby, miss the connection between sex and babies. Your parents are saying, "Wait! Wait! Wait!" because they understand the baby part (they had you, for example). They understand the need for a strong, life-long couple to take care of the baby and to provide it with a stable family. Marriage is the mechanism to provide that coupling and stability. Your parents also understand that babies represent a huge financial commitment. The hospital bill alone for a normal childbirth is $5,000 to $10,000. Do you have that money (along with the money to cover all the other expenses associated with a new child) in the bank? If not, then you are not ready to have a baby.
- The definition of love
- Sexual attraction
- Sex organs
- Brain structures, like the pleasure center
- Sexually transmitted diseases
Can you separate sex and babies? Can you separate sex and love? Can you separate sex and marriage? These are good questions. The answer is "Yes." But consider the following:
It is only when you put love, marriage, sex and babies together that you have something complete and whole and beautiful. It is pretty deep, I know. Think about it for awhile and then come back and read through this section again.
- When you separate sex from love, babies and marriage, you get prostitution. Sex without love is meaningless.
- When you separate sex and babies from love and marriage, you get unwed, teenage mothers. This creates problems for the mother, the child and the people who end up supporting the mother because she cannot support herself.
- When you separate sex and love from babies and marriage, you get premarital sex, recreational sex and people living together. None of this seems bad on the surface, and many teenagers you ask will say, "Go for it!" Find a person, fall in love and have sex. Adults would say there are reasons to wait, and we will talk about them in Chapter 12 and Chapter 13.
This is a chapter from the book
The Teenager's Guide to the Real World, ISBN 1-9657430-3-9,
published by BYG Publishing, Inc.
For more information on ordering a copy of the book, click here.
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