By Saul Levine, MD












Love songs often stir feelings of romance in us: at my age, Ella Fitzgerald’s “What Is Ihis Thing Lalled love?” does it, and I know that other melodies do it for you.


Through the ages the theme of love has filled volumes of poetry and prose, operas, plays and film scripts, art, music and even architecture (e.g. the Taj Majal).


We’ve been “in love” and felt ardor and passion and we’ve experienced other kinds of love, as with our spouses, parents and grandparents, siblings, friends and others.


Our ability to love is first learned in infancy and childhood by our bonding with closest intimates (our mothers, for example). Nurturance from a loving caretaker plays a crucial role in developing the ability to form love attachments.  All the senses are involved in feeling, receiving and giving love: familiar faces, sounds of voices, taste and aromas, holding and kissing.


When we’re in love, worries seem to melt away.  The poem “How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning conveys that intensity.  Feelings of love stimulate neuronal activity in parts of the brain which “light up” on brain scans.  (The song, “You Light Up My Life” was prescient!)


Love can be bittersweet, and when love mysteriously ebbs from our beloved, we feel lost and forsaken, as if our hearts have been wrenched away.  A broken-hearted soul yearns for the return of its lost love and longs for its mate.  (See Shakespeare’s sonnets).


Nowadays, thousands of couples have met via internet websites.  Some of these websites are for sexual hook-ups, not meaningful “I-Thou” relationships, and some are even dangerous.  Caveat emptor: one must select a known web site with rigorous screening and safeguards.


Our need for an intimate partner is palpable and real.  There is magic in that early blush of romance, and hope for a lifelong partnership of commitment, caring and companionship.  But early passion and romance are not guarantees of good marriages or long-term relationships.  Conversely, prearranged marriages can also be fulfilling and successful.  A Hindu friend said, “We don’t marry the woman we love, we love the woman we marry.”


Our bonds of affection and intimacy are our emotional equivalents of oxygen and nourishment.  They are like our very lifeblood, from our first breaths in infancy as we are coaxed from our mothers’ wombs, until our last gasps of life before we die.  Without love of we atrophy and shrivel.  Without love, children do not develop as well and adults are more prone to loneliness and depression.  Our minds and optimism, our very essence diminishes.


A life without love for most is barely worth living.  The Beatles’ song “In A World Without Love,” is not one I would wish to inhabit. 




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