Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why We Love--By Christie

I’m reading a fascinating non-fiction book, titled Why We Love, by Helen Fisher. (Thanks to historical romance author, Jo Beverly, for the recommendation.) In trying to understand better the experience of “being in love,” Fisher came to the conclusion that romantic love is a fundamental human drive—a physiological need that she likens to the craving for food and water and the maternal instinct. It’s not something we choose to search for, but something we, as human beings, have in our brain’s architecture as a way to direct mating and reproduction—that ol’ passing along the DNA.

The author points out that the drive to fall in love is so deep that it has produced operas, plays, poems, melodies, sculptures, paintings, festivals, myths, legends, and—novels. Yep, what we write and read. She wouldn’t be surprised to learn that romance novels are the most popular form of mass market fiction.

The chapter on the characteristics of that first wild thrill of love will ring true to anyone who has ever had the experience—or read about it in a romance novel. But as interesting to me, I think, is the discussion of who we choose to love.

Among the factors she discusses are timing, proximity, and mystery. In regards to timing, she says people who are in an emotionally aroused state, say by changing schools or jobs, are ripe for falling in love. As for proximity, well, that one’s obvious. There’s this person in your view and you see them as the one for you. Then there’s mystery. She says, “both sexes are often attracted to those they find mysterious.”

I was in college when I fell in love with my now-husband. However, I don’t think it was the timing that attracted me. As a matter of fact, I’d decided I didn’t want any kind of boyfriend thing going that year, and then one night we went to the movies together… Proximity obviously helped--he lived right around the corner. But for me, I think it was the mystery of him. He is very tall, very athletic, and very musical (he caught my attention for the first time when he played the “Peanuts” theme on the dorm piano). He wasn’t easy for me to figure out.

So, what about you? Can you pinpoint timing, proximity, or mystery as something that once influenced your love choice?


lois greiman said...

I think all those are important. But let's not forget hormones. I mean, not just estrogen and progesterone but all those other crazy hormones that flare up...and that we don't understand. Maybe that's a part of timing too, huh??

I often look at couples and think, yeah, they both seem perfectly nice...but how did they decide.

Interesting topic.

Michele Hauf said...

Interesting. My hubby was a blind date. (No, he's not blind, I mean, well, you know...)

First site of him was when he popped his head out from his room-mate's bathroom, toothbrush lodged in his mouth, and toothpaste drooling down his chin.

I do believe it was love at first site. And I'm thinking it was the mystery thing. I had anticipated this meeting, and, of course, it was nothing as I'd expected. But that just stoked the whole mysterious element, and the need to learn more.

[Note: my mother married her first blind date as well. No, he wasn't blind, I mean... Whatever.]


Debra Dixon said...

My husband was a blind date when I was 16. I can't say it was love at first sight but I do remember a moment fairly early in the relationship when I thought, "Done." Meaning I was through looking and this was going to work long term.

I was graduating high school (early-bird) and was ready for the next phase of life. (g) So, I guess you could say I was subconsiously ready to find and settle with a mate. Still went to college. Still joined a sorority, but once I began dating my soon-to-be-husband I was done looking.

At one point I even told him my "mother said" I had to date other people. That lasted a whole week and a half. I didn't like the other people and was very happy to conclude that chapter of comparison shopping.

Helen Brenna said...

Interesting, Christie.

I met my husband 3 weeks before I graduated from college, so I think timing played a big part in the initial attraction. Prior to that, I'd been much too focused on a degree to give any relationship much consideration.

There's so much truth to this stuff, I think. I can see how it'd make sense to apply these concepts to writing romance.

Christie Ridgway said...

Hah, DD! I love that, "Done." I often have felt that way about certain things in my life: a couple of jobs, a car (really!), our house, my husband. Saw them and new it was going to be...had that "Done" feeling.

You guys, this book is so, so interesting. There's much more, about hormones, etc. Highly recommend!

Michele Hauf said...

Hmm, I think I sort of had that 'done' feeling too. Actually, we both did. We never really skirted the issue of marriage, it was just 'assumed' it would happen. We just sort of fell into being engaged, because it didn't seem as if there was any other way we should be.

Does it say anything about opposites attracting one another, Christie? I've always been curious about that, since the hubby and I are very opposite. ANd my daughter, who is recently engaged, attracted an opposite as well. Hmm...


Christie Ridgway said...

Yes, Michele, there is something to opposites attracting...and that's part of the "mystery" thing as well.

But their research shows you are much more likely to be attracted to a "stranger" who has a very similar ethnic, social, religious, educational, and economic background, though there is a huge rise in interracial marriages these days.

However, it is biologically better to not be too much alike, and our attraction mechanism takes that into account as well. They did a sweaty T-shirt test with women and found they were most attracted to the sweat of a man with an immune system that was unlike their own, yet still compatible. (Weakens the gene pool if everyone marries their brother.)

This does not take into account opposites in personality style, though, which might be more the good girl-bad boy dynamic. Or, in my case, the guy with really good spatial skills and the girl who can't figure out what size Tupperware to use for the leftovers.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I had been mostly dating the same guy since high school. He was "good marriage material"--2nd yr Cornell Law. I was setting out for my do-gooder summer (after jr yr in college) when we decided we were engaged, would get a ring in the fall and get married after I graduated. All very sensible. I headed out for a summer on an Indian reservation in SD.

I met my Indian cowboy on the second day there--37 years ago--my mother's birthday. Photographic memory. Timing? Don't think so. Proximity? Hmm. We did spend a lot of time together, and I was definitely a stranger in a foreign land. Mystery? Bingo!

But I didn't lose my head completely. I finished college. We got married 16 months after we met.

Betina Krahn said...

Some researchers a few years ago came up with a concept called a "love map". . . which is a compilation of the qualities and characteristics that define what will be a loved one for us. It starts to build early in life with our parents-- both sexes-- and is added to by every positive encounter/attraction we have.

That really resonated with me when I read it. My dad was tall, calm, a science buff, and Mr. Empathy; my mom was a driver and a doer who never held a grudge. And I had always thought my elder sister's boyfriend/fiancee/husband was cool. . . a tall red headed guy of Scottish descent. So when I met a tall, muscular red-headed German grad student in Physics. . . the puzzle was complete.

I knew from the first evening that Don was special and he might be "the one." Within six weeks we'd used the original "L" word and within 5 months we were engaged. Married 10 months after meeting.

Never looked back. Not a qualm in the world. I was so SURE.

But the second time around. . . during widowhood. . . the whole picture is different. Still trying to figure that one out!

flip said...

I can pinpoint the exact moment. I was walking with a guy, who had a crush on me. For him, it was an instant attraction. He told his mom later that he was going to marry me. I didn't feel the same way. Suddenly, I realized that if I could fall in love with this guy it would never be a mistake. We have been together for over 25 years.

Christie Ridgway said...

Flip: That is beautiful. I like it that he knew first!

Kathy: What is the title of your book that mirrors how you fell in love with your cowboy? I have to dig up my copy, because that is one of the most swoon-worthy books of all time. I know I have it in my keeper closet (yes, my keepers take up that much room)!

Christie Ridgway said...

Betina: She goes into the love map thing in this book too!

I would think that love after widowhood would be a completely different deal. Different things come into play, I'm thinking.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Christie, I've never used my real story exactly. Just bits and pieces. I think FIRE AND RAIN comes closest.

Keri Ford said...

My DH had been sort of a blind date. we knew of each other our whole lives (he good friends with my cousin's).

I set my aunt up with a guy, so she decided to do the same for me and picked out my DH for me. I knew that night, because he treated me like a girl (which I am, but I'd always been 'one of the guys'.)

He said it was a few months later for him when I sat with him while he was sick. He decided if I could sit there with him while he had the stomach virus, I was a keeper.

So mystery, maybe?

Christie Ridgway said...

Keri: We often use something like that--sticking by someone when they're vilely ill--in romance to show that the hero or heroine will stay for the long haul!

How did your aunt's blind date go?

And Kathy, yes. I'm sure it's Fire and Rain. I remember raving about the book and someone told me there were some parallels to your own love story which just made it all the sweeter. (Am putting head in keeper closet right now!)

Keri Ford said...

Christie, sorry a bit late. My aunt's date, short version.

She saw him in a store, but he was in truck before she could introduce herself. She worked for Sheriff Office at time, so she got descript of truck and knew it only had 3 letters of personalized plates. Most of the family, the entire sheriff's deputy's patroling and well over half of the city police were on a man hunt for this guy for nearly 2 months.

Friday night in town, I happen to see the vehicle with personal plates at a restraunt. She runs the tags and finds the guy. Calls and leaves a message on an answering machine. days go by (turns out he had been out of town when she called) and he agrees to met her.

Fastforword 7 years and they've been on again off again like Ross/Racheal from Friends.

Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Keri-- sounds like a contemporary romance! And you have one determined aunt! I love the image of the force all out looking for the guy. . . though I suspect a guy might feel differently about that.

:) Betina

Candace said...

I've read this book. Very interesting and it makes a lot of sense--especially the "familiar stranger" theory.

I met my DH a few days after my 21st birthday, strictly by chance. On the surface, we were exact opposites; I was a hippy-dippy bleeding heart liberal; he was Mr. Three-piece suit businessman on the rise--and 10 years older, as well. We clicked instantly. An inpromtu lunch date turned into a dinner date turned into breakfast in bed, and we've been together ever since (going on 35 years now.)

Once you got past the surface, it was almost spooky how much we had in common--family background, education, friends, summers spent in the same small beachside resort town. It turned out one of his high school buddies was the older brother of my very best friend when I was in elementary school. All indications are, we were probably at their house at the same time more than once and never noticed each other.

Keri Ford said...

the guy was completely flattered by whole thing. and yeah I thought the same thing about a story, but as of right now their story didn't end in a HEA. I know I could never write it differently than how it actually ended. Plus my heroines always comes out with a bit of a cynical streak. something my aunt would be offended by.

Christie Ridgway said...

Keri: Great story about your aunt!

Candace: My husband and I had been together for months (as boyfriend and girlfriend in college) when he visited me at home in the summer. He was astonished to see that my mom had refinished our piano with this green antique finish...his mom had done the same thing to their piano!

How many people in the world could possibly have antique green pianos?