Our writers have something to say about love … and we take you inside their conversation.
When I shared Mandy Len Catron’s New York Times piece, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” with The Good Men Project‘s Facebook Writers Group, I had no idea that so many people would jump in with their thoughts and feelings on love. Actually, I did have some idea, because love is something that virtually everyone has experienced and on which everyone has an opinion.
Our group is diverse and opinionated, so as you can imagine, our conversation ran the gamut. We talked about the stress of dating, the risk of heartbreak, and the challenge of developing intimacy and trust. We talked about compatibility, emotional attraction, and recognizing that love can feel peaceful. And all that was before the men chimed in. Some writers shared personal memories of their past relationships, sliding door moments, and shocking epiphanies, and we ended with a challenge to one writer to deliver an article on how to create the conditions for love to blossom—which he did!
Below are excerpts from the love-fest that ensued.
Sami Jankins starts by suggesting that scripted questions might make dates less stressful:
Sami Jankins I think when you go out on dates, it can be challenging to get a discussion started…especially with nerves involved. I don’t know that I believe these questions could make anyone fall into insta-love, but it would take some pressure off and be sort of fun.
Heather Gray supports Catron’s premise, that love is a choice:
Heather Gray I do think that being in love is a lot like being happy…it is, at some point, a choice. You have to choose love, even when you know the risk of heartbreak. You have to want it more than you are afraid of it. My gut instinct is that if the two people answer the questions with equal openness, they could find love and compatibility.
Thomas G Fiffer I think we’re more likely to be emotionally attracted to people who, through whatever method (conscious or not) create intimacy and trust when we’re with them.
Thomas G Fiffer Also, I think to a degree we learn how to love by what is modeled to us in childhood. As a result, many of us don’t learn what healthy love is until later, when we unlearn some of the earlier lessons.
Joanna Schroeder Oh my gosh, I’m tempted to blush and giggle after reading that! I do think that the choice to enter that experiment made it not really objective. They wouldn’t have agreed if they didn’t think it would be at least pleasant to talk for that long. But I love the idea of choosing to create something. To build it consciously and not feel that some magical force is dictating its direction. Recognizing a love that doesn’t feel like mystical swirling forces being in charge, I think, requires one to be self-aware enough to know where they are vulnerable and why they have – or even that they have – a tendency to be swept away by certain personality traits in another, or even by certain actions.
Thomas G Fiffer Joanna, Recognizing a love that feels peaceful and not volatile is challenging for many people. If you’re conditioned to think love is being on the mountaintop, you’re less likely to feel it when you’re walking hand in hand with someone along the trail.
Heather Gray One of the most interesting couples I ever heard about was when I first started in private practice, I saw the woman and she told me that she and her husband both knew they loved one another and they wanted to build a life but previously, their respective relationships failed because they wanted a lot of alone time. They got married and bought a two family house. They each had their own sides and they had a son who had bedrooms in both houses. Sometimes they slept apart, sometimes they had sleepovers at one another’s side and they had all kinds of traditions and routines for staying connected. She reported being happier in marriage than anyone she’s ever met. They rarely fought. Her theory was that the idea of living with someone 24/7 and not monogamy was what was making so many marriages struggle. She believed it to be unrealistic to expect to stay close and connected without more significant space. Joanna Schroeder, I absolutely believe that love created consciously and with mindfulness will ultimately be more lasting. You’re not putting your success in the stars, luck, or magic. You’re saying: This. This is what I want. I’ve shared that when my husband was my boyfriend he became paralyzed in an accident. It forced us to consciously decide what we wanted our lives to look like and what we were going to do to get there because our previous plan was no longer possible. Nothing like a year of rehab and subsequent years of moving on to give you that kind of time.
Joanna Schroeder Okay so here’s an actual example – Danielle has heard me say before that I can fall in love with a man over a single well-constructed sentence. There are, of course, parameters for this sentence, but when someone hits it, it’s like a light flashing and all the alarms going off. In trying to figure out why I used to get so many crushes, I found a pattern! So now, as a happily married and monogamous person, I can still see that happening within me at times and I just answer myself with “Oh this is that thing. I react this way to this type of sentence/sentiment.” And I know that not only is it NOT love, it’s not even a crush. It’s the thing about me that reacts to a specific set of variables put forth by someone. So unromantic, I know, but what’s romantic is knowing that a lifelong marriage with my husband is possible in part by recognizing that not all flutters are love.
Thomas G Fiffer Joanna, You’ve hit on something really interesting. There are certain images, words, activities, whatever, that make us feel the same or similar feelings to what we feel when we’re in love. Recognizing that is liberating, because it enables us to sort out what is actually love and what is the result of those particular stimuli.
Patrick Sallee I definitely think the point about creating intimacy is true. As a single guy one of the biggest challenges in dating is breaking down the barriers that we all put up. The questions mentioned do a great job of breaking those down. The times I have met people and felt genuinely excited, were the ones where conversation was intimate and personal. I think the great thing about the exercise is it gives love a chance by breaking down walls.
Orin Hahn Since I was paged….This piece echoes some of my deepest experiences of the last decade. Almost ten years ago all the representations and structures of love in my life became undone. I got divorced, saw my daughter through great pains and distance and lost one by one my entire family unit from childhood. In the process I had to learn how to date, love, rebuild, care for myself and build with others. I threw myself at spans into dating and socializing. This included polyamory, I dated sometimes several people simultaneously both individually and sometimes even on communal dates. One communal date was with three women I was seeing at the same time. It started out awkward since no one had a script but as the night went on it echoed some, much of what the article and experiment discussed. A willingness to share and explore made a strange gathering warm. At the end of the night one woman suggested semi jokingly that we go to a nearby strip club. When we went we got many looks. Walking in with several women to a place like that will do that. As we sat laughing at the absurdity of us a dancer approached all of us and blatantly said ” so what’s up with this. ” When it was explained that they were all dating me the dancer asked “so what is it about him? Is he really loaded or super hung?” I was a bit embarrassed but deeply curious because quite honestly I didn’t have a clue what allowed any of this. They all thought and one answered “he really listens”. One by one they said yeah. And the dancer too seemed to get it. That was my first real lesson in what was essential to having people trust, share and adventure with you into creating anything.
Orin Hahn Permission is a key component to love that isn’t stated in the article. Whether its the permission of the experiment for the subjects or in my case of the permission of nothing to lose so try anything and be open to looking ridiculous.
Jenny Kanevsky I’ve been reading through these comments and given what is going on in my personal life, this is timely. What resonates for me is Thomas G Fiffer‘s comment about what is modeled in childhood. To me, it is about being willing to look inside and deep to patterns that might seem like a way to love but that can and must change for healthy adult love. In love, in parenting, in living. The awareness and willingness to do this is critical, and not always there for everyone. So much can be gained and healed. (Fine to quote me.) I’m writing this on my phone so I hope it’s making sense, and am a little emotionally raw this week. These types of posts are appearing in my feed for a reason today. Well played, universe. Great thread.
Thomas G Fiffer Jenny, I’m glad this is timely and resonant for you. I think the article stimulates thought about what we choose in life and what, unless we break through our conditioning, we allow to be chosen for us. For many people, life is a constant struggle to make healthy or healthier choices, to align with people and behaviors in our best interests instead of just our self-interest. It’s particularly hard when we realize we have to choose to walk away from something—or someone—to save ourselves or to restore our own emotional security, to take back power that we’ve ceded to another who has—consciously or not, with malice or not—abused that power or used it to our detriment.
Thomas G Fiffer I think I’m in love with this thread!
Bryan Reeves As I turn 40 and reflect back on my entire life of relationships with women, and particularly the ones that “got away”, I’m learning just how powerful I am – have always been even though I didn’t know it – to create the space within which a woman can fall in love with me, andI with her … simply by showing up in my own raw authenticity, connected to heart, passionately connected to my truth and actively fascinated to explore hers, add some ambiance magic and a sprinkle of time, and voila! a recipe for creating the experience of falling in love, regardless whether we follow through with it or not : ) Point is, I never knew how much capacity I had to create the opportunity for love to blossom with almost any available woman, until I began understanding just how much we all deeply yearn to fall in love with each other.