From a simple mixture of sexual attraction and attachment to a manifestation of the human soul, feelings of fierce romantic desire boast no shortage of theories explaining their origin and meaning. Love is as much a mystery as it is familiar, highlighting a lack of insight into the human psyche. As man attempts to unravel the endless enigmas behind this apparently paradoxical emotion, more and more questions seem to arise. What is love’s true purpose? Why does it begin? How are loved ones chosen, if indeed they are chosen at all? Why does passion fade? In her article “True Love,” Lauren Slater explores in a longing tone the source of intense affection and why its maddening effects seem to dim over time, finding instead that it is the small, seemingly insignificant moments that truly matter in a long-term, loving relationship.
Lauren Slater was born on March 21, 1963. She attended first Brandeis University, then Harvard University, and finally Boston University. She majored in psychology, which she practiced for eleven years before becoming a full-time writer. She has written a multitude of books, including Welcome to My Country, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir, and Blue Beyond Blue. Slater has won many awards for these books, including the 2005 Bild Der Wissenschaft award in Germany. She wrote the “True Love” article in February of 2006.”True Love” is an attempt at finding answers to the ever-elusive questions its namesake inherently poses. Lauren Slater, faced with the apparent absence of a romantic spark in an otherwise happy marriage, investigates into the proverbial heart of the matter, asking questions and providing data as well as highlighting some popular beliefs on the origins of love and why passion rarely lasts. She then goes on to provide suggestions on how to reignite the romantic spark in any growingly bland relationship.
All the while, she relates anecdotes, somehow both joyful and melancholy in nature, from her own marriage to the facts, data, and advice she provides, concluding her essay with a short narrative that leaves her audience wondering as much about the message of the story as about love itself.Slater begins her essay by describing the letdown she felt after her wedding. Pondering her situation, she concludes that she is “married… hip, hip, hooray” (Slater). The sarcastic use of a traditionally jovial phrase as a descriptor for what is generally interpreted to be one of the happiest moments in life underscores the sense of disillusionment the author feels toward what should be an important milestone of the human experience. Beginning the essay with a situation generally believed unthinkable serves as a sort of icebreaker between Slater and her audience, depicting the essay as one that does not sugarcoat the often-painful truth. This breaking of preconceived notions allows the author a clean slate upon which she can present both fact and opinion that would otherwise be scrutinized with doubt and uncertainty.
Thus does Slater present the blandness of her own marriage as evidence of quickly dissolving passion in order to clear any misgivings her audience may have about the likelihood of love going stale.Attempting to find that missing spark her relationship once had, Slater wonders why love is so fleeting. The answer, she postulates, may be found in Helen Fisher’s theory that “relationships frequently break up after four years because that’s about how long it takes to raise a child through infancy” (Slater). Love is here characterized as a mere byproduct of convenience and necessity, an evolutionary failsafe that compels unknowing humans to work together in order to successfully raise their offspring and thus benefit the species as a whole. Fisher claims the feeling fades because once the child no longer strictly needs its mother, it would be most beneficial to humanity if the parents went out and reproduced with other members of the species instead of just with each other. Slater also acknowledges, however, the plausibility of sensory adaptation as the primary cause of an impassionate relationship. She notes, “the reasons romantic love fades may be found in the way our brains respond to the surge and pulse of dopamine that accompanies passion and makes us fly” (Slater). The author here portrays the loss of passion as a biological response of the brain to being overloaded with excessive stimuli for elongated periods of time. The brain, Slater indicates, simply accustoms itself to the intense feelings of lust and longing new love brings about, and learns to ignore said feelings as a way of retaining functionality. By accepting the validity of both theories, Slater intentionally fails to answer the key question of why exactly passion diminishes over time.
Recognizing both theories but adopting neither, Slater leaves the topic exactly how she found it: unanswered; the mystery remains, for all intents and purposes, a mystery.With no concrete answer to love’s burning questions, Slater can only make efforts to reignite any lingering affection between herself and her husband. During an exercise meant to do just that, the author recalls how her husband had taken a turtle and “held the animal out toward [her], a love offering… [she] took it, and together [they] sent it back to the sea” (Slater). It is no coincidence that during an exercise meant to start again the intense passion long dormant between the couple, Slater recalls a small, beautiful moment she had shared with her husband. This realization, placed at the conclusion of the essay, leaves her audience pondering the meaning of the story as they had with the meaning of love itself. It is a testament to the simple notion that love is what you interpret it to be, and that people can hold on to the eternal bond with their life partners by remembering the small moments that make the relationship, and the person they share it with.A multitude of unanswered questions cover the expanse of the human psyche in mystery.
Much of what humans have set out to understand remains yet a riddle. Such is the fate of the individual, doomed or privileged to live and attempt to understand these events so integral, so crucial, to the human experience and to life as a whole. In the end, passion and romance encompass just one of many portions of man’s existence, and will unfortunately, as all things, end. Slater does provide insight to all this reasoning of hers backing up with the tone she sets up, the personal experiences and as well, the theories she articulates but yet can’t seem to have the answer to what true love really means. With that all said and done, hope does remain in the moments that make a relationship special. They can be forever preserved in memory, ingrained into the mind not only as a pleasant experience but as the occurrences that define who we are and whom it is we truly love.
Slater, Lauren. “True Love.” Article, Romantic Love Information, Serotonin Level Facts. National Geographic, Feb. 2006. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. Smith, Samantha W. “Lauren Slater.” Lauren Slater. Biography, 15 June 2007. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. Winchester, Jaden H. “Lauren Slater.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 June 2013. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.