The Science Of Love (Or, We Can’t All Be Batman)


Note: I wrote this article several years ago, before I met my now fiancé, think of it as a reflection of my past self. Some of the points are still fairly valid, I think.

We’re raised to believe that if we love hard enough, strong enough, and long enough, everything falls into place. If you’ve watched even one Disney movie featuring a princess, you’ll understand where I am coming from. They tell you to be selfless, to be honest and to be ‘good’ (whatever that is) and the right person will come along. Why? What are we protecting our children from? Should our first words about love be contrary to what we’re saying? Be ‘honest’. When is love honest? When does love play by the rules?

Love is between human beings, and they are rarely selfless, honest, or good.

Love can be the worst thing in the entire world, it can, and often does, ruin lives. So why do we over glorify? Why do we claim that it is ‘the best thing to ever happen to us’? I once read a book called The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, which is about neuroscience. This book compared the effects of love to the effects of cocaine. The highs and lows were eerily similar and just as addictive. They each light up our brains like Christmas trees. Imagine being a hardcore cocaine (love) addict. You’ve used for years and years, everyday for most of that time. And then one day, for no explicable reason, it’s gone. All the cocaine is used up, and you have to go cold turkey. That’s what a broken heart is. It’s your love addicted brain craving that next high and knowing it’s never going to get it again, at least never in the same way.

It can make us crazy. We say and do stupid things. Things that our normal, non-love addicted minds would have never considered doing. No one teaches us that just because someone says they love you, doesn’t mean that they do. No one explains how sometimes people are so messed up in their own minds they can’t do anything other than suck the life out of everyone around them. No one prepares us for the pain of falling in love with someone who is in love with someone else. And no one ever tells us that most of us, at some point in our lives, will be one of those lying, life sucking, unattainable people.

So now you’re going through withdrawals. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and all those things you used to love doing seem pointless and boring. You’re depressed and your friends aren’t keen to hover too close, afraid your particular form of unhappiness might be catching. They listen, they feign empathy, but they can’t cure you, no one can. You’re consumed with the desire for what you no longer have and what no one can give you. Eventually, however, these things do go away. You start to find the bits of yourself you’d discarded through your long addiction. You start to feel the sunshine again; you don’t go into a coffee shop and recall exactly how they ordered their coffee anymore, you don’t listen to just about any song on the radio and come up with a reason (or ten) for how it reminds you of them. You’re whole and free again.

And then the next drug comes along, and by that time you’ve forgotten the fallout from the first one. Sometimes you fight it –you’ve been burned before, after all, and you know how the pain lingers- but eventually someone is going to get past all that. By now you’ve cataloged all the reasons ‘it’ didn’t work out before, how it wasn’t meant to be and how you know what to do the ‘next’ time. You’re not an addict, you can quit anytime.

Some of us do this our whole lives, leaping wildly from one addictive person to the next in the hope that all those movies, stories and fairytales will come true for us too. Some of us (key word, some) eventually realize that in all those stories there are side characters, or even villains, who don’t get their happy ending. In each of those movies and stories we all love there is at least one poor soul who winds up alone, dead or worst of all, forgotten. Every superhero needs a side kick, the one who never gets the girl and who has to clean up after the real star of the show. We all want to play Batman but someone has to be Robin. Someone has to be the squire for the Knight in Shining armor. After all, that armor isn’t going to shine itself.

So why do we do it? What keeps us forever searching for the ever elusive ‘truue looooove’? I have always chalked it up to another addictive, misleading emotion.


Hope that Prince Charming might fall off his horse and you’ll have to rescue the princess instead. Hope that Batman will eventually get so old and beaten up you’ll have to step in and save Gotham, maybe redesign that bat signal with something a little more fashion forward. Hope that despite all evidence to the contrary, you actually are the main character in the story. Instead of the trusty, geeky computer nerd companion, you’re actually the kick ass leather wearing super model buried underneath all the media stereotypes. All the stuff before was just plot development, your adventure is just around the corner. Because, as well all know, every hero came from somewhere and more often than not, the best heroes came from Nowhere.

Love, I believe, is the worst thing in the world. But I hope I find it someday, I hope my daughter finds it someday, because I’m just as addicted as the next sucker, just as eager to play the lead role in the class play. Even if I have to steal the crown from the ego-blown head of the perfect blonde princess down the hall and kidnap the Prince myself. At least I won’t have any illusions as to how I got there.