Is love really that complicated?

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Have you ever wondered why love has to be so full of conflict and strife? Love has always been described as a headache and a heart-breaking adventure. Most of the people involved will come from it with deep scars that they can never completely make disappear. And yet, we are always eager to go back and try times and times again. Why is that? Simply because, no matter how hurtful love can be it is still the most fulfilling emotion known to human life. A life without love is a life not fully lived, a complete waste. Then, you would ask what makes such a beautiful thing so complicated?

Why can’t love be simple? I also ask. Why can’t it just be as pure as two people who realize that they can’t live as well, or as happily, apart as they can together? They say if the love is true, then it’s easy. But that’s false. Love is complicated. It’s sticky. It’s bliss and it’s a mix of emotions. It’s not easy.

Perhaps we should first ask ourselves one fundamental question; what is love? Is it just an emotion? An emotion so powerful that it can change people in so many respects? Well, I don’t mind sounding Aristotelian if I say it depends on what you mean by “love.” The ancient Greeks had more than 10 words for experiences which we might call love. Eros was a combination of lust and romance. Ludus was uncommitted and playful. So, let’s say we’re talking about romance. The infatuation, the butterflies, the passion- all spurred on by a little neurotransmitter in our brains known as dopamine. And, yes, dopamine is the chemical behind many of life’s highs, including drug addictions (as the joke goes, “That’s why they call it dope”).

Well, I would tell you that it is because it asks more from us than anything else. Love can never get satisfied with a partial commitment. Love demands your full attention and all your energy to produce fruits at the end of the day. It is not therefore love that is so complicated but mainly us that cannot live up to its expectations. We tend to believe that words will make up for our lack of devotions, and sex will solve all our shortcomings in a relation. Unfortunately, love is much more than physical satisfaction and beautiful words.

Out of all human relationships love comes with maximum expectations on its back. When you’re in love with a person you expect him or her to behave in a certain manner which is in synchronization with one’s general way of dealing with matters. We tend to forget individual differences while in love. So, when these expectations are not met there is a feeling of restlessness and betrayal. In many cases one person tries to change the other with gross results. These negative emotions manifest themselves as various complications like frictions between partners. End result. Entropy.

As an example, marriages often suffer from open truth and don’t ask me how I know this. I have recently become some sort of a marriage counsellor. I mostly don’t say anything. I just listen. Most men and women would tell you how hurtful their partner is. This always occurs after two people know too much of each other. It is the time when the nice words and the sex cannot make up for all our flaws. It is the time when partners do not try to hide their personal disappointments as they do not receive what they bargained for. It is the time when truth is said to hurt because we are feeling cheated by love. In reality, love never fails us. We fail love.

We jump into relationships without being sure of how strongly we love the person, and if we are ready to commit. And when we fail, we just jump to a new one without resolving the issues that made us fail the first one. So, is love complicated? Not really. But we, humans, are. We have so many issues, work related, family related, our differences, our religions, our beliefs, our fears, our egos and all our expectations. By the time we enroll ourselves into a relationship, our mind is already so full that we do not take time to think and realize what we are signing for. We push ourselves forward in the heat of the moment.

Most relations start when one person feels lonely and needs company, or one person is pressured by his peers to find someone because of his or her age, social position, family tradition, or simply because he or she is bored! How then do you expect to live up to something as demanding as love if you commit to it for dubious reasons? Love can only be effective and lasting if it is inspired from love.

When love is fresh it’s all about euphoria. One gets a high having a partner. Gradually this phase hits a plateau. That initial high dies down. Everything seems so normal. You start missing that heady phase which came at the beginning. The real test of love begins at this stage. Maximum people fall out of the relationship at this stage. Acts like taken for granted, adultery etc. are ripe once the rush is over. Very few understand that love is not a smooth highway. It’s never constant. It has its share of crests and troughs. Love attracts complications because it’s an emotional drug.

That euphoria can last 17 months or more, according to research. Dopamine also stimulates the release of testosterone, the “liquor of lust,” along with the same bonding chemicals that make us protective of one another. The quantities, timing and interactions of those big three-dopamine, testosterone and bonding chemicals can trigger them to work synergistically or in opposition.

So, love surprises us. You might be in love and have no desire for sex. You might have detached satisfying hookups, only to discover you’re in love. Maybe you’re just friends and fall in love. Or, as the summer romance story goes, you fall in love and part with only fond memories. You can also feel lust for one person, attachment to another and romance with a third-all at the same time.

Then, to get matters more complicated, your brain’s chemical journey isn’t necessarily the same as your partner’s. That’s why romantic love is risky: a blissful dependency when one’s love is returned, a painful, sorrowful and often destructive craving when one’s love is spurned.

Ideal chemistry won’t make your relationship a success and it also isn’t absolutely necessary for success. Those who are intensely in love from the outset are only slightly more likely to have a good relationship. Talk to anyone in India, where arranged marriages are the norm, and they’ll tell you it’s possible to grow to love someone.

Psychologists have argued that “almost any two people who feel at least some attraction for each other and who don’t have too many deal breakers can work together to build psychological, romantic and physical intimacy that will get stronger over time.” The recipe for success in this is two people who communicate well, are in reasonable mental health and not under too much stress. Happiness is important at the beginning of any relationship, but communication is key to keeping your happiness over time. Boredom and not lack of chemistry, has been cited as a massive relationship killer. To keep things exciting, keep doing new, fun and unexpected things together.

It might sound like a monumental task, but yet it is possible. All you need is the right mindset and take responsibility in your relationships. For love to work and produce its wonderful miracles you must give yourself completely into it and only with people you really love in your heart.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer simple or easy in the times we live in. The most complicated part is finding two souls who are feeling it as the same time in their lives and for each other. Feeling it so deep that they’re willing to fight every second of the day to keep it alive.

Love is not supposed to be complicated. It is supposed to be easy. It should not need begging and imploring. Love must be simple, because it’s just the beginning of a long journey. There are a lot of complications in life that we have no control over which we leave to God, so why do we complicate the things that we have control over and much simpler than we think?

Not every person wants the prettiest, smartest, talented or spiritually uplifting person to build a life with. Sometimes we just want that special someone that makes sense, puts up with us, has patience, comes without drama, gives us focus and is willing to run with our half-baked ideas. Spending moments with another in earnest presence is one of the simple ways we can show unconditional love. It is the memories created from these impressions that survive after all else passes.

Certainly, we can say that the pace of modern life, has increased and supported by our technology in general and our personal electronics in particular, has resulted in a short attention span and an addiction to the influx of information. A mind so conditioned has little opportunity to think critically, and even less chance to experience life deeply by being in the present moment. A complex life with complicated activities, relationships and commitments implies a reflexive busy-ness that supplants true thinking and feeling with knee-jerk reactions. It is a life high in stress and light on substance, at least in the spiritually meaningful dimensions of being.

Life is random. Life is complicated. Life is often unforgiving. And we must each live it anyway. And I don’t mean live it as if it’s a chore, something to be endured or survived. I mean, dig in, get muddy, howl at the moon, take pictures of sunsets, play in the rain, make love, savor your food, smile as much as you can. And cry when you’re sad. Live it despite the fact it pisses you off. Live it and pay as much attention as you can muster.

It is life’s greatest paradox that with its complexities, it’s also simple. There are no complicated rules we must follow. There are no external forces, which dictate how we must lead our lives. There is no fate that prevents us from being who we want to be. We are the ones who often insist that life is complicated. Life is complex with its multidimensional nature. It is never that complicated. All complications come from our fears, which we often choose to trust more than the voice of our hearts. Intricated thoughts insist us to make our life complicated.

And why do we do this!? Our creator gave us a very simple beautiful life and surrounded us with this amazing nature. We on the other hand instead of enjoying our life, made it all so complicated that we don’t even get time to meet ourselves. God has already written the script, casted the key players. It is when we try to re-write the plot that we encounter unnecessary drama.

The simplicity of life never ceases to amaze me, and the many ways we complicate it blows my mind. I am suspended in the moment. Flickering images faded with age, frozen thoughts hovering precariously in dead space, a whirlwind of memories that slice through my soul. I am living a simple life with a complicated mind and I have yet to find a state of mind where I feel safe with who I am, where I am and with what I do.

I am thinking how complicated life is and how there are no simple roads or paths. We are a fabric of mistakes and hurts; a family tree of fumbled attempts, successes and failures. For us to deem a work of architecture elegant, it is hence not enough that it look simple: we must feel that the simplicity it displays has been hard won, that it flows from the resolution of demanding technical or natural predicament.

Complexity looks at simplicity and laughs at it for being too simple. But this is stupidity. Which is more valuable? The drop of pure rose oil or the cologne that mixes that one drop with many other things in order to make it affordable enough? It takes 60,000 roses to make a single ounce of rose oil. In simplicity there is value, there is meaning. Complexity is what happens when value and meaning are watered down. Don’t play games with pure-hearted people; they don’t need your rubbish. And don’t try to water them down so you can afford them. Let’s save each other the drama and heartache.

Most people will tell you how cynical they are about love, but how can they not be? On the surface, relations between men and women are all soft kisses and white gowns and hand-holding. But underneath they are a scary, complicated, ugly mess, just waiting to rise to the surface. Out of the cynicism, we go ahead and confuse what is complex (raising a child, finding more meaning in our lives) with what is complicated (sending astronauts to the moon). Confusing the two, leads us to complicated solutions for things that are actually complex instead.

A lot of time spent on self-reflection has taught me a bit about myself and what I want and similarly don’t want. When it comes to the topic of what I want from a relationship, I can’t really say I know who I want or what my ‘dream woman’ looks like, or does for a living or is called. But I do know two things: I want to settle down at some point, and I do want simplicity.

However, half of me is filled with bursting words and half of me is painfully shy. I crave solitude yet also crave people. I want to pour life and love into everything yet also nurture my self-care and go gently. I want to live within the rush of primal, intuitive decision, yet also wish to sit and contemplate. This is the messiness of life – that we all carry multitudes, so we must sit with the shifts. We are complicated creatures, and ultimately, the balance comes from this understanding. Be water. Flowing, flexible and soft. Subtly powerful and open. Wild and serene. Able to accept all changes, yet still led by the pull of steady tides.

I hear people complain about their boyfriends and girlfriends and how annoying they are and how they argued over x, y and z things and how the relationship is going nowhere. I don’t want that. A lot of people are scared of being alone, and don’t get me wrong, I’m scared too. The fear of growing old alone consumes me and leads me to terrible things such as spending hours swiping away on Instagram, but I won’t settle. I have too much to invest and too much to give.

Then there are the girls I know who stay in monotonous relationships to benefit only from constant streams of expensive gifts: handbags, jewelry, weekends away- only to turn around and complain that they argued or he didn’t give her enough attention, or some other qualm. I don’t want that either. When I’m with someone, I want to be with them 100%. I want to speak only kind, loving words about them and show them off to the world and post sickening Sunday couple selfies on Instagram. Perhaps even get married and “my wife” people to death.

What I really mean when I talk of wanting simplicity is really quite straightforward. So many people talk about wanting a love which turns their world upside down, makes everything else seem dull and ordinary, and sets their heart on fire. I don’t want that kind of love. I want a love which puts my world into order, which makes the dull and ordinary exciting, and which silences the musings of my heart. I want a simple love. A love which is there when I come home from a long day at work to greet me with a hug and a smile; a love which isn’t dimmed by seeing me hungover, a love which makes me feel complete, regardless of distance.

I want the woman who gives me that kind of love to be simple, too. I don’t need airs and graces; I don’t need watches, flowers or any other gifts (I’m a sucker for watches). I just need someone there, to celebrate my successes, commiserate my losses and everything else in between.

And in return, I’ll offer her the same thing: a simple, uncomplicated love. I will burst with pride at her successes, hide my heartbreak at her losses and be there every day to live my life with her. I will speak kindly of her, will invest in her everything I have and give her my heart.

Maybe I’m seeing the world simultaneously through cynical and rose-tinted eyes, or maybe the simple kind of love just doesn’t exist, but whether it does or not, I’ll wait for it, even if it means I’ll be waiting forever. I know how that makes me sound complicated, mysterious and yet content with the “simple” things in life. Don’t try to understand me; you won’t figure me out. But you’re free to like me the way I am.

Yours truly,

©C.J. NJOROGE

Love is like a rosebush with thorns. We can either complain about its complications or rejoice about its presence in our lives. It’s all up to you.

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About Cooper Jose Njoroge

Writer, philosopher, painter and a student of life and politics. Follow on Twitter @cj_njoroge. Instagram @cj_njoroge

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