Whenever there is a discussion about love and how it forms, there is always that one annoying friend who says that love is nothing but a combination of the right chemicals in your brain; that it is nothing but formulaic string of events. As annoying as they are, your friend might be right. You might have already run into the famous news story circulating about a scientist who might have been able to produce love in a lab two decades ago.
In the study, Dr. Aron brought forth a heterosexual man and woman and performed a series of experiments that resulted in their matrimony six months later. Basically, the man and woman walked into a room through different doors, proceeded to answer 36 personal questions, and finally looked into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes. Maybe it was a coincidence that they ended up married. Or maybe love really is formulaic and we don’t have soul mates (gasp).
I was curious about the authenticity of this experiment, so I decided to conduct my own. However, living in a girl’s dormitory, I was not presented with many opportunities to awkwardly gaze into a man’s eyes for 4 consecutive minutes. I tweaked the experiment a bit by using 3 of my suite mates. I believed that romantic love was not all that different from platonic love so there should be an increase of our affection for each other by the end of the experiment. We split up into pairs and got started.
What started off as a joke ended up being an incredible eye opening experience. I had been living with those girls for months without realizing that I didn’t know them as human beings. As in, I only knew them within the context of our living situation. I didn’t think of them complexly enough to imagine their pasts, their families, their struggles, and their deepest inner thoughts. We often make that mistake with many people in our lives. We give ourselves the benefit of being complex human beings but we rarely stop to think that a stranger walking down the street might have a mind filled with as much thoughts and turmoil as ours.
I learned about their relationships with their parents, their childhoods, how they experimented with smoking, stories of self-harm, the constant self-doubt, and many other tales that made me understand why they were the people they were. When we left that room after nearly two hours, we had transcended the boundaries of suite mates and became confidantes.
Maybe that’s how love starts. It’s not this super passionate surge of emotions. It’s being comfortable enough to open up to someone about the darkest, most intimate parts of yourself. Maybe it just takes people with whom you can have even the shallowest of interactions, add a bit of vulnerable moments, and a dash of empathy and compassion, and voila. But more importantly, love is a constant effort. There’s no magic formula for falling in love or staying in love. You make the choice to fall and stay there.