WHAT WOMEN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MEN IN LOVE!
--Condensed from "What Every Woman Should Know About Men"
--By Joyce Brothers
Men are almost heartbreakingly susceptible to love--much more so than women. A man seldom contracts a mild case. He falls head over heels into raging romance.
To understand the difference between the way men & women feel & act about love, it is important to understand the difference between being in love & loving. I think of them as first-stage love & second-stage love. One is fleeting, the other can be forever.
First-stage or romantic love is a creation of the Middle Ages, when troubadours sang of its agonies & ecstasies & brave knights dedicated their swords & their hearts to beautiful women. It was almost exclusively a male indulgence. "Love is a folly of the mind, an unquenchable fire, a hunger without surfeit," wrote Richard de Fournival in the 13th century, "a sweet delight, a pleasing madness, a labour without repose & a repose without labour."
Studies indicate that romantic love may be even more widespread today than in generations past & that men still preserve their sweetly passionate illusions. In a 1959 study, male students were asked if they would marry someone whom they did not love but who was agreeable to them in all other respects; 60% said no. When a similar group was asked the same question in 1979, 86% of them gave a thumbs-down answer.
But what is this "folly of the mind," romantic love? Researchers into the mysteries of love agree that there is a distinct physical syndrome of first-stage love. It includes palpitations of the heart, a flushing of the face, fast breathing, & sometimes a slight tremor of the hands or fingers. (It is interesting to note that a person can get the same sensations after an injection of adrenalin.)
Whatever its nature, a man usually succumbs to first-stage love long before his love object does. Researchers who took the "romance measurements" of 250 young men & 429 young women found that more than a quarter of the men had fallen in love before their fourth date, but only 15% of the women had. In fact, nearly half the women reported that even after 20 dates with the man they eventually decided they loved, they did not feel they were in love. They needed more time.
Analysing the reason for this striking difference, the researchers decided that men are less discriminating than women. Men are often attracted first by good looks. The average man makes up his mind in a few seconds whether he wants to know a woman better. And he may fall into the throes of first-stage love almost immediately.
Women seldom do. They think of love more in terms of marriage & their future. Women are more realistic in their appraisal of the relationship--& more concerned with the economics. This is not crass materialism. Until recently marriage was a woman's whole life. It was fine for a man to be caught up in romantic frenzy because, whether or not he married, his life would still revolve largely around his work. This has rarely been true for women. Even today the woman who works outside the home takes almost as much responsibility for the smooth running of the household & the well-being of her husband & children as does the woman who stays home.
I do not suggest for an instant that women do not feel the delightful tremors of the initial stages of sexual attraction. But most women allow their heads to control their hearts--at least in the early days.
First-stage love is too intense to last. Neither men nor women can maintain this degree of passion forever, although they swear they will. If there is nothing to build on, the relationship may not survive the loss of the initial intensity, triggering depression, loneliness, even illness. The victims are usually men.
These reactions might appear surprising, but men are very vulnerable when it comes to the loss of love. We do not always realise this because men tend to keep their romantic feelings to themselves. This bottling up of the emotions makes the end of a love affair especially traumatic for them.
The majority of couples survive the lost of first-stage love & settle happily into second-stage or conjugal love. It may sound dull compared to first-stage love. It is anything but.
Second-stage love develops over the years, increases every year as you both become more than you were when you first married. It comes after you have nursed him through the flu & his gallbladder operation & discovered that he is the World's worst patient. It comes after you have huddled together in the stands on bleak November Saturdays year after year to watch your son play football. It comes when you realise that he knows all your faults & loves you just as you are--not as some romantic ideal.
You can disagree, you can quarrel, but it doesn't affect that solid core of love accumulated over the years. The two halves have become a whole without either losing its identity.
Second-stage love is friendship, tenderness, caring, understanding, passion, steadfastness, loyalty, the ability to rise above petty exasperations. Strengthening the relationship year after year, it is more than the sum of its parts.
"As much as she exasperates me," a man once told me, "I love her more than anything in the World. I couldn't live without her." He has been married to her for 37 years. That's love. Real love.