Somewhere along the line, humans seem to have inexplicably identified ‘falling in love’ as the most positive of all possible human experiences.
We search endlessly for love. We pine after it. We sacrifice our time and our resources and our money in the quest to find that one person who is going to help us live happily ever after – and most of us never think twice about how many small compromises we’re making. The search for love is worth them all. It has to be. It’s the single best thing we can experience. Right?
I’m not so sure.
Listen, I’m not immune to the effects of love. I’ve caught the love bug – more than a few times, and badly. I’ve done the head-over-heels, mad-about-each-other, can’t-take-your-hands-off-one-another kind of passion. I’ve also done the slow, steady burn – committing to one person exclusively and building a life from the ground up alongside them. I’ve spent a large portion of my life in love, in one form or another and I am anything but blind to its brilliance.
And yet every time I hear some version of the phrase, “There’s no feeling like falling in love,” I feel utterly compelled to challenge it.
Bear with me for a minute.
Imagine if you picked something – anything, really – a career, an art form, an adventure – and pursued it with but half of the intensity, passion and dedication with which you pursue love.
Add up all of the hours you’ve devoted to love – all the dates you’ve gone on, all the get-to-know-you conversations you’ve partaken in, all the days you’ve spent lazing in bed with someone else and all the nights you’ve spent arguing vehemently – and realize how much time you’ve invested in love over the years. If we were to line those time blocks up alongside one another, they’d add up to years of our lives – for some of us, close to a decade.
Now think about what else you could have accomplished in that time.
It has been extensively argued that it takes 10,000 hours of investment to become an expert at just about anything. By that logic, if you’d spent a little over twenty-one hours per week for the past nine years practicing a skill, talent or interest – instead of going on blind dates, agonizing over whether or not to text the person you like and endlessly stalking their Instagram – you’d likely have already achieved something phenomenal in your chosen field of study.
And there is nothing wrong with searching for love. I’m not here to shame you for wasting your efforts or time. But have you ever stopped to consider that love might not be the only thing worth chasing so relentlessly? That it may not be the only fulfilling route? That maybe – just maybe – there are feelings out there that you’ll never experience or know, that far exceed the emotionally pleasing phenomenon of being in love?
How might it feel to scale Mount Everest? To win a Nobel Prize? To write a best-selling novel, or to travel the whole world alone? There are an incredible, perhaps even immeasurable number of feelings we could experience that may match or even exceed that ever-coveted dopamine rush we get from falling in love. We just never pause to consider our alternatives – because we aren’t comfortable setting our sights for ourselves that high.
But here’s a thought – what if we scaled back our desperate search for love for a hot second?
What if we stopped devoting one hour each night to texting guys or girls from tinder or two nights each weekend going on dates or entire months of our lives chasing the high of those tumultuous relationships that we know are going to go up in flames?
What if, instead, we put the majority of that time toward something a little more advantageous – something like working on that bestseller or that groundbreaking invention or that round-the-world itinerary? What if we threw our energy into bettering ourselves and our circumstances, rather than worrying about who would be there to accompany us throughout all of it?
We may find that we’re single-handedly capable of making ourselves happier and more fulfilled than a partner could ever make us.
And in the pursuit of it all, you never know who’s going to fall in love with you from the sidelines.