When I ran across a brief survey as to how many times people had been in love, I was surprised at the results. Three or four times was the most common finding, with two times taking second place. So how many times should we fall in love? How many times might we consider “normal?”
I believe we love based on nature, on conditioning, on opportunity, on need; if we’re fortunate, as we mature, we arrive at a degree of affection and of give-and-take that suits each of us in relationships of various configurations.
But hey, that’s me. (Wwhat do you think?)
My own tally, looking back?
That would be seven, possibly eight. Wait… That figure could be nine.
Nah. We’ll go with seven. In any case, that places me at the far end of the Love Bell Curve (if you will), as the segments provided by the quickie survey range from none to five or more, in a breakdown as follows:
- Never been in love: 1%
- In love one time: 17%
- In love twice: 26%
- In love three or four times: 46%
- In love five or more times: 10%
Naturally, with no details on the age, sex or marital status of the respondents, we can’t draw any conclusions of significance, though I am stunned to find myself in the 10% category. (Just how are these respondents determining the individuals to include?)
More interesting to me is the way I appraised and then accounted for the men I have loved. The first man I lived with was among them while the first man I had a sexual relationship with was not; the man I married was among them while another man with whom marriage was discussed was not. In fact, considerations of marriage (and sex) had far less to do with identification of a love relationship than I would have imagined.
Also, time we spent together was not a factor. One person with whom I was in a relationship for nearly two years was not among those rating a Love Label, and nor does another in which a whirlwind romance lasted four months.
I say as much with the perspective of a woman “of a certain age;” I am definitely aware of the distinction between love and limerence.
I also look at two relationships in which the words were never openly exchanged, yet I know that I was in love, and felt the enduring effects of that love for an extended period.
Four of my love stories occurred before marriage; #5 (or #6) was the man I married, and two (or three?) came after our split more than a dozen years ago.
Why does seven or eight or nine sound like a lot? (Larry King or Liz Taylor might chuckle at my dismay.) Why does this number seem contradicted by so many years that I have spent alone? (Time off for 36 months as a sort of palate cleanser.) Is there a “right” number of times to be in love, and whose to say what that figure is?
Also not surprising… I can look back and see each romantic tale as a clear indication of where I was in life at the time – woefully naïve about relationships (somewhat isolated in my working life, regardless of my age); at an especially vulnerable time in life (after the death of my father and my grandmother, the two people I loved most in the world; this was my emotional landscape when I met the man who became my husband); first love “again” several years after divorce, with very few also-rans when the newness of my single status had long since worn off.
Recalling these relationships and the roles they played in my life leads me to wonder about the hardiness of our loving constitutions, the raising and razing of affective barriers, and the moments when we – or someone else – is able to dismantle the brick and stone that we hope will keep out hurt.
I think, too, of the wear-and-tear of the quotidian — the utility bills and household chores, the duty visits to in-laws or steps, and our engines of discontent that are born of boredom or unrealistic expectations. The dizzying state of “in love” is wondrous, but equally so — history we have built that offers us a solid structure; a spontaneous flare up of passion intensified by love; the inside joke that requires no language to incite a laugh; fingers grasped when you’re weary after a sleepless night.
Now, we all know that some women (and men) are love junkies. They flit from flower to flower (so to speak), convincing themselves they’re in love, when in reality, they’re in love with love itself, with those early vertiginous stages that are as intoxicating as any mood elevating drug. But the real world complexities that follow — not to mention the necessity for both individuals involved to step down from the pedestal — are more work than they can manage.
That has never been my challenge.
Choosing well, being chosen well, timing, luck… these are another matter.
So just how do I interpret my own number?
I’m glad I didn’t marry each time it was “the next logical step,” or I suspect I would have been divorced several times over. I’m glad to know that my heart has been big enough to give admiration, affection, trust and support… more than a few times. I’m glad that over the years I’ve come to better understand the many types of love that can exist, and those that enrich us as well as the others in our lives. I am still learning the art of loving enough and not too much, and the importance of loving myself with a greater measure of kindness.
How many times have you been in love? While there may be an “average,” do you think there’s a “normal?” Where would you fall on the “Love Bell Curve” as described?
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