Words of Wisdom from Love Factually The science of who, how and why we love by Laura Mucha

Words of Wisdom from Love Factually The science of who, how and why we love by Laura Mucha

Some would suggest that to love and be loved is the entire point of our human existence. Love is undeniably one of the most complex emotions we’ll ever experience, which is what Laura Mucha conveys in her enlightening book, Love Factually The science of who, how and why we love. For a well-rounded and researched perspective on love, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Here are my key take-aways…

1. Love changes as you get older

“Like many of the older people I spoke to, Lisa explained that love is much more exciting and heart wrenching when you’re young. She told me that the youthful, more sexual side of love, while important, wasn’t the be all and end all. Instead, it eventually turned to friendship love. And, she added, the older you get, the more you take it for granted.”

2. Love can help you learn more about yourself

“A good partner can help you develop an awareness, not only of your own inner life but also theirs and, in doing so, Aristotle argues that you ultimately know more about yourself. He also believe that things are often easier when you do them with someone else – and that includes being good.”

3. Don’t listen to what other people say

3. Don’t listen to what other people say

“People will always, always, always have things to say about you. I think it’s important not to listen even if you have the most beautiful children, the best family – people always have something to say, some comment to make, some criticism.” – interviewee, Milena 

4. There are many different types of love

“When people say “love“, they tend to refer to love in a partnership or marriage, but actually there are many different aspects to love. We should be very happy if we have any love in our lives, whatever form it takes.” – Sally (interviewee) 

 For example, Noel, and Irishman in his 80s who had been married for more than 50 years, told me: “Sex comes into it at some stage but doesn’t last a lifetime. It can do, but it is not what binds you together eventually.”

5. You need to work at relationships

“Younger generations underestimate the amount of work that’s involved in maintaining a long-term relationship. There is a different attitude to life today and I live very much in the moment and if the moment is not right, then the future is not – instead of saying that the moment has passed and the future is often brighter, or it can be. There is too much letting the moment affect a lifetime and deciding to walk away from it… and it is probably easier to do it nowadays.”

6. Why love is like arguing

“Perhaps, like love, arguing is also an art – and the skills needed to have helpful and loving arguments are the same skills that are needed to master the art of loving more generally. Surely the generosity, empathy and compassion that will help turn potential fights into constructive discussions are the very same attributes that transform the way you deal with every other human being.”

7. It’s important to love yourself

“I’ve slowly woken up to the fact that I need to be selfish enough to take care of myself. If I’m well slept, restored, spiritually fed, then of course I’m going to show up emotionally for other people. If I’m depleted inside, if I have abused or abandoned myself, I have nothing to give. Culturally we are not taught about loving ourselves. We are taught self-sacrifice. But if you’re self-sacrificing to the detriment of your own emotional, spiritual and physical health, that doesn’t help anyone. We are on a plane right now, and it’s the same as putting on the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on others.” Jenny (interviewee).

8. Grief is not a linier process

“I often wonder whether many people (at least in western societies) have completely the wrong idea of grief – namely, that it’s a relatively short, and finite, process, a bit like falling over and grazing your knee. It will scab over if you don’t touch it, it will heal and you might have a small mark, but that will disappear too and then you’ll be back to normal. But losing your partner, one of your main attachment figures, is more like discovering that gravity doesn’t exist and then having to find a new way to live life without that grounding.”

9. Grief is confirmation you have loved

“But something Maurice said made me reframe my understanding of grief completely. He told me that he no longer saw his grief, or its enduring nature, as negative – instead he saw it as a confirmation that he had loved, and may never stop loving, his wife very deeply.”

10. Make the most of the people around you – no one knows what’s around the corner

“I realise how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away. Sometimes I try and say that to people, I try to tell them that they haven’t got all the time in the world. But even though they know that Tim died at 31, they don’t get it. A lot of people I have met think they have got a full lifetime, they think they are going to die when they are old and grey, and everyone else will die when they are old and grey, but you really don’t know what life will throw at you. You have to make the most of the people around you as you don’t know what is around the corner for them.” – Chloe, interviewee 

11. Is suffering necessary to experience profound joy?

“This extraordinary amount of suffering had an enormous impact on his philosophy and Friedrich Nietzsche came to believe that, without experiencing profound pain, humans lower their capacity for joy. He argued that misery, misfortune and mistakes are as necessary as their opposites – in fact, he thought suffering was so necessary that he went as far as wishing it on the people he cared about.”

12. Out of darkness comes light

“When researchers interviewed nearly 400 people who lost someone they loved (17 per cent of which had lost their partner), they found that the vast majority of (84 percent) believed that good had come out of their suffering. The third said that death had strengthened their relationship with family and friends, almost 20 per cent said they had a greater appreciation for life, and 8 per cent thought they were more patient, understanding, accepting and compassionate.”

13. Love and life is precious

“I have come to believe that deep, intimate, meaningful compassionate love, whether romantic or not, is one of the greatest joys we can experience as humans – despite the fact that it can, and will, come to an end. Perhaps it’s even because it will come to an end that it’s so precious. After all, isn’t it death that makes life quite so valuable?”

14. Cultivate you relationships

“As Juan, the 95-year-old farmer from northern Argentina told me at the very start of the project: “You have to cultivate a relationship, just as you cultivate crops. If you do not take care of your crops, they will die. It is the same with relationships.” Unless we recognise the role of our own particular defences, we may be more like a diligent farmer who unintentionally poisons his cops instead of cultivating them.”

15. We work hard for many things in life, why not love too?

“Trying to study, learn and practice the skill of loving may sound like an inordinate amount of work. But if you decide that a long-term, committed and meaningful relationship is what you want, why wouldn’t you work for it? Why, when education, career and fitness require commitment, self-discipline and hard work, would a long-term, loving relationship require anything less?”

16. We can learn how to love better

“The idea of trying to learn how to love may seem nebulous, but it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps the key is to start small: choose one thing you think you need to focus on and work on that – whether that’s trying to tolerate the irritation of your avoidant attachment system when your partner wants to be close to you, examining whether your expectations are realistic or not, or doing a monkey impression when argument is escalating out of control.”

17. Choose who you love wisely

“Just as it falls on us to learn to love, it’s also our responsibility to choose someone who will do the same, someone who will value, respect, prioritise, nurture and commit to the relationship and to us. No matter how intoxicating it is, connection, passion or lust cannot overcome the importance, the necessity, of learning, understanding and putting in the effort required to love.”

18. Take responsibility for your role in relationships

“Taking responsibility for the role you play in relationships requires courage – huge amounts of it. It’s far easier to imagine that the solution lies outside yourself, because that means you can continue to look outward and, in doing so, avoid looking inward. But I firmly believe that it’s only in taking responsibility that you can experience the grounding and liberating nature of love.”