Big questions

Can you seek love, or does it just happen to you?


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Cary Tennis
November 4, 2002 8:43PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

Should one try to seek love? I've always felt that love is something that happens to you, that you can't go out looking for it -- love happens to you when you're ready for it. This feels more organic to me, a truer approach. But I'm starting to feel that that's just New Agey feel-good rhetoric that is a rather flimsy explanation as to why you're single, and that love is actually more like a project -- a goal you can reach with some time, effort and luck.

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I'm a single girl, mid-20s, happy with life, but I do sometimes yearn for a true companion. I'm starting to wonder if I need to take a more rigorous plan of action -- personal ads, perhaps. But is this quasi-scientific approach to love destined to disappoint, when love can't be quantified in height, hair color or even personality traits?

Musing

Dear Musing,

Well, yes and no and not exactly. You can't force yourself to fall in love, but you can increase the odds of finding someone that you end up falling in love with. You do that by, as you say, methods like personal ads, methods that expose you to more possible mates. And then, if you do fall in love, even if the love itself seems like a mysterious and overwhelming force, you can still consciously choose what to do about it, i.e., whether to marry, whether to restrict yourself to only one lover, whether to be kind or cruel, whether to be honest or dishonest.

Love is not a product that is acquired, but an activity that is engaged in. Love itself has no hair color or personality traits. Lovers, for better or worse, indeed can be classified by their traits. Perhaps that troubles you, that all of us can be rated and classified. That doesn't mean you should ignore your physical likes and dislikes in a man. But because love is an activity rather than an object, behavioral traits are ultimately more important than physical traits.

Love is not a get-out-of-reality-free card. It does not suspend gravity or the rule of law. It can be a bit of an intoxicant, but it should be taken with food. So I would say: Think about it all you want; concoct elaborate schemes to your heart's content. It will remain essentially mysterious and beyond your control.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.


Cary Tennis

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