Real Love Is a Choice and a Commitment


It was then that the fox appeared.

“Good morning,” said the fox.

“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.

“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”

“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”

“I am a fox,” said the fox.

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”

“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince. But, after some thought, he added: “What does that mean—’tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world. . . . ”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower. . . . I think that she has tamed me. . . . ”

“It is possible,” said the fox. . . . “My life is very monotonous. I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat. . . . ”

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

“Please—,” said the fox, “Tame me!”

“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready-made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more.

“If you want a friend, tame me. . . .”

“What must I do to tame you?” asked the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me—like that—in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day. . . .”

The next day the little prince came back.

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you. . . . One must observe the proper rites. . . .”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you. . . . ”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me much good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

The little prince went away to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarrassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you—the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have spent on your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have spent on my rose—” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it:

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. . . .

“You are responsible for your rose,” said the fox.

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

(from Chapter 21 of “The Little Prince,” Katherine Woods’s translation . . . http://home.pacific.net.hk/~rebylee/text/prince/21.html )

(The following portion of this blog post is abridged and adapted from several blog posts by Marnia Robinson . . .

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/200909/the-lazy-way-stay-in-love

http://www.reuniting.info/staying_in_love_monkey_style

http://www.reuniting.info/normative_sex_fork_in_the_road )

While waiting for a concert to begin at our local county fair, my husband and I checked out a reptile exhibit that included an animal trainer with a live alligator resting calmly on his lap. As we stroked the gator, I asked the trainer why it was so tame. “I pet it daily. If I didn’t, it would quickly be wild again, and wouldn’t allow this,” he explained. . . .

Bonding behaviors, or attachment cues, are subconscious signals that can make emotional ties surprisingly effortless, once any initial defensiveness dissolves. Bonding behaviors are also good medicine for easing defensiveness.

Human lovers have a choice. Unlike other mammals, we can consciously enhance the quality and satisfaction of our unions. One way is by increasing our mutual oxytocin levels with simple, nearly effortless signals or bonding behaviors. We simply use our expanded cerebral cortex to jumpstart our brain’s limbic love machinery. Maybe the thirteen percent of couples who maintain juicy bonds (http://www.psychologymatters.org/pubs/journals/releases/gpr13159.pdfDoes a Long-Term Relationship Kill Romantic Love?”) somehow stumble upon this secret early in their unions without consciously realizing it.

Humans are pair bonders, with the unique ability to strengthen their romantic bonds at will by employing a special range of subconscious signals, or “bonding behaviors”—skin-to-skin contact, sensual kissing, gentle stroking, wordless sounds of contentment and pleasure, hugging or silent spooning, smiling with eye contact, caressing of breasts, genital cupping or holding, playful intimacy, relaxed intercourse, and so forth.

One reason that these affectionate acts are effective and increase the urge to merge with a mate is that they induce the flow of oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”). Oxytocin lowers anxiety, increases trust, and counteracts depression. In short, we feel good interacting with this person; it’s rewarding at a neurochemical, or subconscious, level. And not surprisingly, earlier this year scientists reported that those in deeply committed relationships produce less stress-related cortisol.

Used daily, these warm, affectionate bonding behaviors effortlessly increase relationship satisfaction because they bypass the yakety-yak of our cerebral cortex and make a beeline for our limbic brain. As humans beings, we are primed to perceive the signals that indicate whether or not another is safe enough to relax with. If these safety signals are not forthcoming, a subtle defensiveness creates emotional distance. This can happen even if there was lots of lovin’ in the past. Bonding behaviors deliver the safe-to-bond message by relaxing the defensive mechanism of the brain, primarily the amygdala. The amygdala’s job is to keep our guard up, unless it is reassured regularly with these subconscious signals. Thus these bonding behaviors need to occur frequently.

A lack of cuddling eventually leads to lack of a desire to cuddle, whether through laziness, habit, resentment or indifference. Cuddling (all bonding behaviors included) causes the desire for more cuddles. It is a beneficent biofeedback machine, just as the absence of bonding behaviors seems to be the opposite. Everyone will be familiar with young lovers not seeming able to get near enough to each other. Well, we’ve experienced the same, repeatedly, as a result of initially scheduling bonding behavior and watching it snowball.

If serial cuddling doesn’t come naturally (i.e., a couple isn’t an inseparable pair of young lovers) it seems absolutely critical to schedule bonding behaviors. It’s as critical as an exercise regime . . . . In this case, assuming a couple likes the idea of feeling as close and as in love as parent and child or star crossed teenagers, time and effort have to be employed.

And actually, it’s hardly any effort at all. The effort is in remembering to do it, and in overcoming any underlying resentment that might make that ‘remembering’ more difficult. Bonding behaviors initially need to last at least as long as a minute, as, in our experience, that’s enough to start the snowballing effect. Bonding behaviors then become automatic and seem to replicate themselves in abundance. It’s not so much that they become a habit, like brushing teeth; they are more like a drink that we develop a liking, and then a recurring thirst, for, not because of the obvious beneficial effect, both short and long term, but because the taste becomes inherently irresistible.

Any habit is either the worst of masters or best of servants.” – Nathaniel Emmons

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

(This portion of this blog post is abridged from M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled,” pp. 83 & 119.)

Love is an act of will—meaning love is both an intention and an action. Love is as love does. When we love someone our love becomes demonstrable or real only through our exertion—through the fact that for someone or for ourself we take an extra step or walk an extra mile. Real love is not effortless. To the contrary, it is effortful.

That love is an act of will also implies that real love is a choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love. No matter how much we may think we are loving, if we are in fact not acting lovingly, it is because we have chosen not to love. On the other hand, whenever we actually do stretch and exert ourselves in the cause of spiritual growth, it is because we have chosen to do so: the choice to love has been made.

Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the feeling is present. If it is, so much the better; but if it isn’t, the commitment to love, the will (intention translated into action) to love, still stands and is still exercised.

True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed. It is a committed, thoughtful decision.

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Amygdala, Bonding Behaviors, Courage, Differentiation, Love, Love is a Choice, Love is a Commitment, Love is a Decision, Love is an Act of Will, Love is Not a Feeling, M. Scott Peck, The Little Prince, The Road Less Traveled, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Real Love Is a Choice and a Commitment

  1. Pingback: How Asking Just *One* Question Can Save Your Relationship | What Is Real True Love?

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