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Citation: Is there a formula for LOVE? (1949, November 26). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 20. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from

Is there a formula for

Love – the love of two comparative strangers of the opposite sex for each other – is neither straight-forward, uncomplicated, nor especially constant.

It is an alarming and uncontrollable state of mind which causes those afflicted to be lifted suddenly to the most astonishing pinnacles of happiness and to be dropped with equal suddenness deep down into the darkest well of despair and misery.

THE fact that in the long run – whatever the romantics say – despair and misery pre-dominate over happiness does not deter the mass of young people all over the world from wishing constantly, fervently, desperately to achieve this state.

And, having achieved it, or believing that they have achieved it, what happens then? They marry. And, having married, what then do they do?

Some live together happily ever after.

Some live together happily for a while, and then relapse into a state of mutual and benign resignation.

Some live together happily for a while, and unhappily for the rest of the time.

Some – and this section constitutes a very large proportion of the whole – live together happily for a while, and then separate and divorce and try again.

We can assume, therefore, that somehow, somewhere, all is not well with this method. It can’t be – not with the divorce rate the way it is.

There are, in fact, two kinds of love, and there is a distinguishable difference between the real kind, the rare one, which causes people to marry and live happily ever after, and the other one, the one which causes them to marry and divorce.

There is on the surface no difference between them. They both produce roughly the same symptoms in the sufferer. Those who are afflicted with the wrong kind of love, the one that leads to divorce, cannot usually tell that it is so until too late.

First, we’ll take the real love, the rare one, the maker of fine marriages.

What is that kind of love made of? Obviously it is a complex sensation comprising a number of different feelings, but I personally believe that in it there are two main ingredients mixed in approximately the following proportions:

  • 60 per cent. profound affection and respect.
  • 40 per cent. intense sex attraction.

Now, this is a rare mixture. It is rare enough to find it in one of the two lovers, and rarer by far to find it in both; but when that happens you can be fairly sure that you’ll get the fairy-tale result.

The important point about this kind of love is that affection and respect (which must be deep) predominate over sex attraction (which must be intense). For as the years go by the sexual life of the two people passes inevitably through its various phases, beginning with excitement and passion, moving on to pleasurable normalcy.

Thus something, which was an important ingredient of their original love for each other slowly begins to disappear. But the marriage holds fast, because this diminishing and disappearing thing was not the most important part of their love.

The most important ingredient was affection, deep affection. It cannot diminish with time – nor can it stand still. It can only increase. And thus, slowly but smoothly, the original ingredients of this love begin to alter their proportions. Affection increases. Sex attraction decreases. As the latter disappears, the former takes its place, and love remains entire.

And now the other kind of love, the wrong one, the bringer of divorces. What is that made of?

The formula here varies a good deal. It could be any of the following:

  • 70 per cent. intense sex attraction, 30 per cent. genuine affection and respect.
  • 100 per cent. deep affection and respect, sex attraction negligible.
  • 100 per cent. intense sex attraction, affection and respect negligible.

The first of these three is the most common. It is sincere and intense and causes much mutual happiness. But it is temporary. It is bound to be so, because in it sex attraction, which becomes less intense with time, predominates too strongly over affection, which, though genuine, is not strong enough to increase.

Even if it did increase, it couldn’t catch up fast enough. It was left behind at the start. Thus there would be a gap. The percentage would not be 100. The love would not remain entire. A marriage contracted on this basis is almost certain to fail, although many manage to survive purely through the determination, self-sacrifice, give and take, hard work, and consideration for the children.

But it isn’t much fun.

The second of the three, where love is made up of 100 per cent. deep affection and respect, is bound equally to fail – except, of course, in the unusual event of both persons feeling the same way. Where one partner experiences no strong sex attraction while the other does, then failure is inevitable.

But what of the third type, where love is wholly sex attraction and nothing else? The romantics will argue that this is not love – not true love, anyway. But, on the contrary, it is. Those who fall in love in this manner are just as strangely and strongly afflicted as the others, just as irrational and lovelorn.

Many of them, believing that this is the real thing, proceed in all good faith to get married, only to discover, when it is too late, that their love was built of too flimsy stuff.

This kind of love is the most dangerous of them all. It is the quickest coming, the most powerful, the most natural, the most exciting, and the quickest going. It is a trap for the young ones, the gentle ones, the virtuous ones, and also for the fools. It is an exact definition of the phrase “love at first sight.”

“Love at first sight” is a sensation which the average teenager, perilously ignorant of its implications, longs fervently to experience. The average movie story is usually based upon “total sex-attraction love,”‘ often dished up in the form of “love at first sight:” and the story ends with happiness and marriage, and seldom goes on to reveal the inevitable crash.

Their most cherished ambition is a swift, exciting falling in love, a rapid courtship, a sackful of sentimental sloppery, and then, then marriage. And so it happens; and in a short while, when the novelty of sexual relations has worn off, both young man and young wife suddenly discover that they are living with someone whom they do not know well and do not care much about.

Young people hoping for love and contemplating matrimony can at any rate arm themselves with the knowledge that the most publicised and glamorised form of “love” is the very one which they should beware.

The problem resolves itself into this: Is a person who is deeply in love capable of making an accurate and impartial analysis of the type of love with which she (or he) is afflicted? Is she capable of giving a true answer to the question, “How much is profound affection and how much is sex attraction?

Personally, I doubt it. She could try; and if she were an exceedingly intelligent person, then I think she might even answer herself correctly. Unfortunately, it is a fact that those who suffer from “total sex-attraction love” are the very ones who will swear that their love is based upon nothing of the sort.

If, on the other hand, she is one of those rare girls who still value the advice of their parents, and if the parents have the sense and sensitivity to understand the problem, then they too may be able to help her to find the answer.

I know of one remarkable case in which a shrewd father saved his daughter from making a crazy choice. His daughter was fiercely in love with a handsome young man. The father had no objection to the boy, but at the same time he was convinced that his daughter’s love was based upon 100 per cent. sex attraction.

lt happened that the young man was called away for a while. The father one evening pretended for a while to be reading his paper, then suddenly looked up and spoke:

FATHER: I saw old Archie Swan-son to-day. He said he’d just spent a week up in Manchester and he’d seen your Johnny. Apparently he’s got a rather bad attack of boils, on his face and neck and down his back,

DAUGHTER: Daddy, it isn’t true!

FATHER: I’m afraid it is. The doctors don’t seem to be able to find the reason for it. First they thought it was his teeth and they sent him to a dentist. They extracted about a dozen, including three front ones, but even that hasn’t helped the boils.

It is a fact that the daughter cried a lot that evening, and it is also a fact that her love for Johnny began to cool from then on.

The father, seeing this, and knowing that Johnny would soon be coming back with a spotless complexion and with his own good teeth, confessed all to his daughter, and finally managed with great difficulty to convince her that although he was a liar and a cheat, he had nevertheless demonstrated a most important truth, namely, that his daughter’s love was of the wrong type. Had it been the kind of love that makes good marriages then it would have taken a great deal more than boils and artificial teeth to shake it.

Much has been written in recent years about trial marriages in which young people live together for a period with the object of checking their chances of a successful partner-ship.

This method is totally unacceptable to any but a few extreme “moderns.”

And, though it may seen sensible and reliable to these few, it is not in fact so simple as all that. Many factors, particularly of morality and responsibility, are involved.

Nowadays, of course, many people who would be horrified at the mere mention of a trial marriage do not raise an eyebrow at the mention of divorce.

The difference is a legal and an ethical one.

The weakness of the trial marriage is not that it is necessarily illegal, but just that it is a trial. The couple cannot have the same outlook as those who have entered into sacred bonds and there is not the same impulse to make a success of an arrangement that can be broken at will.

In marriage, one is expected to be guided almost entirely by that most mercurial, unreliable, deceptive, and powerful thing called love, and by little else, not even by one’s parents these days, not even by one’s own common sense, for one hasn’t got any of that when one’s in love.

Hence the divorce rate.

Hence the millions of struggling, just surviving, unhappy couples.

Hence, also, the cynicism of some people who know that love exists, who are glad that it exists, but who have learned that it is a wayward thing, not always to be trusted.

Don’t be guided by it too much. Don’t let it take hold of you completely and carry you away in a rosy swirl of sugary vapor.

And remember that it is the quiet little people, the calm ones, the cool ones, the gentle ones, the thoughtful ones, the slow-moving ones, who always seem, somehow, to succeed in choosing right.