by Norman M. Brown Ph.D. |

            Now we’ve been on a long journey through the dynamics of joy and some of the other emotional colors involved in relations between the sexes. We can finally bring together the positive and negative emotions into a novel explanation of love. So let us introduce it with a song.

            I bless the day I found you,

            I want to stay around you,

            And so I beg you,

            Let it be me.

            Don’t take this heaven from one,

            If you must cling to someone,

            Now and forever,

            Let it be me.

            Each time we meet, love,

            I find complete love.

            Without your sweet love,

            What would life be?

            So never leave me lonely,

            Tell me you’ll love me only,

            And that you’ll always

            Let it be me.

            The first version was released in France in 1955 with lyrics that might have been addressed to an awesome almighty God. But the second English version sung by the Everly Brothers in 1960 reflects the multiple emotional dynamics we will explore for a multicolored, yet unified depiction of romantic love. A careful explanation of each line will allow love’s component emotions to emerge and combine as the lover expresses them to the beloved. With this approach we can understand how they accumulate over time into a powerful force in us that yearns to outlast time itself.

            “I bless the day I found you” announces reverence for the life-changing moment and celebrates the spiritual joy that has arrived. But the grateful blessing immediately becomes “I want to stay around you,” which is arguably covetous. Yet the beloved is now the center to stay around, so the lover may be realizing an urge toward possessive control that is not automatically granted if the beloved is a person with free will and independent emotions. Indeed the lover does recognize the beloved’s freedom of choice and feeling.

“And so I beg you” acknowledges the other’s right to refuse commitment at any time and subordinates his (lover’s) will to hers (beloved’s). I use masculine and feminine possessive pronouns here, because in patriarchal cultures it is more common for men to unconsciously assume the right to control a woman’s choices than vice-versa. Thus it is significant that the Everly Brothers voluntarily subordinate masculine ego to the beloved woman’s heart. Their pleading reflects acceptance that one person’s capacity for loving cannot be possessed or commanded by another in the long run, no matter which sexes they are. In fact “let it be me” announces that the choice to share the lover’s feelings belongs to the beloved alone. This awareness can make a man feel very vulnerable.

There are two popular images that reflect this vulnerable self-awareness of a man vis-a-vis his beloved. The first is the classic marriage proposal, for which a man suddenly drops down onto one knee, opens up a box with a diamond engagement ring and “pops the question.” He may be hoping that his surprise move will amplify his beloved’s joy over his big risk. But he’s risking a very shameful moment if she isn’t ready for or doesn’t want to make the commitment he seeks. The second is a classic apology, with or without a bended knee. This also may be rejected, as too little too late, or wrongly focused and lacking understanding of what has been offensive or hurtful to the beloved. Though apologies are needed far more often than marriage proposals, many men are very uncomfortable about them. For admitting to shame about something done or not done can feel like self-abasement to someone unused to it. For many men the image of crawling comes to mind.            

That power to reject a lover’s request for love, marriage or forgiveness can be very frightening indeed. It can trigger some very intense reactions in men. I still remember a scrap of paper I once found during my time at Stanford around 50 years ago. It was the start of a terror-stricken note to a woman by a man: “I hate it that I need you more than I can stand.” I sensed that these were the kind of feelings that could lead to a murder or murder-suicide. I’m closing with this line that’s unlikely to ever end up in a song, for it shows how dangerous love feelings can be in the hearts of some men.   

JOY Part 7: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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