Some of us may have found love ‘mushy’ whilst others dreamed of falling in love one day with their prince/princess. However, does our view change at all as we get older? Is it harder to fall in love as you age? Florence Keck discusses.
As disappointingly stereotypical as it may be, I can safely say I was never part of the crowd who found the concept of love ‘mushy’. Being the centre of most of the media I consumed at a young age, love seemed like the holy grail that answered life’s problems. It was the thing that would turn rags to riches, save the day and make everything sensical.
And whilst it is true that 10 years of life didn’t leave me with a lot of life’s problems, the sweet idea of love was all too intoxicating not to fall for. Protected by a lack of experience, I, amongst most of my friends, fantasised about one day finding the perfect partner, who would finalise the fairytale.
Forgive me for my lack of feminism.
As I grew up, boys and romance were an object of pure excitement. Getting my first ever boyfriend meant that there was more dopamine in my brain than you could fire cupid’s arrow at. The wonderful time of puberty brings oxytocin and vasopressin into full swing, creating the intense desire to bond and attach to another person. So, all these hormones coupled with the careless impulsivity that dopamine brought to my mind meant that the dream finally felt like a reality.
High on an assortment of feel-good hormones, falling in love was easy, less like falling and more like flying. But something hit me that would change my perspective.
It was the only thing that could have shattered the shield of my naivety with such abrupt force. I had fallen and hit the ground face-first. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t part of the fairytale. I didn’t remember the Prince deciding he’d had enough of Cinderella, or Eric choosing to par off the little mermaid. It was a feeling of betrayal; I had been sold a dream that was not and would never be true. So, there I was, bitter and single, which you know, was a massive tragedy at the ripe age of 15.
Cortisol is responsible for the not so poetic parts of heartbreak
I’m not sure anything could have prepared for the toll heartbreak would take on me, both mentally and physically. I’d heard the word, sure, but I would soon become aware of its power. My new companion was cortisol, not a fancy boys name, an all-consuming steroid hormone stronger than any boy I could be with. Cortisol is responsible for the not so poetic parts of heartbreak. Anxiety, nausea and acne were just a small part of the bitter concoction I now had to cope with. Naturally, I was devastated. But after a period of petty man-hating, I had gained perspective and an important life-lesson: fairytales don’t extend beyond the pages of books.
But does this mean we should all give up? Should we accept that we will be forever alone, that love is a social construct and nothing more than a cognitive illusion? No. It is with age that we can experience love in all kinds of ways. We take our experiences through life, learn from them and use these lessons to do better next time. Love is no different, and hopefully we can use these lessons to love even more deeply than we did before.
Sadly, as stated by neuropsychologist Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, “you must learn to be afraid, but if you don’t have the right brain tissue in place, you may not be ready yet to make use of the experiences”. And in my opinion, here lies the reason loving changes overtime. If one went through their life perhaps never having their heart broken, or lessons learned – they may love the same way they would have in adolescence.
So, is it harder to fall in love as you age? I suppose it could be put that way, but in the same mind, we could say we get better at it when we allow ourselves to experience love in both its joy and pain. I know that I haven’t a wealth of experience, but from what I have learned, love is imperfect, not to be treated as frivolously as you might have as a child, but with healthy optimism it can be one of life’s greatest gifts.
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