The conquest of love needs lifelong practice
The conquest of love needs lifelong practice
  • 동아대학교 다우미디어센터
  • 승인 2016.06.15 12:56
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▲ 손석주 교수(융합교양대학)

One of the first English-language books I read in college was Bertrand Russell's "The Conquest of Happiness." I liked his writing because his intelligent and logical way of thinking taught me how to read and write. In addition, I was attracted to his controversial personal life. In a prologue to his autobiography, Russell says: "Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind." It is little wonder that the English philosopher, who advocated free love and married four times in the course of his 98-year life span, put love high on the list of lifelong passions.


 As many are well aware now, love has a short shelf life, though. One scientific study after another shows that newlyweds' bliss lasts for only two years on average. The findings have been confirmed so far by many other studies. In her book “The Myths of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky goes so far as to argue that we may love our partners deeply, idolize them, and even be willing to die for them, but these feelings rarely translate into long-term passion.


 Then, should this simply spell the end of romantic love epitomized by the institution of marriage? Admittedly, new love is vulnerable to hedonic adaptation, human beings' innate tendency to become comfortable with and used to life changes. Simply speaking, we get tired of new love like we do with a new car, a new house, or new clothes. Luckily, new love lasts longer than the joy of purchasing new products.


 There is no denying that human beings are naturally programmed to choose newer ones. In spite of such biological tendencies, we are social animals who are capable of being educated to solve these problems. In order to resolve love's two-year slump, experts suggest that couples try to do a little more challenging activities than easy ones. In a 10-week experiment, according to Lyubomirsky, the couples who engaged in “exciting” activities (like skiing, dancing or attending concerts) reported greater satisfaction in their marriage than those who engaged in just "enjoyable" activities (like cooking, visiting friends or seeing a movie) together. In the case of long-term relationship, it is necessary to put more emphasis on companionate love than passionate love.


 Therefore, we have to embrace the fact that passion is bound to run out as time goes by, and so we need to nurture love of our partner as a companion rather than as an object of passion.
In all, it is important to realize that love is not a simple thing of object to pursue when we are in need of romance. It is a lifelong process to practice on. A saying goes that practice makes perfect. It applies to a human relationship of love which should continue to be renewed if it is to prosper. As Woody Allen says wittily in his film "Annie Hall," "A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies."

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