Two people may come together and form a relationship. Then they may break up and sensitive souls may proceed to inane declarations such as “women/men are a bad investment”.
She broke my heart. She was a terrible investment!
If finance is unable to resolve real-life issues and its ineptitude has dragged whole nations to disasters such as the current fiscal crisis in Europe, how can it be applied to matters of the heart, a far less tangible and measurable issue?
If there is, however, a need to employ modern science to investigate such a topic, allow me to use an interdisciplinary approach to try to demonstrate why investing in love is actually a smart move.
When we are born, we have a very limited understanding of self. The world is a blur. Progressively, we bond with specific people who act as both carers to our basic needs and as intermediaries between us and the world. By relying on them, we improve our comprehension of reality and we become more self-assured and aware human beings.
Around the time we reach adolescence and especially once we successfully enter adulthood, we start developing erotic bonds with people of the same or the opposite sex. At the same time, our cognitive understanding of the world has grown significantly and alongside this, our fears and defences. We become cold and distant and try to maintain a sense of self in an ever-changing and unpredictable environment, away from the warmth and the protection of the family. However, a partner not only acts as a substitute for this loss, but also adds more to the equation. A person with similar experiences can relate to one’s problems and offer companionship and the satisfaction of both the physiological and the love/belonging needs (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
Nevertheless, a relationship is an artificial human construction: it is the outcome of the conscious decision of two parties to share their life and experiences. In fact, only 7% of mammals are monogamous. It gets even harder if we consider humans’ desire to combine social, sexual, genetic and marital monogamy. Monogamy is also associated with strong negative feelings, such as possessiveness, insecurity and jealousy. If the relationship breaks down, the person is left filled with negative feelings, that vary from “hatred” towards the ex-partner to low self-esteem and depression. Such feelings may prevent the person from moving on and realising that the relationship – if it was healthy to a respectable degree – actually offered her significant life skills.
Firstly, having a relationship is a way to improve one’s social skills, due to the frequency of the interaction. It provides the person with a space to experiment with new ways of communicating with people outside the family, due to the stability that it offers and the requirement to take the other person’s desires into account. Secondly, it is a passage to adulthood and a initiation into the demands of adulthood. People working in the services sector in particular will spend their adulthood surrounded by professionals of different background and no family connection. A relationship allows the person to smoothly enter this world and share such fears and new experiences with someone without feeling shameful or incompetent.
However, the most important life skill is the capacity to love unconditionally another human being. If a heart is a balloon, then unconditional loving and erotic passion act as a pump filling it with air. The heart becomes bigger and takes unexpected, beautiful shapes. Once the relationship is over, it comes back to its original position. However, it has endured stretching. Due to this, a tiny bit of space has been created that will allow the heart in the future to love more and gaining greater pleasure from this experience. If, of course, the person concerned stops building walls to protect her emotions, embraces the wonderful person that she has become thanks to her ex-partner and allows herself to feel once more.
Loving a fellow soul is hard and complicated and painful. The revenue that it brings, though, is significant, regardless of the happy or unhappy ending.
In the words of Sophocles in Oedipus in Colonus:
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love.
Or, in the language of mathematics: