Neuroanthropology

For a greater understanding of the encultured brain and body…

Love Is A Process

Posted by dlende on May 11, 2010

By Bill Nichols & Chris Burke

Love is a process. That is the message that stuck with us after reading the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover and watching the film Kinsey. Throughout Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the main character, the aristocratic Connie Chatterley, spends her time in relations with three different men, finally settling with the third after gaining more experience about what love is and how it can be expressed.

In Kinsey, the main character, the scientist Alfred Kinsey, presents the country with a new outlook on sex, encouraging and educating people on different ways of expression. Kinsey’s actions within the movie agree with our focus, that the physical side of a relationship matters in the larger picture of love and that love can undergo dramatic changes over time.

Connie Chatterley and Alfred Kinsey’s stories illustrate how love is a process with many facets. These facets include experiences in the physical and emotional sides of relationships, experiences with past lovers and their effect on the present, cheating, and sex as passion of the moment or steady habit.

Love: From Habit to Passion to Habit

Love making, in any form, can change from the passion of the moment to steady habit over the course of time. As presented by D. H. Lawrence in his afterword to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, at times “the act tends to be mechanical” (338). Lawrence described how we can lose interest when sex becomes just another chore instead of viewing it as a passion-filled act between two lovers. From the thrill and satisfaction of losing your virginity to relying on multiple partners outside of your marriage to sustain interest, love can be seen in different forms overtime.

With love as process, partners will learn over time what their relationship needs in order to thrive. Whether in the passion of the moment through sex, or through other ways, love between two people needs to be an active endeavor, not something that becomes mechanical and dull in which all forms of the expression of love are lost.

This article Does Having More Sex – Like Brazilian Health Officials Recommend – Actually Improve Your Health describes the effects of love as an active endeavor. Within the piece Dr. Ian Kerner, a certified clinical sexologist, proclaims, “Sex also strengthens the immune system, help you have a better relationship with your partner, and make you feel more connected with your partner….” From health to connection, sex does matter.

When asking the class if they believed if it would have been possible for Clifford, a paraplegic, to keep Connie interested in him despite them not being able to have sex, the overall response was yes, he could have, but only if he did not also treat her poorly at times. There was a point where Clifford also became disinterested in Connie. However, the class believed that if he had tried, it would have been possible. We also believe that if he gave her more attention and provided some form of physical intimacy to her, then her interest in other men might have decreased significantly.

In this Miller Light commercial, “Why Do You Love Me,” the man showers much more attention on the beer than on his beautiful partner. As humor often does, this clip captures a slice of human reality.

Cheating

With love being a process comes the possibility of one partner being cheated on. In Lady Chatterley’s Lover Connie cheating on her husband Clifford with two different men. She has a short fling with Michaelis, whom she disliked profoundly later on, and Michaelis struggles to understand her lack of interest in him even though they slept together. Mellors, the estate groundskeeper, comes to love Connie for both her physical and emotional sides first being interested only in their love-making. In Kinsey, the ground-breaking sex professor cheats on his wife with his male apprentice Clyde Martin. In each work, a different perspective is developed on the importance of cheating in a relationship.

In the case of Connie and her husband Clifford, they believed that “people can be what they like and feel what they like and do what they like, strictly privately, so long as [both spouses] keep the form of life intact” (Lawrence 197). In other words, they both think that it is okay to be involved with other people in different ways because, as Clifford says, “I doubt, once you’ve really cared, if you can ever really care again” (260). The idea here is that neither believes that once you are married and are in love with one person that you can ever be pulled away from that by another. Cheating is not cheating because you still love your spouse.

Cheating also occurs in Kinsey when he cheats on his wife with his male apprentice. His wife is crushed, and becomes angry and hysterical because she does not understand how her husband can think that it is fine to cheat on her, his wife whom he loves, with another person in any way.
Kinsey does not hesitate to tell her that he views sex as a purely physical and natural action, and that infidelity is okay as long as he loves her deeply. This viewpoint of sex as a purely physical act backfires when his wife has sex with the very same apprentice that he was with earlier. In this case, at first there was a misunderstanding of what their relationship constituted, but after both sides agreed that having other sex partners was okay, their love was not affected.

This video clip from the movie Kinsey portrays a part of the cheating triangle between Dr. Kinsey, his wife, and the apprentice. This comes as the cheating starts.

Still, the Kinsey’s mantra that sex is only physical did not apply for their colleagues, who shared multiple sexual partners with each others’ wives. One wife fell in love with her husband’s friend after they slept together, thus displaying why sex is more than just a physical act because emotional connections are difficult to avoid.

In the modern world, this more tolerant view of cheating in marriage is not normal – most people view cheating as very negative. Although cheating might be relatively common, the public mostly hears about it through the media. In current events, Tiger Woods is an example of a man who cheated on his wife, and the press attacked him. Similarly, a public scandal erupted over Sandra Bullock’s relationship with her husband Jesse James, and how he recently cheated on her. James has said repeatedly that he still loves Sandra; Bullock has filed for divorce.

When the differing circumstances about cheating were brought up in our presentation, the class seemed to think that “cheating” might be acceptable as long as both partners agree to it. They seemed to be under the impression that it would not be that bad especially since it is only cheating physically, assuming that you truly love your partner. They all also said that it would be pretty much unforgivable if your partner cheated on you emotionally, because that might be harder for a relationship to overcome.

We would have to agree with the class in this respect. All relationships are different, and if both members are okay with it, there is nothing really wrong with cheating physically, because the view would supposedly be that it really means nothing. We do however think that the action still definitely speaks against the integrity of the marriage vows. Promises are made with wedding vows, particularly the promise of staying true and faithful, and marriage comes to mean something symbolically to a relationship. Still, for someone like Connie, caught in a relationship where love has fled, through “cheating” she found a physical and emotional connection with Mellors, and fell in love with him.

For a steady relationship to exist, both partners need to play an active role in continuing to satisfy the other partner’s physical and emotional needs. We believe that by adhering to both of these aspects, partners can be on the right track to forming and maintain a long-lasting and healthy relationship.

Figuring It Out

In tying everything together, we saw the joint concepts of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Kinsey as being the most successful together. Kinsey’s showing the world the different ways people are sexually as well as Lady Chatterley’s Lover’s illustration of the dynamics of relationships as people find love are both ways of teaching people about the different ways of looking at love and the processes which will eventually land you with your partner. Love is a complex process that requires the balancing of physical and emotional sides of a relationship. It takes effort to learn from past experiences and apply them in the present, whether within the same relationship or a different one, and this can bring a partner one step closer to finding the love they desire.

6 Responses to “Love Is A Process”

  1. mswyrr said

    Considering its history as a pathology used to oppress and abuse women, I don’t think using “hysterical” to describe Mrs. Kinsey is a terribly good idea at all.

  2. Janis said

    “When the differing circumstances about cheating were brought up in our presentation, the class seemed to think that “cheating” might be acceptable as long as both partners agree to it. They seemed to be under the impression that it would not be that bad especially since it is only cheating physically, assuming that you truly love your partner. They all also said that it would be pretty much unforgivable if your partner cheated on you emotionally, because that might be harder for a relationship to overcome.

    We would have to agree with the class in this respect.”

    Honest go God, I don’t think that a bunch of unmarried kids and kids who have never once been in long-term relationships are the best arbiters of what the wisest sort of behavior would be in these circumstances. Go to an old folks’ home and talk to them, and you’ll get the real dirt, if you can stand to think about old people as having any sort of sexual experience at all.

    I am not kidding in the slightest. The only reason that the opinions of college kids is somehow accepted as the gold standard for all of these social-survey things is because they are the human beings that researchers are in contact with 24/7 in enormous quantities and who they can force to take surveys by the thousands. It is just not believable to me to constantly read these blasted things and find out that because some 20 year old who’s never managed to date someone for longer than four weeks and who still thinks he’s going to marry a supermodel who loves to cook is taken as the evolutionary gold standard, along with a bunch of fiction and fictionalized movie accounts, and a beer commercial. Damn it, this is NOT SCIENCE.

    • mrG said

      Hear here! Well put. Having worked with geriatrics, and having spend much of my musical career playing the sort of music that appeals to elder audiences, I will second this comment and add another notion to the mix, the notion that much of what passes for ‘love’ specifically in sexual relationships is greatly mediated by neuropsychology, specifically in the reaction of the creature to the exposure of the neuro-manipulators present in the partner creature’s sexual fluids. How’s that for putting it bluntly ;)

      For example, we now suspect that the shape of the male member is intimately tied with the absorptive ability of the skin behind that ridge, ie that Nature quite possibly wants us to maximize the retention of precisely those bio-transmitters that will maximize keeping the relationship together long enough to rear children to maturity, and therefore it follows first what the old folks will tell you, that, given a healthy sex-life, couples will ‘grow’ to love each other more deeply with time, even if they started out as war brides or mail-order brides, and second, that our own science is saying that ‘cheating‘ runs significant risk of subverting this natural process by introducing the possibility that you may like the new partner ‘better‘ when that ‘better’ may only really be that their pheromones (or whatever the mechanism may be) just happens to be more a potent match (or that you believe it may be a more potent match).

      Which is not to say I advocate til death do us part because in my own case that would have been disasterous several times over ;) but what I am saying is that perhaps there is some good-sense bio-logic to the cultural belief that nearly any couple can learn to love each other if they just give it a chance, and that we can therefore base a marriage plan on more than just the initial lust factor, although that’s a policy I myself could never have adopted ;)

  3. dlende said

    Janis, I agree that a great qualitative study would be to discuss cheating and relationships with older people who have “seen it all,” as it were. That said, precisely because survey research on undergrads is problematic, we turned to reading novels in this class, which provided in-depth material often much closer to life than any supposed “science.”

    These two students never mentioned the evolutionary psychology approach, as you put it, to “find out that because some 20 year old who’s never managed to date someone for longer than four weeks and who still thinks he’s going to marry a supermodel who loves to cook is taken as the evolutionary gold standard.”

    Rather, they engaged with actually thinking about and discussing sex and love. To do that requires cultural materials, such as fiction and movies and yes even a commercial, where values and meanings about love and sexuality are more apparent and accessible than in scientific publications.

    I’m not as confident as you are that “SCIENCE” will yield the wisdom you seek for how to deal with relationships and cheating. I am confident that getting young people to talk and think about these issues is valuable. Then they come to ideas such as “love is a process” and “partners will learn over time what their relationship needs in order to thrive… love between two people needs to be an active endeavor.” I happen to agree.

  4. [...] Love Is A Process [...]

  5. Michael said

    I know this might be a little off topic, but I wanted to present the following: In Lady Chatterley, why was it not okay for Connie to simply get a divorce before further pursuing her relationship with Mellor in the middle of the novel (before her pregnancy)?

    My view is the following (btw, its very negative towards Connie):

    Connie employs the following strategy in the novel:

    1. she wants to seek sexual affairs with other men (at least subconsciously)
    2. meanwhile she is too afraid to divorce her husband because still wants the financial and social protection of her husband. Just in case those affairs end up not working, she has old Clifford to return to who will take care of her. She also wants to avoid the shame of the difficult but feasible process of divorce.

    I find trouble digesting number 2 above. Yes, Clifford has serious shortcomings. Yet, I think he tried the best he could and his connection with her was genuine – I think we can assume he offered her what he could, even if that was not enough. For her husband’s sincerity, and just for the sake of common decency, she should have sought a divorce right as soon as she had begun her affair. It would have avoided the risk of subjecting her husband – who was already a poor crippled man – to the misery he ends up with at the end of the novel. She owed it to him, even if would have brought her some difficulty.

    Why doesn’t she come clean until so late in the novel? Again, she does so because she doesn’t want to risk the financial and social protection of her husband, as well as the shame it would bring her. She also disguises his need of her as an excuse for remaining with him while being unfaithful. Not a good excuse because even when she finds a nurse to take care of him, she doesn’t immediately come clean with him. In the inner recesses of her mind, she wants to keep Clifford around as someone to fall back on in case her affair (s) don’t reach full fruition. With Mellor, we know this very well could have happened. He didn’t love her after their initial sexual encounters. For all we know, he may not have returned her love, even though she was letting him have his way with her.

    When she does seek divorce and to tell her husband the truth, it is too little too late. She waits until the last hour, many months and sleepovers later, to tell him the truth (In fact, she even then initially planned on not even telling him!). She only does so because she had become assured that her sleep-around strategy had found a real lover this time and because of the urgency of being pregnant. Had Mellor ended up not really loving her after their initial encounters, she would have returned to Clifford, carrying on with her mouth zip about her unfaithfulness.

    Honestly, can’t anyone see something wrong with this picture and how she used Clifford? And how despite his inadequacies, how he doesn’t really deserve being treated this way? (He could not help his impotence – it could happen to anyone given the right conditions). She could have gone about finding her satisfaction in a much less damaging way for Clifford but she didn’t want to risk her own insecurity. She just had to come clean and get a divorce (which, though difficult at the time, was feasible).

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