By Andre Cross

Love has become a four-letter word. It's one of the most overused, under-appreciated, misunderstood words in the English language. Nowadays, the image of love seems more like a 7/11; a convenience store on the road of life, designed to provide satisfactory feelings without too much effort, rather than the classic sentiment associated with fairytales like Cinderella.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about how we've changed the definition of love to an all-encompassing term to describe any relationship we are in, even if it is one void of any deep emotional connection.

settling for less

The subject really began to intrigue me when a person I recently met confided in me that a relationship he was involved with for six years was little more than a bad habit; an empty shell of what was once a great relationship. When I asked him why he was still with her, all I got was a shrug of the shoulders and a futile attempt at explaining (more like justifying) his decision. Why stay with her? Because it was good enough.

Thus began a soul searching journey into the subject of love, and why men in general have given up on finding real love.

When did we stop believing in love? Actually, a better question is when did the word love carry the same connotation as fantasy and fairytale? And when I mean love, I'm talking about real love, the kind of love you'd give up your soul -- and your left arm for.

Have we become so shallow and jaded as a society that we instantly dismiss the notion of falling in love as a story from our grandparents' time?

love + lust

There are plenty of couples that love each other; it's a normal, natural emotion that exists when one spends a considerable amount of time with another. But time makes us love someone; being in love is a whole other story. You can love your sister, your mother, your brother, your friends (though you'll never admit to that one unless you're under the influence), but you can only be in love with a woman that sets your heart on fire.

Unfortunately, nowadays we easily confuse the concept of love with attraction. Men, pigs by nature as we are (even I, Mr. Sensitive, must admit to falling prey to the curse of lust), tend to think a good time in bed equates love. Actually, let me correct myself -- a good time in bed and remembering her name may be mistaken for love. But deep down, men are as skeptical about love as they are about a phone call claiming a free prize if they reveal their credit card number.

Men often get together and devise a plan of how to try to capture as many females as possible. It's not that we do it on purpose -- actually the Discovery Channel even tells us it's part of our genetic makeup -- but the truth is that men are bitter creatures. Contrary to popular opinion (or any football movie you see), the male ego is as fragile as a Faberge egg.

when did we stop believing?

We are not born bitter; we become bitter, more likely after a sour relationship that left us with a bad taste in our mouths. We were all optimists once, believing that we only date women we are in love with, but we quickly came to terms with reality. If the love you had has become a fleeting emotion, it was never really love to begin with. And what happens?

We stop believing it ever really existed.

End result? We stay in relationships that can be summed up as good enough, meaning it has enough elements that justify continuing the relationship despite the fact that we don't have a glitter in our eyes when we talk about her, and our heart doesn't skip a beat when we receive a call from her. Basically, we stay in relationships for too long, even though there isn't an iota of passion between us. Are we so afraid of being alone that we would sacrifice something that would obviously make us happy, for a person we merely get along with?

How do we know that a certain woman is pulling at our heartstrings?

the passion test

Passion. Isn't that a word in the dictionary? Doesn't it mean: a powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger? Isn't it something that refers to what Romeo and Juliet once had? How many of us have ever felt it? Not many.

Remember, I am talking about passion, not lust.

Passion expresses itself in the weirdest of ways, but it can be summarized like this: if you tremble when you are close to her, then you are feeling the effects of passion (unless you are just an incredibly shy guy). If you get into a fight, say the cruelest things in the world, and end up sharing a kiss that could make the world stop, then passion is there.

If your goodbye kisses are but simple pecks on the cheek or lips, devoid of any emotion, then your relationship has no passion. If you can sleep well at night, despite having a major fight with your significant other, then passion is non-existent.

Unfortunately boys, this isn't something we can pick up at the nearest grocery store; it's either there or it's not. And since so few of us have never experienced passion, we don't believe it exists.

People who are passionate love hard, hate hard, and have a joy for living others can only envy.

all you need is love

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that true love does exist; the bad news is that it is as unlikely to occur as seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone appear in a remake of Thelma & Louise.

The Beatles had a moderately successful career (an understatement if there ever was one) singing about love, as almost every one of their tunes broached the subject and became a Top 10 hit. Did they know something we didn't, or were they referring to it in the same way New Age artists refer to the mythical rising Phoenix?

Of course not. The lesson we have to take from this is simple: love is out there, somewhere in this dark, lonely world, but don't bet the farm on finding it.

You can't go around looking for love, it just happens the same way you reach puberty: unexpectedly and painfully. Almost everyone who has fallen in love (again, I'm referring to the I'd give up my right kidney kind of love) has said it came out of the blue, having caught them off guard. You can find it today, or you could have missed it yesterday, forever.

Everyone falls in love at least once in their lives; before they become bitter, divorced, and join support groups. Too often, it happens when they are too young to realize its grace and beauty, and before they become suspicious of anything too good to be true.

everyone's a critic

Am I being too cynical? Yes, I am, but I have reason to be. Just ask those closest to you how many of them are deeply in love, and you'll be surprised by the answer. We've become an almost loveless, sex crazed society with no concern for any significant amount of emotional investment or attachment -- but there is hope.

The hope I have (and yes this is a stretch), is that the men and women in this world stop being trapped in loveless, lifeless relationships. That they refuse to engage in any kind of relationship in which they do not wish to spend every living, breathing moment next to the person they are passionate about.


What I said has about as much chance of happening as squirrels landing on the moon. At least do me this favor. If you are in a relationship that doesn't bring you happiness, be men and end it. Yes, I know the steady dose of sex is hard to give up, but have some self-respect boys. At least stop fooling the other person.

So how do you know if you're really in love with the woman you're with?

six signs you're in love

So how do you know that Cupid was up to his old tricks again? Beyond feeling like a bumbling idiot when talking about the object of your affection, here are 6 signs that you're feeling the Big L.

Those who are allergic to sappy items, please do not read on, it's going to get messy.

1. You have an uncontrollable desire to be nice and do good deeds. In short, you want to be a better man. The sarcasm dies down, the snide remarks take a vacation, and you start smiling all the time.

2.Taking a cue from the movie Jerry Maguire, you start to feel whole. You start to feel that this person understands you like no one has before, and you start having visions of your children in her eyes. Yes, you feel like Tom Cruise did when he uttered the words, "You - complete - me."

3.The damn radio songs. All of a sudden, even Phil Collins starts to make sense to you. You listen to songs differently, understanding their meaning in a way you never thought you could. The worst is yet to come: when a Celine Dion comes on, you don't turn the dial.

4.You feel pangs of pain when you're not close to her. Your heart beats quickly all day, and you find every excuse in the world to blow off your buddies and see her. The longing to be with her is almost like a drug. This is where you start doodling her name everywhere.

5.You start thinking about her not every 5 seconds, but every 2.7 seconds. The other 2.3 seconds are spent on sports, food and sex (with her, of course).

6.Your head used to be planted firmly on your shoulders. But suddenly, everything else becomes secondary to her, and you start doing crazy things you never thought you would ever do. This is where you are likely to buy a Celine Dion album; scary thought, isn't it?

Laugh all you want, but deep down, what we all really want is to feel this way (minus the Celine Dion part). For those lucky enough to feel it, put a sign on your shirt, so the rest of us can point at you and say, "If he can do it, I can too."

(c) 2003


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