(first draft)

What constitutes 'love'? Some people dish out the word willy-nilly, as if casting pearls amongst swine in the hope of ensnaring a few choice fools. Others use it sparingly, only too aware of its deeper meaning and significance, its potency and power. It is an ancient word, one which must have been shaped close to the creation of speech itself. A word not to be taken lightly, in my opinion.

Where does 'love' end and obsession begin? One begets the other and once under either's influence it is near impossible to break free of its spell - who would ever want to, after all? One is deemed a healthy and natural condition, whereas the other is looked on as being a social taboo - is a stalker in love or simply obsessed? If you asked the person I should think the former would be their reply. Which is preferable then if both are all consuming? A good question and not an easy one to answer.

There is pain associated with love - make no bones about that. One of the worse forms of pain is that of unrequited love - that which is not returned in like manner. How many of us have fallen under such an illusion, thinking someone is bound to be on the same wave length, only to be bitterly disappointed as a result?

I am assuming uncompromising 'love' can be applied to more than one person during a lifetime. Is that the case though? Is there one and only one you are meant to be with - the true love of your life? What then are the others - merely friends with benefits?

The first person you ever became romantically involved with shares a special place in your heart (or head, for those of us of a more analytical nature). When you think back was that person really the one for you? As far as I am concerned, no she wasn't, and neither were a few who followed her. But, here is the crux of the matter - could I have become 'ín love' with any of them, in time? What then is 'love' based upon?

I have to throw sex into the mix. It is an incredibly powerful drive. One which has the power to override consideration and rational thought. There have been countless tales of people mistakenly thinking lust was love, only to find out, at a later date, this wasn't the case, to end up in a loveless entanglement of their own making. So we have something to go on here - love isn't simply sexual attraction.

Some people fall in love instantly - a mere glance is enough - complete ensnarement, acceptance and commitment from the very first moment they cross the other's path. In some cases this allure is mutual and they spend the rest of their days without questioning its startling, life changing force, being only too glad to have fallen under Cupid's spell.

If people in love were meant to be together why, in many cases, is this not enough? Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Why does a person think so fondly of another yet knowing full well they could never live with the person for any length of time - their fondness (love?) being mutually destructive? In other words is such love based on the wrong attractions and how can you foretell this before you commit yourself unduly?

Carl had just left the chemists where he had made an embarrassing purchase to do with the condition of his wife's lower part of her body (women's problems). When she spelled out the problem and the remedy required it made Carl's eyes squint and his forehead to wrinkle. 'What? And you want me to ask for that stuff in the chemist?'. Well, he had. having placed his own misgivings - his own considerations - further down the pecking order, with the concern for his wife taking centre stage, eventually. He would do mostly anything for his wife and was glad to do so, though in some instances - such as this one - he wished there was a get-out clause somewhere along the line, or at least someone he could offload some of the responsibility on to. Deep down though he was only too glad to be of service - it made him feel a better man.

Is Carl then the epitome of someone in love in a practical sense, neither too heavily involved or too little? Isn't this approach the one most likely to succeed in today's demanding social constructs? Or am I talking about something entirely different - one of being selfish or not? Very difficult to say, isn't it? Selfish people fall in love and remain selfish. I suppose people fall in love in an impractical sense, only liking aspects of the person and not the whole. Love is a complicated beast, one with many facets and not one seems clear-cut.

What does it 'feel like' to be in love? Is there a skip in your stride? Do you feel on cloud nine at all times? Are you constantly singing or whistling some tune? I don't think anyone can really pinpoint how they feel at the time - contented, happy, yes - but those who have fallen out of love, or have lost a loved one, can surely describe their horrific emotions. It is only then does the full power of love really hit home - or lack of, that is. I have heard it being described as being torn in two, and I can empathise with the feeling, having fallen out of love myself on occasion. It leaves you a lesser person, of that there is no question.

There are many cases where animals only mate the once - as in they will stick with the same mate throughout their lives, being faithful from start to finish. Is this true love? I ask this as such creatures do not suffer the trials and tribulations of civilisation - they simply act in a pure form free from other considerations. Would we behave in a similar manner if we returned to a more primitive time? Highly unlikely as our passions are difficult to control at the best of times. To remove some of the restraints might well be our undoing; but you never know - maybe not.

What about those who never experience true love? What is that about? Have they simply not met the right person - led too solitary a lifestyle - not put themselves 'out there' enough? Or maybe they are not capable of such commitment, viewing it as an inconvenience or too scary a proposition? A person in love does feel as if the other person has considerable control over their life choices so perhaps this undermining is just too much for some to take on board. Such a preference could be a conscious choice or otherwise - their psychological history might not allow it, being associated with pain of sorts.

Can you just go looking for love and find it in no time at all? Isn't this what many do when they join dating sites? This begs the question as to the timing of 'love'. Does it only affect certain people when their circumstances allow it - when their lives are settled to such an extent they can afford to open their hearts to another? Isn't this a bit calculating? Or is it that they are in panic mode and will throw their feelings at the first person who satisfies even a small emotional requirement. In other words a person can convince themselves of being in love. True love might well replace this desperate love eventually - it has happened - often, as far as I can make out.

And then we have those who have been in love and for it all to fall apart. Such people wander around with all sorts of chips on their shoulders - all sorts of feelings of guilt - all sorts of grievances. How hard is it for these people to ever fall in love once more - if ever? The phrase: 'once bitten twice shy', comes to mind. I should think they never fall in love to such an extent again, considering it an unhealthy experience, one they wouldn't want to repeat - or they simply hanker for their lost love - to pine for evermore.

It is a hard fact of life many do not marry for love but for convenience, perceiving it the more practical of the two. Such a pairing seems a little cold, but many arranged marriages work. Maybe there are pressures brought to bear to ensure the couple remain together - what is an 'arranged marriage' after all, but a form of contract, with both parties agreeing to various proposals beforehand?

Love, then, can appear out of thin air, completely uncalled for - to be instigated by a mere glimpse or to grow over time. There are so many ways to fall in love, and, of course, there is the other side of the coin, in that there are so many ways to fall out of love. Which is the most common reason for love to fail, I wonder? Taking the other for granted must be high up on the list I should think. Familiarity breeds contempt, and sometimes people become restless thinking new is better - the grass on the other side of the fence becoming all too appealing. There is such a condition as the 'seven year itch'. If something is going to go wrong it might well do so at this time. What about the panic that can occur when someone approaches the tail end of middle age, when the onset of a mid-life crisis hits home? In both situations there might be a period of great instability, but the restless offender comes to his or her senses eventually - usually, but not always.

It is apparent 'love' isn't enough to sustain a relationship. Life's pressures can easily break the most ardent lovers union if based on love alone. A couple have to work at life itself to ensure they keep a grip on their initial attraction. If one doesn't pull their weight, or isn't fully committed to attaining the material side of life, then a parting of the ways could well be the end result - love won't pay the mortgage or put food on the table, unfortunately.

'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'. Alfred Lord Tennyson is making quite a statement here, but is he right? A broken heart dishes out anguish with cruel intent - relentless in its onslaught. It can literally break a person, to leave them a blubbering wreck. Would such a person agree when in the full grip of the torment? I should think not; but later on, when enough time has passed, they might sing a different tune - might, that is.

Whatever love is it is of monumental importance, harbouring vitality within its composition capable of influencing any one of us to behave in extraordinary ways. Once in it flies your way to take hold of your very soul with its incredibly strong talons you will never be free of it again. It will either continue to levitate your existence with its muscular wings so you skip ahead as if floating on air, or it will rip a major part of your essence away as it departs in anger, leaving you hardly capable of putting one foot in front of the other - each foot encased as if in lead, such is the dread you will carry.

Life is a mixture of all sorts - a regular pot pourri of emotional highs and lows. You can go through life never experiencing what love has to offer and be perfectly content - to exist in a moderately emotional atmosphere from start to finish - or you can simply go for broke. The roulette wheel of life is one of chance in the main. Everyone who sits at the table hopes to win and win big. There can be no greater prize than to fall in love. It is one of life's great passions. I implore you to bet big - use your whole wad - throw caution to the wind. There is a chance you will walk out as rich as any person on the planet - the prize being so great it is beyond compare.