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Here's What's Wrong With How We Talk About Love And How To Fix It

On Z Living's new series Altar'd, couples engaged to be married take part in a true test of love:
Can they get fit and lose weight 90 days before their wedding, with no contact at all between them? The duo then reveal their transformations dramatically at the altar, for the ultimate first look. Along the way, these couples struggle with love, both self-love and the difficulty of maintaining their romantic relationship throughout the Altar'd challenge. Which led us to writer and author Mandy Len Catron's famous "A Better Way To Talk About Love" TED Talk, as relevant today as ever. Watch a clip of Catron's speech, above. Here's how you can apply Catron's healthy ways to talk about love.

The Way We Talk About Love Is Surprisingly Negative.

In a nutshell, Len Catron points out, when you take a close look at the way we describe "love," you'll realize that our words are surprisingly negative. In love, she says, we fall, we're struck, we're crushed, we swoon. We burn with passion. Love makes us crazy and makes us sick. Our hearts ache, and then they break. So, our metaphors equate the experience of loving someone to extreme violence and illness. Skeptical? Try this quick test: Pretend that "love" is something you've never heard of, and look closely at the words describing it. Suddenly, love doesn't sound like an appealing experience at all. It sounds downright torturous. 

Here's One Way To Rethink A 'Love' Metaphor.

In rethinking how we talk about love, look at the most popular metaphor for the beginning stages of romance: "falling in love." Catron points out the issue saying, "Falling is not jumping. Falling is accidental. It's uncontrollable. It's something that happens without our consent." She asks, "What if instead of falling in love, we 'stepped' into love?"  Catron acknowledges this isn't a simple transition in speech. She does, however, think anyone can "step" into love if they look at the concept of love in a new light. 

So, Should We Equate Love Solely To Puppies And Butterflies? 

Sorry, but no. While Catron points out how our love metaphors are across-the-board negative, she does't deny that they do riff off true feelings. She points out that equating love to madness is an age-old phenomenon, pulling quotes about being crazy in love from great thinkers like William Shakespeare, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Beyonce Knowles. She even says, "Neurochemically speaking, romantic love and mental illness are not that easily distinguished." Citing a study from Psychology Medicine, she notes, "Serotonin levels of the newly-in-love very closely resembles those of people with obsessive compulsive disorder. Another fun fact? Going through a breakup is neurochemically comparable to going through cocaine withdrawal."   

So Love Is Good, And Bad: How Do We Talk About That? 

Catron's answer, one we very much agree with riffs from a book called The Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, stating that "people should approach love like a collaborative work of art."  Catron points out that this metaphor, opposed those of violence and illness, poises you to look at love as something that entails compromise, effort, shared goals, joy, and pain. It also reminds us that every experience of love is different, a realization that could do a lot of good for a lot of people in the world. And that's a better, healthier idea that we'd all do well to remember, no? This version of love is not about winning or losing someone's affection, instead it requires that you trust your partner and talk about things when trusting feels difficult.  You get to stop thinking about yourself and what you're gaining or losing in your relationship, and you get to start thinking about what you have to offer," Catron says. This version of love allows us to decide what love looks like.  Want to learn more about this idea? Watch Mandy Len Catron's whole TED Talk here.