A lot of folks really want to fall in love. Or lust. It’s often difficult to tell which when the falling begins. That’s mostly due to perfectly normal human biochemistry, though. Because of the rush of hormones and the emotional high associated with rapidly progressing bonding experiences, the thrill of the experience is immense in scope and breathtaking in the sense of scaling a mountaintop height or freediving in the ocean’s depth.
The aroma of falling in love is somehow simultaneously that of the most fragrant flower and the spiciest pepper, both delighting us with its pleasant scent and knocking us back with its powerful kick. Quite understandably, people seek these sorts of overwhelming emotional experiences, especially in a post-industrial world in which the natural emotional highs that come with survival pressure almost never intrude and a cynical melancholy is increasingly the default emotional state for the well-educated folks who know too much to be thrilled or surprised by much of anything in their privileged, easy lives.
But there are a few who, even under the aforementioned circumstances, are looking for something different. They aren’t so much wanting to fall in love and hit the harsh pavement of reality spectacularly as they are to journey toward the citadel of love and make their home there quietly. They don’t want to feel the awesome power of skydiving and reach the terminal velocity of love only to find that it can only be reached again by starting over with another tandem partner, trapped in a cycle of leaps and hard landings which ultimately lead nowhere.
They want to start with friendship, growing love slowly from the seed which takes much time, water, and sunlight to reach its full flowering. They want to savor the process of cultivating the garden of love, relishing each moment of planting, weeding, irrigating, and protecting it from pests who seek to bring about its ruin. Theirs is both a love of love and a love of the beloved, a persistent desire that each moment of love be appreciated, not as a milestone to be passed, but as a garden to be cultivated each year and treasured for all of the seasons through which it passes.
They have no need to rush to the harvest; they know that the riches of love lie not just in the harvest, but also in the sowing, the rains, the hailstorms, the lightning strikes, and the fallow ground. Those who value deep friendship at the first ensure that all of love is fulfilled, that the end of love does not follow so quickly after its beginning.
To delight in friendship first is not to love less, but rather to love more.