Happy Valentine’s Day, reader friends! I thought today might be a good opportunity to look at a phrase that I’m not overly fond of: falling in love. Why am I not fond of it? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute. First I thought it might be interesting to have a little look at why we say falling in love.
The Grammarphobia Blog has an excellent post that talks about non-literal uses of the word ‘fall’ through the centuries. The literal meaning, of course, is to descend freely or to drop from a high or relatively high position, but I was surprised by how many different figurative uses there are for fall—both negative and positive. For example, there’s the idea of falling into sin or giving into temptation (hardly surprising, since Adam and Eve kicked it all of with the Fall), but there’s also the idea of lack of control in passing into a different state or condition (eg fall ill, fall asleep).
It’s the second option that applies to the phrase fall in love, although many have also likened the sensation of falling to the sensations one experiences when one falls in love. I think that’s probably just a coincidence, because I certainly don’t get those sensations when I fall asleep or fall ill!
But here’s why I don’t like the phrase fall in love. It conveys the idea that we don’t have any control over who we love. If the phrase was fall into attraction, I could go with that. Or maybe fall into a crush. Those things are largely outside our control (although we can control how much we feed that attraction or crush). But if one can fall IN love and have no control over it, then it stands to reason that one can just as legitimately fall OUT of love and have no control over it, and genuine love just isn’t transient like that—not even romantic love.
Of course, the part of falling in love we have no control over is the heady sensations that come with it—the nerves, the tingles, the euphoria—and that does settle down with time. When falling in love is associated with those feelings, is it any wonder that we find so many people assuming that they’ve fallen out of love when those feelings change for whatever reason?
Romantic love, at its most fulfilling, involves much more conscious thought and effort than the phrase falling in love suggests. If you’ve fallen in love, for goodness’ sake, don’t stay there! Get up and be proactive; grow in love!
So here’s to growing in love this Valentine’s Day!