Twenty Years of Love

August 25, 2020 4:41 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Versión en español.

The Science of Love

As Nate and I celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary this month, I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes our presence in each other’s lives so vital to our happiness and sense of identity. Being an artist, I have countless lyrical ways to describe our bond, but not a lot of empirical evidence to back them up. Luckily, scientists share my penchant for romantic questions. As Katherine Wu argued in Harvard’s Science in the News, scientists have long tried to figure out the chemistry behind love. Helen Fisher and her team came up with three stages—lust, attraction, and attachment.

Each stage results in its own hormonal production. During lust, we release estrogen and testosterone, which are related to sexual desire. Attraction adds a feeling of reward to lust and releases dopamine and norepinephrine, two hormones that fill us with joy—sometimes so much of it that it’s hard to sleep and focus. Attachment, what happens at the end of romantic comedies when the lovers who met cute in the opening act finally decide to commit to each other, releases oxytocin.

Oxytocin makes us feel indescribably happy, and the longer we stay with someone, the more we feel that contentment when we’re with them, creating a cycle of connection that keeps on reinforcing itself. The beauty of attachment, however, is that doesn’t only affect how we feel about our lovers, but also about our children, our relatives, our dearest friends, our pets. The longer we manage to keep someone we love in our lives, the more our beings react to them in ways that make us feel satisfied with our place in the world.

After 20 years of marriage, I not only feel satisfied with my place in the world when I’m with Nate, but I feel that we’ve created a world of our own and populated it with people, stories, films, books, art, trips, and countless moments that make us radiate with pleasure. No matter how many hormones went into this creation, it’s the ongoing building of it together and the years we’ve spent in that world that define who I am and help me decide who I want to become. To trust someone to shape you so thoroughly and for them to trust you to shape them—that’s love’s alchemy at its most beautiful for me.

Join Us This Friday for a Work In Progress Screening of The Weeping Season

Alex and Nate outside looking over two cameras
Join us this Friday, August 28 for our Work in Progress screening of my feature documentary The Weeping Season at the Denton Black Film Festival Institute from 7-8:30pm EDT. You can sign up to attend here. You will have 72 hours to watch the latest rough draft of the film, and then during our zoom event the film’s editor Cristina Carrasco and I will discuss our process, answer questions, and receive feedback on the film from audience members. We look forward to seeing you there.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

Alex and Nate's wedding ceremony in sepia tone. Alex's bridesmaid stand beside her outside surrounded by trees
Having grown up watching soap operas in Venezuela, I am well versed in the wedding day’s symbolic power. For months we’d watch our beautiful, overly trusting protagonist fall for the rich bad boy with a heart of gold, while characters infinitely more colorful than they were tried to keep them apart through every outlandish trick they could conjure. Love won in the end, of course, and for that beloved final episode, we all attended their wedding from our homes. She looked chaste and radiant, he unspeakably handsome. Those who’d tried to separate them sat around in garish outfits, gossiping and closing down their own less prominent stories. The Venezuelan soap operas of my childhood ended with a promise of happiness for the lovers who’d withstood many indignities to get to this perfect day.

There were no soap operas about married couples, no sense of what happened once the guests left and the caterers packed the banquet tables. I realized as I looked at the real-life marriages around me that those stories were much harder to transfer into some dramatic formula. Negotiating the minutiae of a joined life doesn’t make for thrilling soap opera storytelling, but it can make for a thrilling life, and I want to have exactly that.

For our wedding, Nate and I designed a day when every moment and gesture created a spell to sustain us through the decades to come. Instead of fancy flowers we used herbs believed to have magic and healing powers. As if that wasn’t clear enough, we handwrote the qualities and feelings we wanted our marriage to embody on tiny strips of handmade paper, which we rolled up and mixed with herbs, and which our flower girls threw at us in the yard. When the paper dissolved into the grass, the words were swallowed by the earth. We wrote our own vows and we chose songs to dance to that reminded us of how we fell for each other and where we came from.

As we danced to some of those songs during our twentieth anniversary this month, I thought that the spell had worked. Not in the flashy way they work in films, but in a much more sustained way. The spell gave us the tools to navigate life together, to listen and compromise, and to do our best to understand the other’s dreams and to support each other as we make them come true. Thank you, love, for two decades of magic. I am 100% in for the rest of the journey with you.

I Was Featured on We Need Gentle Truths For Now Podcast

Alex films nate in a field in the fall
It was an absolute joy to be featured in Alexandra Juhasz’s We Need Gentle Truths for Now Podcast. In this brilliant and much needed podcast she looks at ways in which we can counter #FakeNews through having generative and thoughtful engagements with each other online. For this episode, Alex analyzed the feminist filmmaking methodology I propose in my video book Cámara Retórica, applying it to how writing poetry as we are on a walk and deeply aware of our surroundings can help us observe the world with deep compassion. Don’t miss her spectacular poem with Gavin McCormick at the end.

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This post was written by Tiffany McIntyre

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