Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Butterflies of love

Do you remember how it felt when you first fell in love? Rasha Sadek is here to refresh your memory

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Falling in love is very real, but I used to shake my head when people talked about soul mates, poor deluded individuals grasping at some supernatural ideal not intended for mortals but sounding pretty in a poetry book. Then we met and everything changed, the cynic has become the converted, the sceptic, an ardent zealot.”

American author Elizabeth Ann Bucchianeri

“Sometimes dreams come true. I met my prince when I was just 17 years old. In the massive world of Cairo’s Ain Shams University, we somehow connected,” recounts 34-year-old Asmaa Fathi, a happy wife and “blessed mother of two”, as she describes herself.

“He was tall, handsome, funny and smart. He was shy and old-fashioned in the way he wooed me, beginning with asking our mutual friends to introduce us to each other and asking me for a date on a postcard attached to a bouquet of lilies. We fell deeply in love, and in our hearts and minds we knew we were destined to be together forever. If Romeo and Juliet had lived longer, they wouldn’t have been happier or more in love.”

Fathi married her Romeo, who is her “first and everlasting love.” She remembers the first year of her relationship with her boyfriend-turned-husband, Ashraf, with a contented sigh.

“He introduced me to a world I had never known before. I had heard of girls having butterflies in their hearts, but I only knew what it felt like when Ashraf came into my life. He never failed to put a smile on my face each time he was around. He showered me with gifts, care and love. I felt like a special girl in an ivory tower.”

There is something so powerful about first-love stories. Is it because first love always happens when our hearts are still young, fresh and pure? And, especially so in Fathi’s case, when a first-love story is crowned by a happy ending?

Even though many people’s first love is not their everlasting love, we can safely agree that early romantic experiences can leave a lasting imprint on who we are.

“Every time my friends and I discussed relationships, my own first love came to mind,” 27-year-old Adel Sami told the Weekly. “Although we did not end up together, we are still in touch as friends. It is the kind of sentimental friendship you would feel for a best friend from way back. So many shared experiences make for great fun in reminiscing.

“When we were together, love was all around us. My heart would flutter and my hands would sweat every time I sat beside her. That was nine years ago, but these are feelings I think I will never forget,” he continued.

First-love experiences seemed to be unforgettable to all the people interviewed.

“How can I forget the jitters that raced through my body the first time I was love-struck?” asked 22-year-old Rehab Younis.

Victor Salama, a neurologist and psychiatrist, explains the science of first love and the reason why love makes our hearts race, and gives us sweaty palms and dry mouths.

“There are a lot of chemicals racing around our brain and body when we are in love,” he says. “The initial giddiness that comes when we first fall in love is due to the chemicals of dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine that our bodies release.

“Dopamine is the pleasure chemical that produces a feeling of bliss, euphoria and desire. Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline and produces excitement and a racing heart.”

Salama explains that these two chemicals together produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness and loss of appetite — the cocktail of love. Phenylethylamine is called the “love drug,” he added. It raises blood pressure and blood glucose levels and is responsible for giving us a sense of well-being and contentment.

Salama’s scientific explanation of first-love’s chemical reactions may not please many, among them physicist Albert Einstein. He is said to have once said, “No, this trick won’t work ... How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry so important a phenomenon as first love?”

Yousra Nabil, 28, nods in agreement with Einstein’s words. Nabil is currently experiencing her first real love, and she’s enjoying every moment. “In my past relationships I always felt something was missing,” she says. “Not everything fell into place. I had thought I was in love but I was wrong, until I met Omar and everything fell into place. I totally believe he is the one.”

Nabil says she had all the being-in-love symptoms. “I start my day fresh, with a wide smile, because Omar is all I think about when I wake up. I feel his presence even when he’s not physically present with me. When we started dating I felt as happy as a butterfly flying in a field of flowers.”

Nabil started dating Omar 10 months ago, and the happy couple was engaged last week.

Love is not always a matter of choice: some think they cannot live without the first love, but then realise that they can live with a later true love forever. Sometimes that person may be the same one, but most often they are not. No, sometimes love doesn’t work out. It can happen. Experiencing the bitter taste of heartbreak can feel like the end of the world.

As Maram Barakat, 19, put it, “I will never love again. I can no longer trust anyone. I very much doubt love exists anymore, at least for me.

My heart is broken, and it hurts.”

The Weekly took Barakat’s case to Anwar Al-Itribi, a professor of psychiatry at Ain Shams University, for analysis. “Healing emotional injuries requires that we regain our footing, our sense of emotional and social competence,” he said.

“When we experience a personal injury, we often suffer a loss of pride, integrity and self-image. In order to recover, what we need to do is surround ourselves with familiar people and comforts that we know and love.

“Emotional loss or injury can have a serious impact. In addition to losing the relationship, we also tend to feel a loss of connection to the people, places and things that we had previously valued and held in high esteem. Symptoms include stress, withdrawal from social gatherings, loss or gain of weight, lack of sleep, losing interest in studying or working, and fits of anger and crying.”

But depression, tears and heartaches pass. If we learn anything from our first love experience when it doesn’t work out it is that we “have to move on, and at some point we will let go,” Al-Itribi stressed. “If you can learn to look on the bright side, the weaknesses of the past will become the weapons of the future.”

If psychotherapy is the second line of defence in cases of heartbreak, then the first line is manned by “family and friends. It is their hugs that heal. In the family, the mother is the first-aid emergency kit,” Al-Itribi said.

“A mother’s hug tells us somebody cares and is there to take care of us. A good friendship with our parents gives us another perspective on our problems: a more mature one, which can help us see the bigger picture. Time is the best healer, and peer groups can provide enormous support.”

The most important thing, however, is to remember that while a heartbreak may be difficult it is not the end of the world. Your share of happiness and joy awaits you, so don’t blow it all by locking yourself up in lamentations over the past. And don’t be afraid to love again.

After all, the act of giving to those we love will make you feel like a shining star, and it’s beautiful to be a star.

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