Where Does the Love Go?


When the relationship is over, where does the romantic love go? Does it disappear like ice in a glass or the bubbles in champagne?

Or does it hang in the air, nearby, waiting to bond you to someone new? Turn into something else like anger or sadness, run a triathlon or an overwhelming desire to clean your closets? Simply move on?

I know it’s the season of candy hearts and paper affirmations, but I’ve been thinking about the path of love undone because so many people close to me have recently become uncoupled. One minute the love is there  — it’s your organizing principle – and then, it isn’t. You don’t feel it anymore. She doesn’t feel it anymore. You both can’t do it anymore. You have gone from a fluttering heart to a sigh and a yawn. From 90 miles an hour to neutral. Where did it go?

I’m certainly not the first to ask.

Diana Ross had a burning love that came into her heart so tenderly that it stung like a bee.

A yearning, burning deep inside her that it hurts so bad, Baby, baby, where did the love go? Don’t you want me no more? It was the first of the Supreme singles to hit number one on the charts. So many of us could relate.

When people fall in love, a little universe is created. A system is made. Energy is exchanged. Love is the motor that keeps everything steady. And when it works, it works exceedingly well.

There’s a concept in physics called The Law of Conservation of Energy. Energy is defined as the ability for something to produce a change in itself or in the world around it. Like the energy between two people in love.

According to this theory, energy cannot be created or destroyed and can’t absorb more than it does to start. It just exists. It doesn’t go anywhere; it is simply conserved.

Energy conservation has three unique characteristics: potential, thermal or kinetic. Seems to me that we could borrow these and learn something interesting about the nature of lost love.

So this Valentines’ Day, if you are feeling the pain from the hole that a lost love made to your heart, consider that the love, aka, energy, you have expended is not wasted. The laws of the universe suggest that the energy you put into that love and that relationship have been banked. And after the name calling and angry letter writing and tear shedding, consider that you have energy that’s convertible into something useful. Useful to you, a little wiser. Potential to love again.  Heated up energy to try something entirely new.  Or the not-so-gentle kinetic push that sets you into motion.

Ellen Blum Barish. February 2011.