Whether you dread the 14th of February, are eager for a romantic outing, or are completely apathetic towards the misinterpreted and commercialized “holiday,” Valentine’s Day is here. There is no stopping its relentless forward roll. With that terrifying notion, we’re all adults here and understand that while Valentine’s Day may have an emphasis on romantic love, that’s not where the buck stops. And Vox’s “This Is Love” podcast is here to warm our cold hearts (and dampen our cheeks) with stories of unyielding, unrelenting love.
This Vox Media Podcast Network show is focused on immaculate storytelling, limiting its releases to about one episode a month. Episodes vary in length from 30 to 50 minutes long and each one contains a story about a different kind of love. “This Is Love” is hosted by Phoebe Judge, who you may also recognize as the host of another extremely successful Vox Media podcast, “Criminal.”
Not only is every episode of “This Is Love” rooted deeply in all forms of love (parents and children, friends and life partners, exes and burnt-out flames), but all of these stories are grounded in heart-wrenching vulnerability. With a new person featured as a guest on every episode, invited to tell their singular stories of love, every episode finds common ground by being entirely authentic.
And if you have been waiting for an outlet to cry, “This Is Love” will get you. No matter how strong you think you are, “This Is Love” will probably open your tear ducts. But in a good way. In the way that lets you know that these stories and these all-encompassing loves and this podcast are all individually excellent.
Something that truly stands out (besides Judge’s hosting and interviewing skills), is the unique and unusual stories you hear. Most recently, “Episode 42: The Brain in Love” is all about a woman, Dessa, who wanted to train her brain to stop being in love with her ex. After decades of on-and-off, they finally called it off, but Dessa couldn’t stand the heartbreak and needed a solution.
Dessa had seen Dr. Helen Fisher’s TedTalks on love, called “Why We Love, Why We Cheat” and another titled “The Brain In Love.” She saw how Dr. Fisher had used fMRI’s to monitor activity in the brain by measuring the change in blood flow when presented with different stimuli. Specifically, Dr. Fisher used this to measure love and see what parts of the brain light up when people experience love.
Well, Dessa wanted to know how to train her brain to respond differently to her ex, with Judge citing how love, especially romantic love, has deep links to feelings of obsession and compulsion. Dessa got in touch with a brain researcher about wanting to see where her feelings live in her brain and essentially to see if this obsession she was feeling was normal. At first, she wanted to completely block these feelings, but the doctors didn’t want her to never experience love again. Instead, they said they could help her control it, and the experiments that followed actually ended up working for Dessa.
Within each tale’s uniqueness lies a collective aspect that, hopefully, all of us have or will have experienced. From the love between pet and owner, the love for a passion, the love for someone who saved you from certain death (okay, don’t want to experience that one), or just love that last for decades – be sure to listen to “This Is Love” not just during this month of love, but year round, if not for any reason than to hear an absolutely excellent podcast.