Is shared love a gift or an accomplishment?

Today is Valentine’s Day, Lovers’ Day. All humans desire, wish for, dream about and even pray to find a deep, rewarding and sustained love connection with someone special in their lives. Is love a gift we pray to receive, a magical happening, or an interpersonal blessing we can cultivate throughout life?

“To Love and to cherish ‘til death do us part” is the nuptial promise. Yet, when you ask people to define, describe or explain love, they often describe it as a special, mutual feeling that requires no definition. Some say, “It is a unique emotion and you know you are in love when you feel it.” Others view finding their “true love” as a desirable, mysterious and magical event that is bestowed upon some, but is not necessarily a universal blessing.

Is love about giving or receiving? Is love earned or found? Is it a precious gift that only fortunate individuals receive? Some of the wisest and most inspiring people’s depiction of love only deepens our befuddlement. Erich Fromm offered a utilitarian causation of love. He wrote, “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you.’ Aristotle posed the spiritual, existential explanation by defining love as: “A single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Lao Tzu’s definition addresses the emotional benefits of love, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, and while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Mother Teresa advised, “Let us meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

In “Lust, Attraction, and Attachment in Mammalian reproduction” Dr. Helen Fisher, a prominent “Love Researcher” of our era explains the physiological promoters of love and procreation. She states, “Attachment, characterized by the maintenance of close social contact in mammals, is accompanied in humans by feelings of calm, comfort, and emotional union with a mate that evolved of specific aspects of reproduction. The sex drive is associated primarily with estrogens and androgens propelling sexual union, the attraction system is driven by catecholamine that facilitate mate choice and the attachment system is associated primarily with peptides, vasopressin and oxytocin that motivate individuals to engage in positive social behavior and assume species-specific parental duties.”

Regardless of the physiological and/or emotional mechanisms that guide us toward seeking, finding and struggling to maintain healthy love connections, all happy lovers know how fortunate they are to have met and created their uniquely blissful existence with their beloved. We also have witnessed the deep pain, anguish and even despair of some whose dream of a lifetime harmonious love connection has been shattered.

Focus on loving your partner by:

  • Professing your love and appreciation of him/her every day.
  • Affirming his/her specialness of essence, thoughts, feelings or actions.
  • Being helpful, kind and considerate.
  • Loving your mate as he/she wishes to be loved.
  • Stating how fortunate you are to be with your special beloved.
  • Considering every day as Valentine Day and acting accordingly.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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