Mutual Love Does Not Always Guarantee a Happy Relationship

With this year’s Valentine’s Day just a week old, for many couples it seems like it’s halo has already faded. How can so many pairs profess to love each other and at the same time harbor hurt, resentment, disappointment and even ill feelings for one another?

Fairy tales often end their love story with, “And they lived happily ever after.” If this formula is accurate, why do so many pairs profess their love and lament their marital misery in the same breath? Is the belief that “love conquers all” false or are we missing part of the formula that can secure us a fully satisfying love connection?

There are many explanations for the “Faded Love” theory. The Roman philosopher Lucius Apuleius stated, “Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.” Others hypothesized that romantic love is only a temporary emotion in the service of perpetuating the species and is inevitably tainted by familiarity, routine and responsibilities. There are those for whom the early attraction and passion has been unsustainable due to the fading of the early “newness” accompanied by the reduction of the initial euphoria about being adored by such a desirable potential mate.

Whatever explanations the disenchanted pairs fathom or hold, those who do maintain a healthy love connection are often equally perplexed to identify the elements that bless them with a loving, fulfilling and satisfying life bond.

In her book “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love” Researcher Dr. Helen Fisher highlights the ever changing understanding and descriptions of romantic love. She states, “Animal studies of anthropologists of 500 years ago did not distinguish romantic responses from sexual responses and conflating family feelings with romantic feelings.” She also found that in those eras “kinship, pair bonding, marriage and other forms of familiarity can exist and have existed independent of romantic love.” She adds, “ In my view, romantic love continues to evolve. For example, over a hundred years ago, women used to swoon when they were overpowered by romantic feelings.  If fainting were depicted as a response to romantic love today, the audience would merely laugh.”

Dr. James Leonard Park, an existential philosopher and author of “New Ways of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms Relationships”, created The Romantic Love Test: How Do We Know If We Are In Love? The 180 questions may enlighten pairs about their state of love.

My Clinical experience with hundreds of couples has led me to believe in the “Practice of Loving.” The use of respect, kindness, compassion, and ongoing supportive validation strengthens each mate’s esteem, and bonds him/her to the mate in deep love and appreciation. Treating your mate the way you wish to be treated provides mutual support, caring and models love that lasts a lifetime.

Keep expressing your love and commitment:

  • Empathize with and validate your mate’s feelings, thoughts, actions and lovability.
  • Be a compassionate listener and attentive partner.
  • Practice being a “Best Friend” to your mate.
  • Reiterate your love and devotion.

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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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