Being the best partner — 20 February 2011
Practicing love conquers all

Love is considered to be the most intense, powerful and sought after human emotion. Romantic love has fascinated philosophers, historians, poets, writers, scholars and ordinary people since early civilization. The mystery of the necessary elements for successful love relationship has commanded numerous theories and research projects without yet having fully unraveled its secrets.

However, many practical recommendations for sustaining love beyond the infatuation stage have been posed and continue to fascinate researchers and lead to more studies.

Most theories identify more than one type of love. The Greeks described two types of love: one powered by “Eros,” the passionate energy used in attempts to posses or be fulfilled by another, and “agape,” the loving energy centered on caring for the needs of the other.

Freud spoke of “Eros” as the dominant component of love. This libido or sexual instinct propels the individual toward the pursuit of pleasure and reduction of anxiety and pain.

Abraham Maslow posed the humanistic approach to love suggesting that people experience two types of love: D-love (Deficient love) is the craving to supplement pathologic deficiency, while B-love is the purest love for the Being of the beloved. The latter includes feelings of caring, enjoyment, happiness and elation.

The attachment theory of love, an application of John Bowlby’s theory, suggests that romantic love replicates early infant-parent attachment styles and spans from insecure to secure connection.

Biological anthropologist and researcher of love, Helen Fisher, documented the three stages of love: Lust used to initiate mating, Attraction that facilitates mate selection and Attachment that bonds couples through parenthood. She also noted obvious hormonal and scanned brain changes observed during love.

There are also a number of behaviorally guiding theories.
Elliot Aronson’s “Gain-Loss Theory of Love” proposes that negative opinions of a mate cause anxiety, while positive ones create a gain by reducing anxiety and increasing satisfaction.

Donn Byrne and associates developed “The Reinforcement –Affect model of Attraction” that is linked to cognitive behavioral psychology. It maintains that similarities in attitudes, values, interests, beliefs and personal dispositions assure greater love satisfaction.

John Gottman’s research identified destructive behaviors that he termed “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.” They are: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling. Engaging in these behaviors dooms the love connection.

Feeling sexual and emotional love does NOT conquer all. The consistent practice of loving behaviors does! The former is spontaneous, driven, compelling and thrilling, the latter stems from a decision to put these intense emotions to practice.

• Make a decision to regularly practice your passion and love for your partner through loving behaviors.
• Even when you are frustrated, annoyed, or hurt determine to see the situation from your partner’s perspective. Feeling his/her discomfort guides you in becoming a more compassionate and caring mate.
• Realize that long term love relationships are based on consistent kindness, consideration and appreciation of your beloved.
• Focus on pleasing your mate, respecting his/her esteem, dignity and uniqueness. It will serve both of you well.

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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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