Love and relationships
Few relationships are entirely plain sailing and those in which we invest the most, particularly between couples and within families, can sometimes go through very trying times.
In some cases it can be change within the individuals themselves which is the catalyst for the problems, whilst in others it could be changes in the dynamics of the relationship or certain events which lead to difficulties. People’s perceptions are also commonly the cause of issues, sometimes because these are in fact deeply embedded preconceptions which were brought into the relationship but which are inaccurate or inappropriate.
Relationship counselling can help couples and individuals to better understand themselves and one another and assist them in finding more constructive ways to interact and communicate.
The Myth of Sisyphus or Love
How much are our feelings influenced by biology and how much by social experience? How do romantic love, sexuality, and attachment relate to one another? Even as I write this article my mind reels of my own lost relationships of those early years and too-short relationships of my patients who often recount them through tears of grief and a crippled vision of emotional judgement to love.
The Triangular Theory of Love posits that intimacy, passion, and commitment are necessary elements toward attaining consummate, or complete love. Intimacy is the feeling of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness that one feels in a relationship. Passion represents the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction and sexual activity. Commitment, in the short term, involves the decision that one loves another person. In the long term, commitment involves a decision to maintain that love (Sternberg, 1986). Furthermore two dimensions of attachment, secure-insecure and close-independent are linked to intimacy, passion, and commitment. The association between secure attachment and relationship satisfaction is mediated by intimacy and commitment.1997, 2006).
The word love may be the most abused and misused word. We have little trouble saying it, but more difficulty doing it, because so few of us truly feel it. Most of the time, when we speak of love, we lie-even to ourselves. Only when our awareness resides in the heart above fear, sorrow and anger we really feel open hearted and the energy of love. How many beautiful marriage ceremonies and declarations of eternal love end in feelings of resentment, anger, sorrow, or even fear? Where did the love go?
Is romantic love an emotion or just a case of pure biology and hormones? In effect, lust rather than love, or we search for love because we are vulnerable and need other people to care about us, to acknowledge our importance and positive qualities, or to combine forces with us in dealing with the demands and opportunities of life- us against the world. Love may have appeared for a brief time; we may have found a person whose total profile- appearance, personality, qualities, somehow lifted us for a time into the heart- until the obstructions below the heart pulled us back down. Falling out of love may have less to do with the other person and more to do with ourselves-with our own issues. We often look for someone else to pull us back into the exalted space, only to find the pattern of withdrawal and self-protection repeating itself again and again like The Myth of Sisyphus. The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock up to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than this futile and hopeless labour. .
Romantic love is an important aspect of the human experience and has been the focus of a vast body of research. Research has linked high levels of experienced romantic love to greater relationship satisfaction and stability, and increased levels of psychological and general health (Dietch, 1978; Fehr, 2001). Loving is not just a change in one or two people, but the transformation of both. Loving provides the parameters for creating a new reality. The behaving of being in love is a process. This process includes meeting basic needs. To truly be in love, one can perceive a loss of freedom but cannot continue in loving without meeting this need in the relationship. The increase in choice is required for empowering lovers. To truly love is to place the other in a position of power. The power that one gives to another when he or she admits to requiring the presence of another to feel complete is empowering. To love requires the sacrifice of meeting power or freedom needs (Glasser, 1984). Relationships end when we refuse to allocate quality time - we are out of time for each other. It takes time to buildand rebuild relationships. It is easier to give up.
The problem behaviors of pseudo loving, is mistaking liking for love. It is confusing infatuation for intimacy. It is also misunderstanding lust for loving. I love you only so long as you make me feel good. The moment you make me feel bad or unhappy, I question my love for you. This is a pseudo or surface love. Pseudo loving is love without depth. Any issue can shake its foundation because it is not built on a well formed base. Pseudo loving presents as a desire for commitment without being committed. It is in is also misunderstanding lust for loving. I love you only so long as you make me feel good. The moment you make me feel bad or unhappy, I question my love for you. This is a pseudo or surface love. Pseudo loving is love without depth. Any issue can shake its foundation because it is not built on a well formed base.
Pseudo loving presents as a desire for commitment without being committed. It is in the final analysis, a one way relationship. Pseudo or false love has many of the visibly present signs of a true loving relationship. It is a mile wide but only an inch deep. It results in a failure of the behaviours needed when one works at loving. It presents as a false expectancy that love answers all questions. Pseudo loving it can be expressed as narcissism. Pseudo loving involves the promotion of oneself to the exclusion of the others except when it benefits one’s self . I will love if there is something in it for me. It is an empty shell that echoes what sounds like love but is in the final analysis noise. False loving is the antithesis of unselfish loving.
A problem of permissive loving is that it seems to be loving and belonging without structure. Structure, for our purpose, consists of mutually agreed upon boundaries. Permissive loving results in a relationship where anything goes. Boundaries are porous and the relationship seems to have few if any rules. The commitment to the relationship is consistently in question. A consistent question is do you really love me? If you do, why don’t you behave in a manner consistent with my perceptions? This includes taking the position that loving does not require each party to relinquish some power. In this relationship, permission is not required in order to act. Love in and of itself does not give permission to act in certain ways. Permissive loving is loving based on fear of loss. It is based on a belief that if one party complains or requests compliance, and the other does not acquiesce, then one will lose love. Love does not require sacrifice; it only requires the faade of loving.
A problem of prideful loving includes acts that can be termed selfish. Selfish acts are I focused. The very actions of loving are dependent upon what I contribute to the relationship. This problem is manifested as fear without sufficient rationale. Past experiences with love, help to shape current definition of loving. In prideful loving, the negative experiences take precedence. The past can influence perception which influences your behaviors. Selfishness is pride in the conquest. Selfishness is manifest in pride. Pride engenders a belief in the sense that you are nothing without me. The relationship is exemplified in trophy possession. I love you only so long as others think you are worthy of love and possession. Loving manifested as pride is focused on the external. Prideful loving's focus is to love for reasons outside of the relationship. This is the type of loving that can be altered in the face of a strong opposition or conflict. Its strength is individualization. It is the I in loving rather than the we. A problem of prideful loving includes acts that can be termed selfish
A problem of possessive loving is manifested as ownership of another. Possessive love is to place one self and one’s wants before the others. I can only love you after I love me. It is manifested and acted out in jealousy. Possession is acted out through communicating that this person belongs to me. The possessor has an expectation that the other acts and is treated like a possession. It is understood that "you are mine." Loving is viewed through how action impact the perception of ownership. Possessive loving is expressed in acts of jealousy. It indicates that the possessor is not in control of self and acts out insecurities in the relationship. Possessive love is based on afflictive emotions. When possessive behaviors are challenged, anger results. According to the Dalai Lama (1999), "When we become angry, we stop being compassionate, loving, generous, forgiving, tolerant and patient altogether" (p. 95). The act of possession taints the positive relations that are built around sharing.
Love is a transformative process. It moves one from unable to two who are able. Those who truly love can do anything. They stretch the perceptual boundaries of both time and space. Total love is to love self (and hence others) wholly and universally. The loving relationship results when one utilizes the presents to overcome problems. In order to change problems into presents, one must be willing to change perceptions.
When one is in love, one acts lovingly. According to Glasser (1965, p. 10), "To either love or allow ourselves to be loved is not enough, we must do both." Love is and isn’t at the same time. It is everything and nothing. It is the all but it fails to meet the any. Love is the joining of extremes. It is a union of opposites. It is both presents and problems. This evidences a commitment to the process and practice of loving. The most significant practice of acting lovingly is to be open to love. Those who love are connected beyond space and time.
There are I believe many complex motives for love. Love is not necessarily the same experience for the two people experiencing it. The personal meaning of love differs from person to person. Thus, one partner may view love negatively as a sacrifice of independence and autonomy, while the other remains smitten. Some partners connect love strongly with sex, but others do not. For them the wish of one partner maybe to share private thoughts, goals, and experiences, while the other may have little interest in or capacity for such sharing. The culture of sexual lust and the pursuit of desire and beauty, the hard driving, heart-pounding message of sex is omnipresent. And it’s not just sex-it’s toe curling, mind blowing, hard body, all night-long sex. Is this enough? I am a man, I am a woman, I need to be loved, I need to love myself. I need to feel strong and to cry. I need to feel alive and to grieve my pain and looses in this life. I need to know that there is someone in this world who truly loves me. I need to love someone and experience that love as continuous and permanent for my self growing. I need a safe stable and committed comfort zone. Truth is, I need all these things much more than I need great sex, otherwise, I will re-enact the myth of Sisyphus thus chasing the ghost of love.