Sex and Relationships
Being in Love and Loving
People in love often invoke destiny. They feel that their meeting was fated, that they were "made for each other." Even though their meeting was by chance, an event which would not have occurred under slightly different circumstances, they are inclined to attribute every turn of events to providence. At this point they begin to contemplate what anthropologists call "pair bonding."
In layman's terms it means a commitment which if carried out fully results in marriage. Yet if for a moment they became disinterested observers, released from their delirious passion, they might become alarmed at the implication that rational personal choice counts for little in the ordering of the major events in their lives. They would wonder whether choice does not in fact operate in matters of human bonding rather more than they, as lovers, are inclined to think.
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Psychological research suggests that the fatalistic hypothesis is false and that at a subconscious level people make a series of judgments, assessments, and computations when they choose a mate, although the only subjective state they may be aware of is one of joy, thankfulness, and euphoria.
We have already mentioned some of the research demonstrating that people tend to be attracted to those whose physical attractiveness is comparable to their own. The point has also been demonstrated by Ellen Berscheid at the University of Minnesota. In her simple experiments, people were shown a series of pictures of members of the opposite sex and asked to choose which they would like to meet.
People themselves not endowed with good looks very rarely chose the more conspicuously attractive of the people in the pictures, presumably because they were apprehensive of rejection or failure if they did, and felt they would be more comfortable with someone on the same level of attractiveness as themselves. In other words, their choice was determined by rational, practical considerations.
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It is often said that women are less concerned with physical appearance than men are, and are more likely to choose their partners for such characteristics as warmth, sincerity, and sense of humor.
The general principle is supported by much research evidence, though there is some ambiguity as to the characteristics that women tend to rate most highly. In a study conducted among students at the University of California at Los Angeles, the four attributes that men found most desirable in women were physical attractiveness, eroticism, affectionateness, and sociability, in that order.
Women listed achievement, leadership, and occupational and economic success as the most desirable qualities in male partners - not, it should be noted, penis size or ability to last a long time in bed, or even ability to bring a woman to orgasm, techniques for which, by the way, you can find on www.orgasmbycommandreview.com where a load of advanced female orgasm techniques are explored.
We can assume a bias in the sample as the subjects were all young and of a high educational level, and we would expect that older and more secure women would put more emphasis on character than on success. But the priorities listed still bear out the belief that women tend to take more qualities into account and be less influenced by looks when choosing a partner than men are.
Of course, this type of research is open to the criticism that it has not been conducted with people in love and therefore does not apply to them.
Mythology and literature promote the view that love repudiates calculation and prudence, and maintains that people are irresistibly attracted to each other despite apparent incompatibilities and great obstacles. Psychologists would say that this romantic "love conquers all" belief owes it appeal to the fact that it represents a situation that many would acknowledge to be wonderful and even ideal, but only vicariously.
People in love have little time for anyone else. They are too engrossed with one another. In the initial stages activities and interests matter less than the actual spending of time together. How are you able to make the transition from being in love to loving?
For the fact is that being "in love" is a short stage and unless there is a basis for loving, the relationship will crumble. If a couple's love really is blind, if they idealize each other and do not see each other as human beings with certain faults and shortcomings, their chances of establishing an enduring, fulfilling relationship will be slim. For loving is an emotion of maturity.
"The heart has its reasons," said Pascal, "that reason does not know." We talk about the heart as the seat of emotion, and the center of emotional love. The heart is the symbol of lovers, pierced by Cupid, broken by infidelity. Language abounds with metaphors such as "affairs of the heart", "lonely hearts," "broken hearts."
It is true that the heart is an indicator of physical arousal, and we are very aware of how our heartbeat and blood pressure rises in emotionally charged situations. But the heart is not the center or instigator of these feelings, simply an organ responding to hormonal changes.
In fact if we take quotations in which the heart metaphor is used and substitute the term "the subconscious," we find that they make much better sense. Pascal's statement, often used by those romantic about love, simply means that while a person is only aware of his or her consuming passion, at their subconscious level they are busily assessing the relative merits of their partner. Perhaps it needs to be said that these assessments are not necessarily of material things, but involve such factors as mutual development and personal growth.
A pair who revel in the close bond that is filling some of the void left by unmet needs in infancy and childhood find the context of their loving is not the adult world of demands, challenges, work, change, responsibility and others' scrutiny, but the cushioned world of the nursery.
Couples in love tend to inhabit an exclusive world of their own making. Loving couples have to confront reality; their relationship involves other people, particularly children, and the transition from being in love to loving can only be accomplished successfully by those who bring intelligence and maturity into their relationship. There is truth in the dictum of the Roman dramatist, Seneca, that "Only a wise man knows how to love."
The Meaning Of Love
It may be unromantic to respond to the declaration, "I love you," with the question, "What precisely do you mean by 'love'?" It is a question often in the mind, though not so frequently expressed. Yet it Is impossible to give a single answer to a question which has so many meanings and connotations.
But for good love to prevail, good sex must be on the agenda in a relationship. That means having great communication between you and your partner, and also learning some skills that will keep things fresh in the bedroom.
These skills extend to your relationship outside the bedroom, for a good relationship is based on communication at all levels - and for women especially, the art of seduction by the man is something that can produce profound desire for loving sex.
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Relationships between lovers are often discussed in terms of giving and taking. It is almost a cliché in that there has to be give and take in every relationship, because each party has to take into account the other's wishes and needs, and make certain allowances, concessions and compromises. But give and take in a loving relationship goes much deeper than this. It is the entire self that is given and taken in mature and fulfilling sexual love, and nothing less.
What of metaphors in descriptions of sexual acts and relationships? Well, one that is surely apt is that of "surrender." When lovers make love they surrender themselves to each other and to the experience.
It is not a matter of one yielding to the other's desire after initial resistance; the military metaphor really does mislead in this respect. Self-surrender can only occur when a person has complete trust in the other, and has no unresolved fears of losing rights or of being manipulated. Any negative attitude to the other will inhibit surrender, causing a person to hold back something of himself or herself. This refusal to enjoy sex entirely during the sexual act results in inhibition.
There is a paradox about surrender in that only through it can freedom be attained. As Wilhelm Reich convincingly demonstrated, in the process of growing up every human being develops "character armor" which affords protection from the hostile, the alien, and the unknown. To shed this armor, to release oneself totally in relation to another person, becomes very difficult, although it is what everybody wants to do because only then can they become truly themselves. The paradoxes multiply.
We only attain freedom through surrender, only become truly ourselves when we unite with another, we cannot receive unless we can give. But paradoxical though the statements are, lovers will recognize truth in them.
A person who gives without taking diminishes and dominates the other; and one who takes without giving finds that what he has taken has no substance or satisfaction. Love is not give and take in the sense of a trading of needs and demands, but it is a process of giving and taking in the sense described here.
"Oh, take me now," says the woman in her passion, and "Just let go," he says, meaning surrender to me, abandon yourself, sexually. Both give their all, both lose themselves, and neither has used the other as a means to an end. Instead they have attained the end to which the human act of love aspires. In true love there is no loser or winner; they both win because they both surrender.