Love and Romance
The odds are pretty good that you’ll be involved in a romantic relationship while you’re at Stanford. One of the greatest challenges of young adulthood is learning about love. This means how to love, whom to love and, most important, developing self-love.
Most of what we’re exposed to in the media shows romance as an image-driven ideal. Our minds know that’s ridiculous, but still all of us are vulnerable to wanting to look sexy, show up with that attitude, strike that cool pose. So let’s work from the inside out and start from the beginning.
It feels like magic. Your heart soars with great excitement and anticipation. But being “in love” may or may not overlap with really loving someone. Is there a difference between “love” and “being in love”? It’s debatable. Some claim both can exist throughout a relationship. Others say the “in love” feeling is an idealization of the partner during courtship that can evolve into love.
Romantic love often requires courage because this kind of love challenges your self esteem and your potential for intimacy.
Capacity to Love
The ability to love requires a sequence of experiences:
v You first learn about love through being loved by your primary caregivers and others.
v You learn to internalize being loved as you grow up (when your primary caregivers aren’t always around). This is a way of taking good care of yourself.
v You are able to transform loving and soothing yourself into loving others.
v These are the ideals to being able to love another person. When these “stages” progressed naturally, you developed high self-esteem. High self-esteem is essential for giving and receiving love.
v The truth is that many fantastic, bright and very cool people didn’t get all this. For them, the stages occurred partially, out of sequence, or they didn’t occur at all. As a result, many students face difficulties loving and being loved.
These are characteristics of mutually fulfilling relationships:
You both have enough self-awareness and self-esteem to know your own feelings, needs and to express them - unspoken expectations cause problems.
- You sincerely like and enjoy each other.
- You are able to be yourselves freely.
- You share mutual respect and commitment.
- You share sexual compatibility (sexuality is broader than just intercourse).
- You share similar values.
- Your expectations are based on reality, not fantasy.
- You can overcome your fears of
rejection, vulnerabilities and past disappointments.
- Your emotions and intellect are not in conflict.
- Both partners’ needs are met.
- There’s enough space for you to love yourself as well as your partner.
Trust and Intimacy
These precious qualities take time to establish. They involve the following:
- A willingness to express both the ups and downs of daily life
- Taking the risk to trust
- Establishing emotional safety - dependability, honesty, loyalty and fidelity,
Studies show that when difficulties arise, it’s not because couples don’t want to deal with problems. They simply don’t know how. Communication skills are not innate; they need to be learned. Start now and these skills will serve you for the rest of your life. Take note of the following tips:
- You communicate expectations directly.
- You ask for feedback.
- When your partner talks, you listen to both content and feeling.
- You summarize what she or he is saying to be sure you understood.
- You acknowledge each other’s feelings.
- Remember, all good relationships require effort; be honest as to how much time you want to invest.
- Long-distance relationships take even more skill, time and effort.
It is normal to have some areas of differences (e.g., how much time to spend alone, as a couple, with others and in which activities). Develop “fair fighting” skills with the following guidelines:
- While disagreeing, deal with one issue at a time.
- Attack the problem, not the person (accusations only trigger counterattacks).
- Avoid name-calling or exploiting sensitive issues.
- Stay in the present (no past gripes).
- Avoid attacking or walking out; express your feelings instead.
- Give each person equal time.
- Remember, you’re on the same team. If one person loses, the relationship loses.
- Admit when you’re wrong.
- Compromise to ensure that some needs of both partners are met.
- Let your partner know you care and acknowledge good efforts.
Both people have to want a relationship that works. Keeping it satisfying is a mutual, ongoing process.
You’re projecting if you impose your perceptions and expectations onto another person. If your love is based on projection, it won’t last because you’re in love with a fantasized image, not the real person. This can be highly deceptive and the disappointment is enormous when you realize it.
The “Wrong” Person
Some people love those who cannot treat them well, love them back or provide a compatible partnership. Often there’s something familiar about the way you’re not loved back. This occurs on an unconscious level until you begin to see a pattern of choosing wrong partners. The familiar, even though it’s not fully satisfying, is more comfortable than the unknown. To break this pattern, become consciously aware of it and choose to consciously make different choices.
If you feel that your partner constantly degrades or insults you, strikes or hits you, you may be in an abusive relationship. Education, awareness, care and support can help you.
If a Relationship Fails
Sometimes a relationship just doesn’t work. We put off saying good-bye as long as possible because although the relationship isn’t working, we are attached to each other. Attachment is a by-product of love. It comes from loving feelings toward the person and spending time together, sharing activities and experiences. It’s hard to relinquish the sense of security that develops from such closeness. This is why it takes many messy attempts over time to fully let go of someone to whom you’re attached.
Some tips for letting go follow:
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
- Expect guilt, bargaining, anger or self-blame (they’re natural defenses against feeling loss of control).
- Note harmful patterns; it’s the first step toward changing them.
- Beware of rushing too deeply into “rebound relationships.” Slow and easy is often the best approach with new relationships.
- Take on new experiences gradually.
- Get the support you need and give you time to heal.
Romance is an expansive energy. It enables you to grow, feel secure and experience the joy of life.
The “Psychologist” Psychological Counseling Centre’s at
Vivekanantha Psychological Counseling Centre Health Line