Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Two Main Reasons Why People Stay in Romantic Adult Loving Relationships

For many people and in many ways (as in the Ashlee Simpson song title), “Love Makes the World go Round.” And while people tend to “love” many different things (their parents, children, house, pets, cars, jobs, etc.), the most potent targets of love are those adults with whom they have a romantic adult loving relationship. Interestingly, researchers have broken up love into two main types: (1) Passionate Love – which involves continuously thinking about your loved one and also involves warm sexual feelings and powerful emotional reactions; and (2) Companionate Love – which involves having trusting and tender feelings for that special someone who is close to you. In my 1998 self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships, I propose that romantic love also involves Passion, Intimacy and Commitment. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, in their classic book, Getting the Love You Want Workbook: The New Couples’ Study Guide, address these phenomena as well.

In Adult Loving Relationships, I also address the question, “Why do people get into and stay in an adult loving relationship?” And while I know that every individual has his or her own reasons, my experience as a practicing psychologist specializing in marriage and couples counseling as well as in my own personal life has revealed that there are two main reasons. First (and I know this may sound very simplistic), when in the relationship you feel special. (Remember when you first met your special him or her how special you felt!) And secondly, he or she is good for you. To wit, if you were to step back and ask yourself: (a) “What is my life like with him or her in it?” and (b) “What would my life be like if he or she weren’t in it?” you would conclude that your life is better with him or her in it. (Basically, your decision would be that he or she is good for you.) Looking at this from the other direction, you would be in (and staying in) your romantic adult loving relationship because you feel special and he or she is good for you.

In my contemporary romance novels, this question typically is directly and/or indirectly addressed by the heroine. For example, in my soon to be available novel, Fear of Feeling Loved, Marcia starts to really feel scared when she realizes how special she feels when she’s with and around Jack. And in My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days, Sheila realizes and appreciates that her marriage to Troy is in a serious decline when she begins to think seriously about what her life would be like if Troy were no longer in it.

My question for you is: If you are in a romantic adult loving relationship, why are you in it (or staying in it)?

Bill

12 comments:

insideout said...

That is a tough one... I would end up writing a book to cover the last 15 years of our relationship. Short story is we keep the lines of communication open, we have never let our finances get the best of us, no matter how busy we are with jobs/kids exc we find time to date and most important we dont lie to eachother.... the rest you have to fill in as you go. I dont think there is a magic recipe for a loving relationship. You have to roll the dice and hope that you find the one love that you were meant to be with...I/O

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hey there I/O,
Thanks for sharing your experience. It certainly appears that what you and your wife are doing is working. That's terrific. And you're right, to a large extent loving relationships still remain a mystery and we only can control so much of the variance. Yes, "chance" and "luck" are part of the equation. Nonetheless, a happy loving relationship also includes two things you and your wife are obviously doing (among many things I'm sure): (1) you're paying attention to each other, and (2) you're paying attention to your relationship.
And who knows, maybe someday you'll write that book.
Thanks again,
Bill

DH said...

In our relationship we both have expectations of each other. Those expectations are not difficult to meet, because going into it we took each other at face value. No hidden agenda's. No requirement to change this and that...acceptance is key. Most important is validating the other in an "as is" condition. From there we try to respect each other and roll with the punches.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello DH – Welcome back!
You certainly are a fortunate man. It sounds like you and your significant other didn’t do what so many people unfortunately do – instead of falling in love with the person who really is, they fall in love with the person they think they’ll mold them or shape them into. (Like… “Once he or she starts to listen to me and make the kinds of changes that he or she needs to make, everything will be fine.”) Again, both of you are fortunate.
With all best wishes for continued success and happiness,
Bill

Jordana said...

Many reasons to stay in the adult loving relationship - and honestly sometimes there have been reasons not to. Must importantly, we both agree that any relationship is hard work. Life and love and relationships (+kids+work+finances+...) is not easy. However, we have the same priorities, and the same vested interests. The odds that anyone else is going to equally care about those priorities is nil to none. We know the benefits that we ALL will reap with the success of this relationship. So, #1, we have to be sure that this is a healthy, loving relationship, and we continue to work to keep it such, and work to fix it when we're not.

Dr. Bill Emener said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Jordana,
I'm delighted to see your return visit, and your Comment (as usual) is right on the money. It's clear to me that you and your husband work at your marriage and your individual roles as husband and wife (as well as parents, homemakers, etc.). I'm not surprised that you share common values and keep them in tack.
When you get a chance, rent the movie "The Story of US." In the last scene, they pick up their two children from summer camp and have to decide where to go to eat. When Katie (Michelle Pfeiffer) suggests a Chinese restaurant named Chow Funs, Ben (Bruce Willis) asks why. She then goes into a monologue about what a marriage is and steals the show ("I'm saying Chow Funs because we're an 'US.' There's a history, and histories don't happen over night... That's a dance you perfect over time...) And if you can, Jordana, watch it with your husband (I require it in my graduate course in Marriage Counseling and Therapy at the University).
Thanks again...(pop corn anyone...?),
Bill

KIP said...

Wow Bill, 7 comments on this post, 9 on the previous, I am very impressed.

And now about the post. It's really funny because the marrieds (count 2) versus the unmarrieds (count 6) in our office were talking about how much we love being married, especially after listening to dating horror stories from the former group. Marriage is like anything else that turns out well - it requires effort from both parties. I think that is the essence. It comes down to "making it work" not just expecting it to (which is also part of the equation).

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Kat,
I am touched by your observations and gracious comments regarding the increase in Comments on my Posts. I like to think that people are finding my Posts worth reading and that I am addressing issues with which they can identify and benefit from thinking about.
Now regarding your Comment… Inherent in your “making it work” notion are, in my view, two important ingredients. First, by saying “work at making it work” you are coming from an internal locus of control… “There is something I can do to make I work.” This is in opposition to an an external locus of control… “Whatever happens, happens; I just hope whatever happens is good.” (To wit, I have seen many relationships deteriorate simply from neglect.) And second, I see some involvement of the “self-fulfilling prophesy” phenomenon. (It’s also associated with “expectancy theory” – many times in life things simply turn out the way we expect them to… and there are reasons for that.) Someday I may put together a Post on these issues.
Thanks again, Kat!
Bill

Jordana said...

Funny you quoted a line in a movie - my husband is a HUGE fan of movies - I think he finds he can relate to the witty lines rather than come up with his own - in this case John Wayne as George Washington McClintock - "...because all the gold in the United States Treasury and all the harp music in heaven can't equal what happens between a man and a woman with all that growin' together. I can't explain it any better than that." My response was "as long as we KEEP ON GROWIN'"

Dr. Bill Emener said...
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Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Jordana,
In my self-help book, “Living Life, Anyway,” I suggest that “life” (and living) is more than the absence of death – yes, we’re “growing.”
I love your husband’s John Wayne quote (and your response!). And with that attitude, you both will continue to grow and "live"!
Bill