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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
Is love the glue that binds us to one another? Should the lack of love be cause for separation? Can we invest (or reinvest) love where indifference infests the landscape? As we prepare, this month, to celebrate the rituals of Cupid we thought it apropos to examine this elusive concept of love. What is it? And what's our professional interest in it?
What are the elements that describe love? One is an appreciation of the object of our love. Acceptance is closely related . . . "I accept all that you are, even those parts I don’t appreciate." Other descriptors that come to mind are commitment, sacrifice, joy and fulfillment. Love is one of those rare preoccupations of humankind that has drawn the interest of philosophers, theologians, poets, writers, musicians, artists and psychologists. It comes in many flavors – filial, sexual, sensual, blissful, heavenly – and shapes – love circles, love triangles – and dimensions – greatest love, deepest love, highest love.
Love is quite confounding in the counterweighing power it possesses. Lucretius notes that love ". . . is the one thing, whereof the more and more we have, the more does our heart burn with the cursed desire." But Juliet counters, "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite." The rock group Nazareth sings that "love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars…love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain."
Frank Sinatra paints another picture: "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage – you can't have one without the other."
A current view of marriage by psychologists indicates that the best predictor of distress and divorce was found to be loss of initial levels of love and affection. In other words, the focus should be on preserving positive feelings, not on conflict resolution. This is quite a shift from past research that attributed breakdowns in marital bliss to be caused by an inability to navigate the issues that inevitably crop up during marriage.
So, does that put us in the love business? Perhaps it's true, omnia vincit amor (love conquers all).