Friday, February 5, 2010

The Psychology of Love

As an undergrad psych major I took a course called The Psychology of Love.

My professor’s main observation was that the most powerful feelings of love seem to require distance, that love feels most poignant and exquisite when there is longing.

When people are in a solid, settled relationship, doesn’t the intensity of the love experience fade? And if so, why?

Art and literature are full of this same idea. How many more poems and stories and songs are written about longing and desire and painful, troubled love, as compared to those about contented, stress-free monogamy?

Is this because love is just so hard to get right?

Or is there something about the human psyche that often wants love to be hard?…something that wants and needs and creates that distance?

Freud thought that our heads contain all sorts of repressed urges and dark needs, which cause us to do harmful, self-defeating things. Looking at the choices people make in love and the painful relationships they often endure, it sure seems like Freud was right.

But I’ve learned to look for the underlying logic in the relationships people choose. I’ve come to believe that when there’s distance in a relationship, that distance isn’t an accident. The distance is serving some purpose.

* Distance allows room for fantasy.
* Distance protects privacy.
* Distance makes it possible to indulge, at least temporarily, in a mismatched or otherwise futureless relationship.
* Distance may feel safer; it may be an attempt at getting love without risking too much.
* Distance may feel familiar; it may be what you’re used to.

Can you think of other purposes?

Photo source: Lis Sur Mer

If you’re seeking guidance in coping with stress and difficult emotions, please consider getting a copy of A Mindful Dialogue, an ebook compiled by my fellow Psych Central blogger Elisha Goldstein. All proceeds benefit Hope for Haiti.

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