Term Paper: Romantic Love in My First

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[. . .] The elements of immaturity that were such a disappointment to me at the end of our relationship actually surfaced much earlier, but I excused them in a form of denial.

One of the most painful disappointments for me was the hostility and defensiveness that resulted on his part virtually anytime we had a disagreement. He reacted to any criticism or request for change as though it were a personal attack and a complete rejection of him on my part, to which he either responded with hostility or complete silence and emotional withdrawal. He admitted to me that this probably was at least partly a function of the way his mother treated him, telling him that he was

"useless" or a "disgrace" for quite minor disappointments.

On an emotional level, I never felt that I was as important a part of his life as he was in mine, very much because he kept his feelings largely to himself, which he admitted was a response to his fear of rejection. While I do not know exactly how his mother responded to him in infancy and very early childhood, I would guess that she was, at least at times, somewhat inattentive in his earliest formative years. I draw this conclusion primarily by inference from the Bowley and Ainsworth attachment studies linking inattentive and rejecting parental figures to insecurely attached children who

may have difficulty with trust issues in romantic relationships (Johnson, pp. 226-7).

While the physical chemistry we shared persisted at a very high level throughout most of our relationship, it was not at all in proportion to the two other essential elements of Sternberg's Triangle Theory of love (Trotter, pp. 243, 245): I

was much more committed to the relationship than he was, which I discovered to my profound disappointment, in connection with his plans to interview out of state instead of planning a life together between his graduation and mine. Needless to say, the emotional intimacy in our relationship was essentially one-way, in that only I

shared my feelings and fears openly, while he kept his most intimate thoughts and feelings primarily to himself.

Furthermore, while the physical (i.e. sexual) component of our relationship was always healthy in its own right, that was hardly mirrored by the non-sexual

physical expression of intimacy: he was always uncomfortable with public displays of affection and he exhibited very little inclination toward (or even tolerance for) non-

sexual, affectionate touching. He expected any physical expression to lead, necessarily, to overt sexuality, and he felt rejected or "teased" otherwise.

Despite the fact that many of the factors that accounted for my dissatisfaction began to surface much earlier, it took me much longer to "fall out of love" than it did to become swept away by the euphoria I experienced when we met, which according to Sternberg, is typical of the deterioration of love as compared to its quick onset, which, in many respects, mirrors the rapid development of (other) addictive behaviors

(Trotter, p. 244).

There were several other factors that delayed my exit from the relationship even after I was no longer happy or still in love with my partner. My family and friends at home liked him very much, and they had no idea that I was no longer happy, because they never witnessed his shortcomings at all. His fears and his reluctance to share his innermost feelings and emotions do not inhibit his ability to function in social settings at all; if anything, he overcompensates for his fears of rejection with an outward display of humor and affability.

Consequently, I was, admittedly, somewhat hesitant to shatter my family and friends' image, both of him and of our relationship. This fear of the reaction of the community and social network is actually considered to be one (of three) key elements that determine, in part, whether couples who are no longer in love stay together or break up (Levinger, p.240). Likewise, there were specific barriers to my leaving him, including our living arrangement at the time which meant that in addition

to having to suffer the end of my relationship, I would, necessarily, also have to make alternate housing arrangements, an emotional ordeal in itself, even in the best of circumstances.

Finally, with respect to the three determining factors in predicting relationship dissolution (Levinger, p.233), I must admit to having had certain fears of being alone again and I was convinced that there were no safe alternatives for me, especially in terms of meeting someone else at school to whom I would be as attracted or with whom I might experience the chemistry that we (had once) shared. In a sense, there seemed to be more safety and security in a known relationship, even though I was no longer happy with my partner. While we were not married, I took my end of the relationship "obligation" very seriously, nonetheless.

Even married couples experience a 50% dissolution rate, but the prospect of terminating our relationship felt like a personal "failure" to me. Realistically, I do not believe in the notion that there exists one "perfect" partner for every person, and in a logical sense, I realized that mere happenstance and proximity led to our meeting in the first place. Still, it was very difficult for me to end this relationship, owing to my own feelings of emotional attachment, in addition to all the other "classic" issues that delayed my eventual decision to do so. However, once I made up my mind, I was able to detach myself from the relationship more quickly and more easily than he was, which is consistent with anecdotal evidence pertaining to differences between male and female patterns of withdrawing from unsuccessful relationships.

Naturally, we also left the relationship with diametrically opposed views of how and why it deteriorated: among other instances of cognitive dissonance reduction strategy on his part, he characterized himself as a victim of abandonment, whereas I maintain that I left a relationship that was completely beyond hope.


There is perhaps no human urge that is more universal or timeless than the pursuit of love, reflected as poignantly in contemporary Western music as in two

thousand year-old poems from the Far East.

Romantic love can be one of the most fulfilling experiences in human life, partly because, in all likelihood, the need for love and affection is deeply rooted in our earliest (conscious as well as subconscious)

memories of life. The affectionate touch of a lover has the power to evoke emotions reminiscent of our relationships with our parental caretakers in infancy.

On the other hand, some of the many feelings and emotions that arise within the context of romantic love also occur automatically, almost anytime we find ourselves sharing intimacies with another person, particularly when there is a sexual component to the relationship. The powerful euphoria is often matched by equally dramatic lows, which, in many respects, mirror the addictive quality of alcoholism and narcotic dependency. One of the most challenging features of sexual love is precisely, that healthy love is not a prerequisite for the profound feelings of euphoria, fears of loss, attachment or incapacitating jealousy.

Healthy, mature and stable love relationships are characterized by a core friendship that, in principle, would sustain a relationship between bonded friends, even in the absence of any sexual attraction, such as between same sex heterosexual friends. Likewise, a balance must exist between individual elements of the relationship, in addition to a comparable view of the degree of commitment and style of intimacy.

One insidious aspect of the love cycle is the frequency with which we

(willingly) delude ourselves into seeing what we wish to see, rather than what is before us, in fact. Similarly, the euphoric emotions and sensations that we experience as so rewarding can give rise to compulsions and fears that torment us (not to mention our partners), if we are incapable of receiving their love, fully.

Like the monkeys in the experiments into the importance of parental availability and intimacy performed by Harlow, human beings are susceptible to life-

long deficiencies where our earliest relationships in infancy fall short of what is necessary to prepare us to form loving bonds as adults. In this regard, neglect or abuse on the part of our parental caretakers can rob us of the self-worth necessary to formulate a lovable self-image that is a prerequisite to accepting the love of another as genuine or deserved.

Ultimately, romantic love is a complex interrelationship between physical attraction, mutual interests, core values, beliefs and a shared worldview. When it is healthy, it can be one of the most rewarding of all human experiences; when it is unhealthy, one of the most painful. Perhaps the truest definition of genuinely healthy romantic love is that shared between two individuals who like, respect and admire each other mutually, and for the exact same attributes and qualities that each likes, respects and admires… [END OF PREVIEW]

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