Guide Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships

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There was nothing missing. Sitting, years later, watching the last of the ice finally melting on our lake one morning in early April and hearing my husband and children walking through the woods behind me.

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They were laughing and talking, and I touched for a moment the deepest joy, the kind of joy that was, and still is, entirely enough to fill up my heart for this lifetime. Love can begin in a thousand ways—with a glance, a stare, a whisper or smile, a compliment, or an insult. It continues with caresses and kisses, or maybe frowns and fights. It ends with silence and sadness, frustration and rage, tears, and even, sometimes, joy and laughter.

Book Review—Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships

It can last just hours or days, or endure through years and beyond death. It is something we look for, or it finds us. It can be our salvation or our ruin. Its presence exalts us, and its loss or absence desolates us. We hunger for love, yearn for it, are impelled to it, but we haven't truly understood it. We have given it a name, acknowledged its force, cataloged its splendors and sorrows.


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But still we are confronted with so many puzzles: What does it mean to love, to have a loving relationship? Why do we pursue love? What makes love stop? What makes it persist? Does love make any sense at all? Down through the ages, love has been a mystery that has eluded everyone— philosophers, moralists, writers, scientists, and lovers alike. The Greeks, for instance, identified four kinds of love, but their definitions, confusingly, overlap. Eros was the name given to passionate love, which might or might not involve sexual attraction and desire.

In our day, we are equally bewildered. Google reported that the top "What is" search in Canada in was "What is love? Scroll through the responses and you'll agree with the site's founders that "there are just as many unique definitions as there are people in the world. Scientists try to be more specific.

For example, psychologist Robert Sternberg of Oklahoma State University describes love as a mixture of three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Yes, but that doesn't solve the riddle. Evolutionary biologists, meanwhile, explain love as nature's reproductive strategy. In the grand abstract scheme of existence, this makes sense. But for illuminating the nature of love in our everyday lives, it's useless.

The most popular definition is perhaps that love is For those of us—and that is almost all of us—who are trying to find it or mend it or keep it, this definition is a disaster.

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It robs us of hope. If you had asked that question as recently as thirty or forty years ago, most of the world would have said, "Not really. It was seen as something apart, a diversion, even a luxury, and oftentimes a dangerous one at that remember Romeo and Juliet and Abelard and Heloise?

What mattered was what was necessary to survive. You tied your life to your family and your community; they provided food, shelter, and protection.

Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships by Sue Johnson

Since the earliest conception of marriage, it was understood that when you joined your life to another's, it was for eminently practical reasons, not emotional ones: to better your lot, to acquire power and wealth, to produce heirs to inherit titles and property, to create children to help with the farm and to care for you in your old age. Even as life eased for growing numbers of people, marriage remained very much a rational bargain.

In , well into the Industrial Revolution, naturalist Charles Darwin made lists of the pros and cons of marriage before finally proposing to his cousin Emma Wedgwood. In favor, he noted, "Children These things good for one's health. I never should know French,—or see the Continent—or go to America, or go up in a Balloon, or take solitary trip in Wales—poor slave. We don't have Emma's list, but for most women the top reason to marry was financial security.

Lacking access to schooling or jobs, women faced lives of punishing poverty if they remained unwed, a truth that continued well into the 20th century. Even as women gained education and the ability to support themselves, love didn't figure too highly in choosing a mate.

194: Heart vs. Head: Mismatched Processing Styles with Sue Johnson

When asked in to rank eighteen characteristics of a future spouse or relationship, women put love fifth. Even in the s, love hadn't made it to first place. I am reminded of my aunt, who, when she found out that I had a "man in my life," advised me, "Just make sure he has a suit, dear"—code for "Make certain he has a steady job. In the s, however, love began heading the list in surveys of what American women and men look for in a mate. And by the s, with vast numbers of women in the workforce, marriage in the Western world had completely shifted from an economic enterprise to, as sociologist Anthony Giddens calls it, an "emotional enterprise.

Today, both men and women routinely give love as the main reason to wed.

The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships

And indeed, this is increasingly the case around the world; whenever people are free of financial and other shackles, they select a spouse for love. For the first time in human history, feelings of affection and emotional connection have become the sole basis on which we choose and commit to a partner. These feelings are now the primary basis for the most crucial building block of any society, the family unit. A love relationship is now not only the most intimate of adult relationships, it is also often the principal one.

And for many it is the only one. The American Sociological Review reports that since the mids, the number of Americans saying that they have only their partner to confide in has risen by 50 percent. We live in an era of growing emotional isolation and impersonal relationships. More and more, we dwell far from caring parents, siblings, friends, and the supportive communities we grew up in. And more and more we live alone.


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  8. According to the latest U. We toil for longer hours and at more remote locations requiring lengthy commutes. We communicate by e-mailing and texting. We deal with automated voices on the telephone, watch concerts performed by holograms of deceased artists such as rapper Tupac Shakur , and soon we will be seeking assistance from holographic personnel.

    At New York City—area airports, travelers were recently introduced to a six-foot-tall, information-spouting AVA, short for airport virtual assistant, or avatar. Loneliness researcher John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, contends that in Western societies, "social connection has been demoted from a necessity to an incidental. And it so essential! Sue Johnson describes many relationship conundrums that we all know, illuminates how we got there and the way out. Johnson offers some new perspectives on our emotional reactions to our loved ones. She articulates well how emotional connection, closeness and safety is our most basic survival need.

    Emotional intelligence Recommended Reading Program: Libido. Every day, we hear of relationships failing and questions of whether humans are meant to be monogamous. Love is not the least bit illogical or random, but actually an ordered and wise recipe for survival.