Lusting for Love or Loving to Lust?


— Heart-shaped candies with small insignias like "Kiss Me" or "Marry Me" or Valentine cards with the message "Be Mine" are the pleasures of Valentine's Day that most people grew up with.

But those simple pleasures and notions of love seem to become more difficult as we get older. We begin to define the people we are and the people we want in our lives.

Valentine's Day has been set aside to recognize the "romantic love" in your life, although many don't know why Americans celebrate the tradition. Whether you believe that Saint Valentine was a priest who secretly married couples or a man imprisoned for refusing to worship pagan gods, fact is he was killed for being a Christian. Lupercalia, a pagan love festival, was intended stop on Feb. 15, however a pope in 496 A.D. could not accomplish his task because the church recognized that there should be no punishment for celebrating love. This day was set aside to remember Saint Valentine who has become the patron of lovers. As part of the festival, women's names were put in a box for the men to draw out. Then, the two were paired together for a year. During the 14th century, a belief existed that Valentine's Day was the day for birds to mate, starting spring. Although the obscure history reveals that rumor and mythology still exist, the day always will be recognized as a day of romantic love shown in many different ways.

What about those people who come into our lives and make it difficult for us to love, but more difficult for us to leave?

Is it love or infatuation?

Many couples around the world fall into the notion that love is the sick or nervous feeling you get when you're around the one you "love." According to M. Scott Peck author of "The Road Less Traveled," those infatuation or lustful feelings are romantic love, not true love.

Anyone who has studied psychology is familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. On the hierarchy, physiological needs come first, safety needs second and third is love and belongingness needs.

This third tier of love stems from intimate relationships, social groups and friends. Maslow believed that because our society is able to meet all these requirements, much of our frustration comes from our inability to meet these needs at this level.

True love is the unconditional, positive acceptance of another person and those feelings for another are not diminished by another's flaws, according to Chris Young, licensed psychologist in Steamboat.

Young said love is a selfless feeling that may mirror romantic love, or lust, because of the enthrallment, but it's a deeper and more long-standing feeling.

"Love is a very mature experience and way of being with someone," Young said.

Some people never make it through the infantile stage of love, narcissism, to realize that loving is a two-way street, Young said. This kind of love is greedy and selfish - the complete opposite of true love.

Tom Gangel, therapist at Steamboat Mental Health Center, said he deals with the troubled side of love, love that has been lost or has caused someone self-destruction.

"Love is the most powerful emotion people have to deal with," Gangel said. "It gets you to do things that you wouldn't normally do."

Gangel said Valentine's Day usually is a hopeful holiday, one that doesn't bring on depression, unlike Christmas.

One-third of all successful suicides result from relationship problems or break-ups, Gangel said.

"There are so many positive and negative aspects of love, but that's what makes love so fun," Gangel said.

Young said there are two stages of love: symbiotic and separation/individuation.

The symbiotic period of love is the stage when every love song speaks your experiences and you feel you can't live without that special person.

"It's the 'you are the sunshine of my life' phase," Young said. "It's almost like we live and breath the other (person)."

The separation/individuation stage is when people recognize the differences in others, their tastes, thoughts and feelings. Young said we ask ourselves how can we be so different and still be together.

"That's the biggest challenge to people," Young said.

The book "Psychology in the New Millennium," by Spencer Rathus, thanks to Professor George Bagwell at Colorado Mountain College - Alpine Campus, gives readers an insight to the mind function and behavior of how love engrosses society.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg developed a triangular model of love that consists of intimacy, passion and decision/commitment. Three areas of love surround what is called consummate love - a complete love consisting of all three components, but difficult to attain.

Liking is one part of love and it equals intimacy alone. These are true friendships without passion or long-term commitment.

Compassionate love is another part that equals intimacy plus commitment. This is a long-term friendship such as a marriage in which the passion has faded.

Empty love equals the decision/commitment alone element that refers to the decision to love each other without intimacy or passion.

Fatuous love equals passion plus commitment. This is a commitment based on passion but without time for intimacy, developing shallow relationships such as a whirlwind courtship.

Infatuation equals passion alone. This is a passionate and obsessive love at first sight lacking intimacy or commitment.

The last idea of the components of love in romantic love, which equals intimacy and passion. These are lovers that are physically and emotionally attracted to each other but without commitment, as in a summer romance.

Tom Traynor, Young's colleague, calls the symbiotic period "falling in goo." Young said he thinks it almost is psychotic because people really do lose their minds.

"It's not a sane, healthy way to live," Young said. "But for most people, it's just a phase and they move on."

Yet the day has been compared to Christmas, love and caring for someone is something we ought to show all the time.

Young and Gangel said when people raise their expectations, they're always let down. To avoid this, "Honor each other in many ways and stay grounded in reality. You don't need to do something special because of that day," Young said.


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