Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Hate to Use a Journey Song Title, But "Ask the Lonely."

Web sites devoted to the study and practice of psychology/psychiatry are plentiful on the internet. Unfortunately, most of them are geared towards laypeople, and the dispensation of practical living advice, instead of tackling legitimate clinical issues and concepts. (Some sites intermix clinical and practical subjects, like Natasha Tracy's wondrously helpful site, Bipolar Burble ( Other sites seem to be written for...geez, "laypeople" is too smart a word. "Dumbshits" is overused (see yesterday's blog).  Ok, let's pretend I'm feeling charitable and just call them "Average Joes".

"World of Psychology" on is geared towards Average Joes. Consumers who research psychology by happenstance, or from a Tweet they scrolled, or they Googled "Am I depressed?" and took a 5-question quiz to self-diagnose before panicking and resigning themselves to a lifetime passport stamped by the Prozac Nation. I was the hapless Tweeter today who, while TRYING to read one of my favorite blogger's brief missives today, Babe Walker's "White Girl Problems," stumbled upon psychcentral's re-Tweeted link (meaning someone *I* follow follows it, not me, you follow?) that asked the question:


...and linked their article which attempted legitimacy by virtue of including Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love, which is way too complicated for a one-page Average Joe's psych blog entry. Being single, curious, and most importantly, hopelessly jaded, I read the article, attributed to a PhD who must have received her degree online or something. I've learned much since my divorce and in my singlehood.

After picking apart the article's many punctuation and syntactical errors, taken for what it's worth, I learned the following:

1) That the only attribution to Sternberg's theory is a graphic illustrating his theory, with a pink triangle and little hearts all over it. The author of the article says that Sternberg himself explained the theory SO WELL that it would be difficult upon which to improve, so she certainly wasn't even going to try, and didn't. Here's the graphic psychcentral used:
Having trouble reading it? Great, then, it wasn't just me. I can't even tell you why the hearts are of varying sizes, or why the smallest heart is as equidistant to "empty love" as it is to "consummate love," which are theoretically polar opposites. The author doesn't go on to explain Sternberg's theory, but tries to put it in simple-sentence terms.

Of PASSION, she says, "It's like....WOW! You might hear angels and music!" with regard to physical and sexual attraction. (Appropriate, perhaps, if you're 15 years old. Like wow!) You want passion? Go back and read my blog on one of contemporary society's greatest stories of passion: Or read Anna Karenina. Fuck, read Song of Solomon in the Bible. Read Wuthering Heights. Listen to Derek & The Dominoes' "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs."

Passion tends to peak at the beginning of a relationship, waning considerably over time. If passion maintained its frantic pace for 30 years straight, I think people would literally fuck themselves to death.   (Though I guess that insane Duggar family might be the exception. 20 kids and they haven't died yet. Of course, they themselves haven't actually raised any of their own kids, hence they have so much free time to continue to procreate.) I've known couples who still find their partners brutally hot years into a relationship, which has always puzzled me. A lot of that depends, I guess, on whether or not either of them lets his or herself go and turns into a total schlub. (Hey, I was guilty as charged during my 11-year marriage by adopting a non-hair-style style, gaining an obscene amount of weight, dressing dowdy, etc. So was my husband, until he grew a beard on my command, when he became conversely hotter to me. Note, we didn't procreate until he had a beard. Becoming "typical" and "normal" looking was NOT a good look for me AT ALL. And besides, I knew since college that my husband didn't honestly find me terribly physically or sexually attractive to begin with, when passion should've peaked, as per a psychology paper he wrote that I had the unfortunate experience of reading where he explained that his "current partner," me, he wasn't very attracted to, and frankly had a difficult time sleeping with.  I married him anyway, because he was the first guy who asked. He was the first guy, period. Thank God I waited until my late 30's to trash all that normalcy and bring hot punk back into fashion, by which time my husband was long gone and I got 10 piercings in my head and 2 tattoos, all of which he hates, which makes me happy. I grew into myself, which is by no means a dowdy suburban housewife and I think I look better now than I did when I was 20.

With my psycho ex-boyfriend of 3 1/2 years after the separation/divorce, there was an intense amount of physical/sexual chemistry early on, and we couldn't get enough of one another. Not that HE was terribly attractive to look at himself, though he also became hotter when he grew a beard per my request. (Read: Facial hair on men? Always good.) He was huge and strong, and I looked like an elf in comparison. He also had a belly bigger than the state of Massachusetts that he couldn't manage to tone down. Even given the fact that he'd later severely abuse me, at least he thought I was hotter than hot (I'd lost all the weight by then and took on my style, got my mojo back, even though he attempted to dress me like a prepster/Trixie by buying me a lot of clothes.). But regrettably, I wasn't enough for him either, so he was incapable of commitment, which comes later in the article.

Of INTIMACY, the author says that intimacy leads to attachment, which leads to "becoming bonded" with the other person. To further illustrate her point, she whips out the deeply intellectual statement, "Intimacy grows first by spending much time with another person." She says that intimacy is built on "trust and safety." If the definition of intimacy was that simple, I would be having intimate relationships with my 3 closest guy friends, a few of my girlfriends as well as my own son. Who knew? What a blanket statement.

Of COMMITMENT, the PhD's last factor, she advises that you, as a couple, participate in a conciliatory pursuit of togetherness "no matter how you feel." THAT sounds happy! (Seriously, has NOBODY ON EARTH watched "Annie Hall" in the last 25 years?) Sure, she mentions quick resolution to differences and arguments instead of festering (festering MY word, not HERS). Quick to acknowledge that "commitment" equates to "engagement and marriage," she at least admits that even these institutions are bound to failure sometimes.

Her parting advice?
"True love has all three of these components. Having only a couple will show that the relationship has lost its air and needs help. The famous wise king Solomon once said, that “many waters cannot quench love” True love is like a flame. All the monsoon rains, hurricanes, and floods cannot put out the flame of love. What is your love made of?"
I know PLENTY of relationships that are out of air.  What is *my* love made out of? Suffice it to say that when I list my "relationship status" on Facebook as "it's complicated," I mean that. On the subject of weather disasters and acts of God not separating us from our partners, I had to wholeheartedly, as an ex-wife and a dump-ee, disagree. I know more married couples in companionate or empty loves, by far, than those who claim to have consummate love. Even couples I know who have been married 20 or more years.  The psychcentral love doctor negates a number of other, separate types of love in her article that complicate even the sturdiest of loves, that Sternberg includes in his theory collectively. It's illustrated as this:

Or, if you're sensing that I'm just a withered old maid jealous of happy couples, it's better illustrated as this:

According to Wikipedia's translation of Sternberg's theory:
 "Sternberg cautions that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. "Without expression," he warns, "even the greatest of loves can die."[11] Thus, consummate love may not be permanent. If passion is lost over time, it may change into companionate love."
The couple, as an example, who had the epitome of consummate love, throughout their many years together, from start to finish, through bumps and bruises, who each grew foxier as they got older and had it going on?

The, for all intents and purposes perfectly happy couple who bickered out the door of my party over his not understanding what she meant in reference to an obscure lawn/garden item such as solar-powered butterfly lanterns (or some such nonsense, I dunno, I was confused too):

Keep this in your mind, potential suitors, wherever you may be...

1 comment:

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