Our nation is increasingly becoming divided into opposing groups. Yes, most of us have a tendency to feel most comfortable when we associate with people who look or think like ourselves. People who look or think differently than we do, make us uncomfortable. So, we stay away from them and isolate ourselves even further with our own kind.
Our isolation from others is intensified as we subscribe to popular media which confirms our point of view. People outside our group may have a different point of view but we are not exposed to it. Then we begin surmising what other people think. People who dress like Muslims might think like or (gasp) be terrorists. People who are trying to emigrate to the United States might think they can be freeloaders. These stereotypes all come from seeing people outside our group as a threat, which popular media perpetuates.
It is the way we see people not like us that creates fear and hate—not the actual reality. Yes, some people from our group as well as some people outside our group are terrorists and freeloaders, but most people are not. Yet we continue to have a perception of people not like us as a threat.
To change our perception, we must be exposed to people not like us in positive contexts. One way to develop positive images is through travel where we interact with others—this could be travel within or outside the United States. Another way is to view positive images and stories about people from groups other than our own in popular media (social media, television, magazines, newspapers), schools, churches, even stores.
We need to reach out and speak to people other than those in our own group. But, most of all, we need to listen to them.
Does the upcoming Valentine’s Day make you wish you had someone to love (and to love you)? Do you miss a loved one? Or do you just feel lonely?
Don’t despair—there are ways to feel less lonely during all the Valentine’s Day hype.
Perhaps you have tried interacting with others on your smartphone or even with an online group. But recent studies have shown that we become even lonelier during screen time because it does not provide the meaningful, deep connection with others that we long for.
To dispel loneliness get out of your house and get involved with an activity you like. Besides having an enjoyable time, you might even find a new acquaintance, friend, lover. Don’t wait for someone to find you—smile and start talking with someone nearby while engaged in the following activities.
Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping. Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens? Then do an online search for where you might be most needed. The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”. Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. homeless, migrants, special needs, hospitalized). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community. Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting people who are also volunteering.
Foster or Adopt a Pet
You may find a loving pet to be a loving companion. A cat can give you warm, soft comfort as it curls up on your lap. A dog might even get you out of your house on a daily basis, where you might meet some of your neighbors. Or you and your dog might meet other doggie lovers at a doggie park. Contact your local pet adoption group to foster or adopt a pet.
Join a Special Interest Group
If you have a hobby or special area of interest, you could join a group of people who share that interest. Every city has an abundance of special interest groups. Find one at meetup.com. Some of the meetups in your city involve hiking, cooking, developing a new skill, discussing a topic, and participating in a sport.
Sign up for a Course or a Fitness Center’s Program
If you have a regularly scheduled event where you are with other people, you already have a way not to be lonely during the upcoming Valentine’s Day. Find classes at your local adult schools or universities that might interest you. Join a fitness center. And don’t forget to reach out to others by maybe asking for help with something.
Read a Good Book
Visit your local library or bookstore. Selecting a book from browsing the shelves will give you an opportunity to interact with others before going home to read that book. Escape to another world through an engrossing fiction book. Learn something new through a helpful nonfiction book. One nonfiction book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, will give you even more suggestions on how to dispel the Valentine’s Day blues.
As the 1965 song reminds us, “what the world needs now is love…not just for some but for everyone.”
The challenge today is to ask ourselves, “Can we show love towards everyone?”
Can you love someone who has beliefs very different from yours, someone who has hurt you, someone who is a stranger? Wholeheartedly answering “yes” is difficult because love seems to be restricted to close relationships. Indeed, we expect romantic partners and family members to love each other. But loving a stranger—that isn’t love.
Is it possible to love someone who is very different from you? Oops, maybe we shouldn’t have put that person into the box of “different”. Even seeing someone as different, and judging that person as “the other” has already put a limit on your ability to love. For loving another means identifying commonalities and recognizing our common humanity. Someone may look, think, or act differently than you do but that person’s feelings are no different from your own. So, a connection can be built by recognizing the feelings that are behind the thoughts and actions. A loving response then lets the other person know you recognize these feelings.
Love that goes beyond close relations to strangers and even to all of humanity means responding with understanding rather than judgment. Seeing another person through your eyes often involves judging that person. Seeing another person through their eyes leads to understanding that person. You begin to feel what the other person is feeling, to have empathy and to tell that person what you are experiencing when you are seeing through their eyes. An empathetic connection is the essence of love and it can be created with anyone.
Let us choose love over fear.
“I want us to be more intimate,“ she says. “Intimate,” he thinks, “that must mean she wants more sex.”
Men and women often mean very different things when they think about intimacy. Women often are asking for more emotional closeness when they ask for more intimacy. Men, on the other hand, sometimes confuse sexual and emotional closeness. Some men might even admit that they have no clue what a woman is asking for when she asks for more intimacy. And some men and women can use sexual intimacy as a substitute for emotional closeness.
What, then, is intimacy?
Intimacy is the ability to engage in close and reciprocal relationships, to engage in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit, and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors. Engaging in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit is a good description of sexual intimacy as well as emotional intimacy.
Intimacy strengthens close relationships and fosters mutual growth. Intimacy is needed even in platonic relationships because it promotes positive interactions in dyads and teams working towards a mutual goal.
What interferes with creating intimacy?
Intimacy involves giving and receiving understanding and support. Some people tend to receive but not give. What can hold you back from giving fully of yourself in a relationship is a need to defend against hurt. Or you may be so judgmental and defensive that you do not respond flexibly to other’s ideas.
How does a couple create emotional intimacy?
In order to create emotional intimacy, you have to let go of your defensiveness. You need to listen to the other person with a non-judgmental ear. And you need to be willing to be non-defensively open in what you share with the other person. When you are together, talking and listening with these attitudes increases emotional intimacy.
Intimacy is an essential skill in loving relationships and Dr. Beverly Palmer shows how intimacy can be developed in her recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.
Presenting the Scientific Basis of Love
By Beverly B. Palmer, PhD
The article below was just published today (July 30) in the Association for Women in Science Magazine, Summer 2018
Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life began in 1985, on my one-semester sabbatical, because I wanted to present the scientific basis of loving relationships.
There had been an explosion of research articles on loving relationships in journals until 1975, when U.S. Senator William Proxmire gave a Golden Fleece Award to the National Science Foundation for spending $84,000 on a study about love, He reasoned:
I object to this not only because no one—not even the National Science Foundation—can argue that falling in love is a science; not only because I’m sure that even if they spend $84 million or $84 billion they wouldn’t get an answer that anyone would believe. I’m also against it because I don’t want the answer,
I believe that 200 million other Americans want to leave some things in life a mystery, and right on top of the things we don’t want to know is why a man falls in love with a woman and vice versa.
This just spurred me on to bring the latest scientific research to the public. Furthermore, I wanted to present this research in a user-friendly format.
After I finished the book, which I initially titled, Love Life, an agent began working to find a publisher for it. However, he died suddenly, and then let life (work, child-care, aging parent care) interfere. I stuffed the manuscript into a box, which eventually landed in my garage.
Fast-forward thirty years: Standing in my garage, looking up at all the boxes piled high on shelves, I realized that when I’m gone, my son will come in and throw everything in the dumpster. So, i began a campaign to clean out the garage.
Among Christmas cards from long ago and lecture notes that were hopelessly outdated, found the lost manuscript. As I skimmed through its 185 pages my thirty-year-older and more experienced brain realized that this manuscript was not the best. Yet, my editorial self could not let it go.
I realized I had been continuing to read journal articles and books that presented research on love and that I had even been using some of this material in my lectures. So, I began rewriting the manuscript, bringing it up-to-date with the latest scientific evidence. And then I rewrote it and rewrote it, finding my voice and the best way to relate to my audience along the way,
I again was spurred on by current events. A book on love hit the nonfiction bestseller list But this book was written by a pastor, and it presented opinions not science. Similarly, most of the websites giving relationship advice contained only opinions. A book on scientific evidence about love was very much needed
Besides presenting advice based on scientific findings, I wanted to include the entire experience of adult love—from how people meet, fall in love. create love, and fat} out of love to how they come to love again. I wanted young adults to read this book before they got into a serious relationship. In that way, they might become aware of the red flags to watch out for. Newlyweds could read this book so, when the excitement of passionate and romantic love started to fade, they would know how to build a love that lasts, Couples in a long-term relationship could discover how to cope with negative feelings of anger and hate, as well as how to resolve conflicts satisfactorily. I also wanted to reach people who have lost a love, so that they could more deeply understand their feelings and even love again.
The challenge was to make reading this book relatable and entertaining for a general audience. To flesh out the scientific findings, I included lively case studies from my private practice. To increase reader involvement, I included many self-assessments that could also be shared with one’s partner, In the preface, I even encouraged readers to leave the book open to a page they want their partner to notice.
Scientific research provides powerful and practical tools that you can use to solve your love life I want to share some of these tools, described in my recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, which you can use to make your love last.
Science says there are three attitudes essential for a love that lasts—empathy, acceptance, and appreciation—ail crucial not only for a maturing and lasting adult partnership but also for parent-child relationships. Empathizing and telling each other that you do understand the partner’s perspective prevents and even resolves many conflicts. John Gottman has shown that it is the proportion of negative to positive statements that predicts an unhappy relationship and even one that leads to dissolution, Similarly, a 1 to 5 proportion of positive to negative statements can preempt or even de-escalate negative interactions during a conflict. Empathetic statements are intensely positive statements, and empathetic statements can even help resolve conflicts in one’s professional life.
Acceptance means valuing a partner’s uniqueness, both their strengths and weaknesses, rather than judging or criticizing them, Your partner’s behavior might irritate you, but you dont have to direct your upset at your partner as a person. You can, instead, let your partner know you are just commenting on the behavior and that you still value your partner as a person.
The third ingredient is letting each other know, every day in many different ways, how much you appreciate each other, There are many ways to show appreciation. Noticing what your partner is saying or doing and commenting favorably on it is one way. Hugs, smiles, and saying, “Thank you,” show that you value having your partner in your life. Take a moment right now to show your partner some appreciation—today and every day.
A personal note I would like to add is that my husband and I recently celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary. I guess some of the evidence-based advice I wrote about was tested in our relationship to see if it really worked.
Algoe, S. B., Haidt, L, & Gable, S. L. (2008), Beyond reciprocity:
Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8, 425—429. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC2692821/
Hatfield, E., and Walster, G. W. (1978). A New Look at Love. University Press of America. p. viii. https•flbit.ly/2rWRMgW
Gottman, and Levenson R, W. (1992). Marital processes predictive of later dissolution: Behavior, physiology, and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63, 221-233.
Rogers, C. R. (1961) On becoming a person. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 342-344.
Starting June 29 and continuing through July 3 you can get the Kindle version of this workbook FREE. Just click on this link: Free Love Demystified Workbook
This workbook contains more than a dozen questionnaires to assess your current love life. Respond to these questionnaires to find out where you are now and what you are needing. You can discover how intimate your current relationship is, how resilient you are, how romantic you are, and how empathetic you are.
Ask your partner to also complete these questionnaires to discover new things about your partner. You and your loved one might then want to share your responses, which can create a deeper intimacy.
From your and your partner’s responses you may find that there are some areas in your love life you want to improve. Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life is a companion to the workbook and gives you tips and techniques to enhance your relationship. You can purchase it on Amazon as either a Kindle edition or a paperback: Love Demystified Strategies
The beautiful princess (or duchess) and charming prince (or duke) may live in a castle but they will also have to face issues that you do on the way to happily ever after. Here’s three tips for making love last.
Present as a Team. People and events may try to pull you apart. Family and friends will give you advice about what you should or should not do. But, in trying to follow this advice you may find yourself at odds with your partner. Major and minor events such as the birth of a child or even celebrations with in-laws can put a strain on your togetherness. Later, as your child grows there are even more challenges to not having that child play one of you off the other.
Show everyone that you are a team, not just two individuals who can be pulled away from each other. Disclose and discuss looming issues. Then use “we” instead of “I” when responding to others. In that way, others will see you are presenting a united front, one that is stronger than each of you separately.
Resolve Conflicts Successfully. You will have disagreements that you can’t avoid. Solving these disagreements in a way that you both win is necessary for a happy relationship. If there is only one tool that will help you resolve conflicts successfully, it is empathetic communication.
Empathetic communication involves listening closely to your partner, taking a breath before replying, and then stating the essence of what you heard your partner say. In this way you show you understand your partner’s position. Feeling understood decreases defensiveness and increases cooperation. If both of you do this when trying to resolve a conflict, it can lead to a winning solution for both of you.
Show you Appreciate your Partner— Every Day. Yes, you are so in love now that you can’t even imagine lapsing into days of not connecting with each other at all. Yet those days will come, perhaps sooner than you expected. And then you will begin to feel the bloom of romance has withered, or maybe even died. Yet, if you say or do something every day to show appreciation for your partner, the romance that is there now will be there throughout the years.
There are many ways to show appreciation. Noticing what your partner is saying or doing and commenting favorably on it is one way. Hugs, smiles, and saying thank you shows you value having your partner in your life. Take a moment right now to show your partner some appreciation.
Click on this link to see a short video about some surprising scientific findings:
Recently I had a fun conversation with Brian Howie on The Great Love Debate. We debated everything from what to watch out for when dating to how to make love last. Listen to it here: Making Love Last