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February 14, 1986 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-02-14
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What is Love? Experts tackle the topic


By Dov Cohen
T HOUGH THE issue may be settled
in the minds of pop music stars,
greeting card manufacturers, and
much of the American public,
psychologists are still debating the
merits of love.
"Being in love is a temporary form
of insanity," said Robert Davis,
psychology teacher at Pioneer High.
School. "We lose contact with reality.
We see what we want to see.
Basically, the old saying that 'love is
blind' is true," he said.
Davis differentiates between being
"in love" and loving. "Loving is wan-
ting the person to grow, to be happy,
and to develop, to get the most out of
life," he said.
But "being 'in love' is basically
selfish. We say, 'I want the love object
to be happy, but only with me and only
if they're happy with me,' "he said.
Lawrence Kersten, a psychology
professor at Eastern Michigan
University agrees that there is more,
than one type of love. "There are
many types of love. The type
celebrated on Valentine's day is
romantic love. It's full of idealization,
illusion, lack of self-disclosure, and a
failure to see your partner
realistically," he said.
Both partners in a relationship
contribute to the illusions. Says
Davis: "We're so anxious to have
other people in love with us, we put on
a facade and pretend to be more won-
derful than we are," he said.
"The other person becomes a fan-
tasy object we can dream about. We
don't have to see them going to the
bathroom or throwing up," he said. "I
could think she's Miss America, but
my friends all tell me she's Miss

Landfill," said Davis.
"And if a girl senses that I think
she's the most wonderful thing since
sliced bread, she'll conspire and act
like the greatest thing since sliced
bread," he said.
Davis attributes our willingness to
fall in love to a low self-esteem. "The
inferiority complex is the basis of 'in-
loveness.' I want someone to tell me
I'm wonderful. I want them to convin-
ce me I'm better than I think I am,"
he said.
"As we grow up and get an in-
feriority complex or a low self-
esteem, we begin to look for ways to
feel better about ourselves," he said.
"It's called indirect self-acceptance;
we try to accept ourselves through the
love of sombody else," he said.
We reason "If I can get her to love
me, then I can accept myself" said
Davis. We think "If I'm not wonder-
ful, then why would she love me?" he
"But there's a Catch-22. In order to
get her to love me, I have to pretend
I'm wonderful.. . by hiding aspects of
myself," said Davis.
But because we distort our true
selves, ultimately we cannot accept
the other person's love. We think
"what they really love is our facade,"
said Davis. "Ultimately, 'I cannot ac-
cept her love. I think she loves me
because she can't see me
realistically. If she could see my
deepest, darkest secrets - that I even
hid from myself - she would think
I'm as loathsome as I think I am," he
"It's an old saying that we can't
love others until we love ourselves.
But I'd go further than that. I think we
can't believe we're loved by others
until we love ourselves," he said.

Kersten thinks most people are in-
clined toward this type of "in-
loveness" or "romantic love."
Romatic love is more popular than in-
timacy, which involves "realistic
perceptions of ourselves and others,"
because (romantic love) "is what our
culture teaches. That's what all the
movies and songs are about," he said.
"Many European cultures are not
as romantic as we are," he said. Our
conceptions of romantic love are
relatively new, he said. "Modern
romanticism began towards the end
of the 19th-century with the
idealization of women and the Vic-
torian period," he said.
"Every society needs a mechanism
to get people to marry. And as we
became more scattered and in-
dividual with - the industrial
revolution, we had to have something
to get people to marry. We've never
been for arranged marriages," he
said. Thus, the modern idea of roman-
tic love was born. "Some people call
(romantic love) a trick (to get people
to marry)," he said.
Alienation in today's society
could also contribute to our
willingness to fall in 'romantic love.'
"If you live in social and emotional
isolation and someone says 'I like
your jeans,' you'll say, "I love you,
too,' " he said. "Only as we have
become more anonymous, have we
needed romatic love," he said.
Davis agrees that our culture at-
tracts us towards being "in love."
"It's encouraged in the literature, in
the fairy tales. Prince Charming falls
in love with Sleeping Beauty and they
live happily ever after. Songs are full
of sap-happy love. Valentine's day
pushes it all out of proportion. Every
TV show and every movie has this
kind of stuff," he said.
Said Kersten: "There's a lot of
illusion perpetuated by the media and
Valentine's Day, and that causes a lot
of pain." Romantic love "is what we
use as the basis for our marriage.
That's why we have a 50 percent
divorce rate," he said.
"Being 'in love' is a weak foun-
dation for marriage. And it's the
number one motivation for relation-
ships in this country," Davis said.
Romantic love "takes us into a
relationship with unreasonable expec-
tations. Most people go into the
relationship expecting other peopleto
make them happy. They expect to live
happily ever after. Then when they
find out the other person doesn't have

this capacity, they're disappointed.,
So they go out and find another person
(without reconsidering their
unreasonable expectations). That's
why second marriages end in divorce
more often than first marriages," he
"I think it's a big hype. We're hyped
to be in love. And we're victims of the
hype. But we never figure out what.
went wrong, where it fell apart," said
"Ultimately, I don't think happiness
can be found through another person.
Maybe in short little bursts. But
ultimately, the only person who can
make us happy is ourselves," he said.
"Arranged marriages probably
have a better chance of success (than
'choice' marriages)," he said.
"Bacause many peopie choose thrpartne,
they have all sorts of irrational expec-
tations. If the marriage is arranged,
their heads aren't filled with
irrational expectations. The expec-
tation level is low. And quite often the
couple ends up finding themselves in a
loving relationship with each other,"
he said.
"You might as well pick your par-
tner when you're blind drunk than
pick one when you're blind in love.
Your chances of success are about
even," he said.
Davis said when we are in love "we
project our own unrecognized traits
on to the love object. It's important
that these traits are positive," he
"For example, males in our society.
Since we are raised as males, we are
conditioned to repress our feminine
aspects, our softer parts. We project
those aspects onto a girl," he said.
"We think she's so great and so
feminine. And we admire our own
projected traits on her," he said We
want to be near our own unrecognized
traits. We want to be near her.
"And she does the same thing with the
male. She admires her own
unrecognized (masculine) traits on
us," he said.
"The person I fall in love with is
determined by the nature and com-
bination of the various traits I've
denied and repressed. The projected
traits fit better on some girls. The
ideal girl is the one they fit perfectly
on. She's the antithesis of what I am.
That's what leads to the saying 'op-
posites attract.'"
"My better half. That's the way a
lot of people refer to their mates. My
nicer parts that I've been forced by
the world to deny and project on to

another person," he said.
Though Davis believes "in love"
relationships can be "neurotic," they
can also blossom into loving ones.
"Love develops in a good number of
mature relationships. Once the 'in-
loveness' wears off, the two people -
If they are mature - can live together
and develop a healthy respect and
admiration for each other," he said.
Building a marriage on an "in
love" relationship is "like building a
house on a foundation of sand. The
foundation erodes inevitably. But
some mature peoplego on and try to
see through the times," he said.
Davis believes we often confuse
love and "in love" relationships.
"Basically, we run 'in love' and love
together. People can recognize the
difference when they see it. but when.
they think about it, they can't separate
Said Kersten: "Most people think
they can see the difference. But in-
fatuation is always defined as a past
love and the present love is the real
thing," he said. His wife, Karen Ker-
sten, agrees. "A lot of times, people
interpret romantic love as intimacy,"
said the U-M doctoral student.
Misinterpreting romantic love for
intimacy contributes greatly to
today's high divorce rate, said
Lawrence Kersten.
sity philosophy professor,
disagrees. "We can't assume people
loved each other more in the past," he
said. "Economic situations, and
moral and religious dissapproval of
divorce" may have kept people
together in the past, he said.
Forming loving relationships "is
particularly difficult in today's world
with changing conceptions of relation-
ships, gender, and relations with and
across gender. It's difficult to make a
relationship work well," he said.
"Love is active. And people are
somewhat more confused about what
they want and what others want and
what the relationship should be," he
''Even the term romantic love
changes through history... our con-
ceptions about love and what love is
change," he said "But there is
something constant underneath it. It
seems to reflect deephuman needs,"
he said. "We want to be loved by
people that we love," he said.
Edwin Thomas, professor of social
work and psychology, said there is
another dimension to love. "Love is a
very important concept and many
people believe in it," he said.
"But in addition to the belief in love,
what actually occurs are specific
things like sexual attraction,
chemical attraction involving the sen-
se of smell, the sensual qualities of
touch, verbal responsiveness, and
non-verbal responsiveness," he said.
"Very specific things occur
physiologically and psychologically
when one says one is in love," he
"Love has no meaning other than
these characteristics, which attract
or addict," he said.

South Quad's
Lonely Hearts

By Nancy Driscoll
"What really makes me sad is
when I walk home on a Saturday
night, alone in the rain, tired and
cold, and the chain on my door is
-A 56 Hall Bachelor
loneliness and jealousy all
semester, the bachelors of 56 Hall in
South Quad became cynical. The
group of 12 got together and talked
about their situations, or lack thereof.
Then they wrote out a list of the pros
and cons and concluded that
"relationships just aren't worth it."
They taped copies of their declaration
of independence on their doors and.
gave up on looking for love.
The bachelors say their club is not
exclusive. They say they are sym-
ptomatic of a campus-wide problem
that affects both sexes-lack of a
relationship. "It's been a long, cold
lonely winter," one says.
Although the bachlor's list con-
tained some good reasons to get in-
volved-like "love" and "someone to
talk to," the cons for outweighed the
"There's the high risk of getting a
social disease," one freshman said.
Another bachlor expanded on
reason number one, the high cost:
"You could buy two cases of Goebel
for the price of taking a girl to the
Other negative factors were
emotional: number two. on the list is
'stress', three is 'paranoia', and four
is 'arguments.' "You'd have to deal
with the girl's problems, and we're
carefree guys," one explained.
Reason number five on the plus side
for relationships is "little daily sur-
prises," but one club member said
that surprises were not welcome: "I'd
rather not be part of those little sur-

prises like 'Hi, I'm pregnant.'
"If the Marine Corps wanted me to
have a girlfriend they would have
issued me one," another freshman
Other reasons were 'losing touch
with other friends' and 'a limited
social life.'
"The bachelors are a cohesive
group. We feel a chick would get in the
way," one bachelor, half-jokingly ex-
The bachelors say they have
recognized there is more to life than a
steady date.
"We just can't be tied down. We
have to spread ourselves around,"
one says, who describes the hall's
social life as "one big bachelor par-
ty." ,
BUT HINTS of the truth are
revealed slowly, especially when
they break into a chorus of "Looking
for Love in All the Wrong Places."
Their self-proclaimed status isn't
really a choice. "It's kind of like a
curse" one admits.
"We've tried and tried," others say,
"We're just bewildered and lost."
One of the guys was featured as
Bachelor of the Month in the Jon Door
News of their sister hall, but even that
honor proved fruitless. "I only met
one girl in the elevator," said the
honoree. One member shouts about a
football player bachelor. "Dave is
living proof that the stereotype of
athletes being womanizing is com-
pletely false.''
"You know those little signs you
make up to tell your roommate to stay
out-we never had to make those up,"
one says.
"The bachelors cannot pinpoint the
reasons for their lonliness. "We're in-
credible looking guys," one says.
"There's a communication problem."
"The women in Bush (their sister
hall) really love us," one starts.
"LIKE BROTHERS," the group


There is, however, a glimmer of
optimism left in their voices.
"With spring coming I think I'm
due," one says. Another theorizes, "If a
quarter is thrown up, sooner or later
it's bound to land on its edge."
The bachelors remain clueless as to
where the women are, but one fresh-
woman familiar with the plight of Hall
56 exasperatedly exclaims, "We're
right down the hall."
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