On How Much Love has to do with it: Romance in the absence of convenience
Posted by: Ted D. Davis; Contact: TedtoWORK69@gmail.com
English poet Geoffrey Chaucer announced the day of romantic celebration known as Valentine’s Day in his 1375 poem “Parliaments of Foules”, saying, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day/Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate”. Simply put, the day is a celebration of the day that every guy chooses the girl he calls his valentine. How significant is that? With the incidence of divorce for first time marriages still hovering around 50%, a statistic that has remained constant in the last forty years or so, it’s extremely important for a guy to pick a girl who he more than likely will remain married to, if in fact that’s the actual point of marriage. Likewise, with sales of Valentine’s Day gifts predicted to reach approximately 27.4 billion dollars (an increase of 6.7 billion from 2019), the most prominent of which are sales of big ticket items like jewelry, a smart guy would prefer to spend his money on a woman that he sincerely loves and enjoys his life with. The question then begs, “Why do we choose the people we choose to love, how important is giving, and can love last in an environment where limited financial resources may prevent giving”? The answers could inform happier and more fulfilled Valentines Days and all days in love going forward.
Our brains are hardwired to fall in love, feel bliss, crave romance and pleasure, bond and procreate. “Feel-good” neurochemicals, in particular Dopamine, flood the brain at each stage of lust, attraction, and attachment providing a natural high that Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT observes, “can be as addictive as cocaine”. These feelings are deepened by the neurochemical Oxytocin that is released during orgasm while having sex, which is linked to bonding, trust, and loyalty in love relationships. The specific psychology that we develop during childhood contributes significantly as well. Our feeling of self-worth, mental health, emotional health, experiences, and familial influences all play a part in who we find ourselves attracted to. The good and bad experiences that we have growing up shape our choices in mates, making people more or less attractive to us. Research shows that we tend to be most attracted to those who share commonality with us, and those whose thinking and behavior remind us to a greater or lesser degree of members of our family. For example, if a woman’s father is a successful attorney, the likelihood is that she will be attracted to attorneys or other high powered professional people.
While love does tend to blind us, conjuring admiration of those we love, exploration of their interests (even when they aren’t ours), and the tendency to overlook the things that we don’t like about them, it can also enhance our own lives by waking parts of our personality that laid dormant. This is referred to as the “Ideal” stage of love. It can cause us to feel more masculine or feminine, more compassionate, caring, more willing to try new things, and thus more alive because we’ve shed our natural constrictions. However, if we struggle with self-worth or are depressed we are more likely idealize our partner and ignore signs of questionable character such as addiction, or accept abuse from them because romantic neurochemicals lift our mood and fuel codependency when we seek to end our loneliness. Lancer says that when we are unhappy and/or lack a support system we “might rush into a relationship and become attached quickly before really knowing our partner”, referred to as a rebound or transitional relationship, which should be avoided if possible because recovery is essential for a healthy future.
After six months or so we enter the “Ordeal” stage of love, wherein we learn the traits our partners possess that displease us. We discover habits and flaws that we find undesirable, and traits that initially attracted us to them become displeasing. His tendency to hold the door for others becomes annoying to his lover, her decisiveness is interpreted as too aggressive by hers, and the unbridled honesty that one initially admired is then seen as rude. Here, the sheen wears off and both partners start to revert back to their natural way of being, though one or both longs for the bliss they had. Two things happen at this stage: One, for fear of losing our lover we withhold our feelings and needs, which kills intimacy, the catalyst for the love we share. Then resentment creeps in, we become passive-aggressive, and romance fades. Two, we start to complain and we begin to try to change our partner into who they were when we first met them. They ultimately feel controlled and pull away.
In this way we begin to recreate the behaviors we observed in our parents relationships, a desire to fix others that Lancer says is, “unconsciously…contributing to the problem, because they’re reacting to an abusive or controlling parent”. Change is required in order to heal the past and overcome lack of self-worth and shame so that we will feel worthy of appreciation and love. We can then get past the ordeal stage that enables us to fearlessly communicate our needs and wants, share our feelings, compromise, and resolve conflict so that we can accept or appropriately reject our partner. We become empowered lovers and people.
With that blueprint to follow, success in love should be highly sustainable. Among the myriad factors that can ruin a relationship, money is among the most prominent. Female recording artists as relevant as Gwen Guthrie and Meghan the Stallion have rapped and sang about the tenets of “no romance without finance”, and male artists as prominent as 50 Cent have posed the question of whether a woman’s love can flourish if he “flips burgers at Burger King”. The question then begs, “Can love survive in the absence of convenience”? Does the culture of love acknowledge those affairs that are void of Instagram extravagance and sheen, and is the traditional vow of “for richer or for poorer” still valid?
In general, more money makes up happier. Research conducted by University of Michigan researchers Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson, based on a Gallup poll from 2008 to 2012 and published in a December 2017 Huffington Post piece, challenges the previous notion that once basic needs are met, more wealth fails to contribute to happiness. Early theory in this field of study, which began in the 1970s, concludes that when Americans attain an annual salary of $75,000.00 per year, they no longer reported greater happiness. Wolfers assesses that if an increase in income doesn’t make us happy, any rich person would essentially be an idiot and, “if more money was not associated with more happiness, we would stop working”. In comparison, among participants in thirteen other countries, the average income that produces optimal happiness is $161,000.00. Overall, more money typically equates to more happiness.
To that end, Discover’s 2016 Valentine’s Day survey found that 40% of respondents seek a romantic partner who they find fun and adventurous while just 19% desired a partner who is financially fit. What was more prominent than money was looks, at 29%. Those percentages do increase significantly once relationships creep toward marriage. 59% of Respondents in serious dating relationships considered their partner’s financial fitness vital, a figure that jumped to 82% once engaged. Fortunately if not practically, just 11% of dating couples discuss finances on a weekly basis, which could necessarily aid in preserving relationships by eliminating tension, while 44% of engaged couples discuss money weekly. To be certain, money is of practical importance in any love relationship. Says Lana Reid, author and host of the syndicated talk show Don’t Box Me In, “Let’s face it, even if you don’t require fancy dates or lavish trips, you still need gas or bus fare to get to your honey and spend quality time”. Moreover, she advises that a fun person with a healthy take on life is essential to endure any lean financial times that arise.
Proponents of fun being the priority say that for them it’s essential. Floyd N. Keller, national director at the North American Sports Federation in the Iron Sports Division says that, “Your finances can fluctuate, and if your relationship is dictated by finances, then so will your good and bad times”. Florida therapist Joan Fradella says that real relationship compatibility comes from personally-driven themes rather than finance, and that couples need to know whether they can have fun together more than how financially compatible they are. She says that if you can’t have fun together there’s no basis for continuing to see one another, but if you have fun together and are financially compatible you’ll likely have a lot of fun because of the balance you achieve together. New York City-based relationship therapist April Masini agrees that balance is the key in order to make a long-term relationship work. She says that, “If you want to have the kind of fun that requires financial resources, you need to be able to pay your bills, know your assets and deficits and be able to save up for something really fun because you know that long term fun requires a secure money background”. Therefore, long-term relationship happiness requires the ability to have a good time together and sustain yourself financially.
Ultimately, we attract those who treat us the way we expect to be treated, and as we learn to value ourselves more, the people that we find attractive will change and we’ll avoid choosing people who don’t treat us well or meet our needs. We’ll be better equipped to find and relish truly Happy Valentines. Here are a few tips from Lancer on how to get and keep love:
- Know yourself, your needs, and your limits.
- Take time to get to know the person you’re dating. Learn who they really are and how you both resolve conflict.
- Remember that sex releases oxytocin and increases bonding (though it can occur without it.)
- Be honest from the start. Don’t hide who you are, including your needs. Speak up when you dislike something.
- Talk honestly about what you want and your expectations in a relationship. If the other person doesn’t want the same things, end it. (This may not be easy, but the relationship wouldn’t have worked or satisfied you).
- Research shows that relationships are predictable based on partner’s self-esteem. Self-worth is vital to a relationship because it enables one to receive love and reject abuse.
- Learn to be assertive to express your feelings, needs, and wants and set boundaries.
Happy Valentines Day!
Lancer, JD, MFT, Darlene. (2018 October 8). The Psychology of Romantic Love. PsychCentral.
Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-psychology-of-romantic-love/
Fairchild, Caroline. (2017 December 6). More Money Always Leads To More Happiness: Study.
HuffPost. Retrieved from: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/money-and-happiness-study_
O’Connell, Brian. (2016 February 9). What Comes First In a Romantic Relationship, Fun or
Finances? TheStreet. Retrieved from: https://www.thestreet.com/personal-finance/what-