Heads Up!

ON LOVE

MARY E. HOTVEDT, C.M.F.T., PH.D. President, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

When clients ask, usually with a touch of sarcasm, "What is love?" I try to understand the underlying circumstances. Have they equated love with unconditional acceptance and so become paralyzed by feelings of resentment? Or has love been so highly conditional for them that they are unable to tolerate another's idiosyncrasies and imperfections, expecting instead that the perfect person would enable them to open themselves to love? By contrast, some couples struggle to stay current and honest with each other. They can trade off on giving and taking, accept their own and their mate's imperfections even laugh about them--and cherish the complexity of their lives together. They never ask, "What is love?" I think they know.

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MICHAEL W. ROSS, PH.D., M.P.H., M.H.P.Ed. President, Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality

Many psychologists distinguish between "passionate love" (an intense longing for union and strong physiological arousal) and "companionate love" (a deep attachment and commitment to an intimate partner). Sexologist John Money draws the line between love and lust: "Love exists above the belt, lust below. Love is lyrical. Lust is lewd." There is general agreement on the intensity of the experience of love and lust, which often become separate entities about six months into a relationship. Culture and society, however, provide a heavy overlay, and definitions can vary across gender, age, culture and class, among other variables.

ELIZABETH S. RADCLIFFE, PH.D. Executive Director, American Philosophical Association

Love between human beings is the emotional bond of those who find meaning and value in the same aspects of life. Although one can love parents and siblings without sharing their perspectives, ideal familial love is based on common values too. Romantic love can spring from infatuation and sexual attraction alone, but the deepest love between partners depends on shared emotional resonance over features of life they both consider most significant. The irony of this loving relationship--commonly identified as friendship--is that the two persons often find their common value while searching for value itself; they discover themselves in a meeting of minds engaged in the same quest.

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