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Bonny Albo

Is Long Term Romantic Love a Learned Skill?

By October 30, 2013

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In 2002, the then-editor of Psychology Today, Robert Epstein, PhD, shared a bold, daring experiment he was in the midst of undertaking: finding a stranger to write a book with, called, "The Love You Make: How We Learned To Love Each Other, and How You Can Too." The pair would create a love contract, complete with a commitment to date no one else, undergo intensive counseling, and read a tremendous amount about love, dating and relationships, with a focus on arranged marriages and those that actually create love.

I've searched everywhere for the book or some mention of the results and discovered there's now a TV show in the works instead. Regardless, one quote from the aforementioned editorial gave me pause:

"In 1998, some friends of David Weinlick, a graduate student in Minnesota, set out to find him a wife. An advertising campaign generated 25 applications, and then a party was held where he interacted with the five finalists. His friends selected the winner, and the unlikely pair was married on the spot. Ridiculous, yes? Funny thing is, they're still married and doing fine, and their second child is due in November."

As a single woman, I have to admit these kinds of stories get me sitting up and taking notice, and not just at the adventurousness of the participants. Is romantic love, the lifelong kind, the one that helps us stay together through thick and thin, a learned skill - and can any of us use this kind of "ridiculous" data to better our own relationships? What do you think? Would you participate in this kind of research or experiment if it helped you find love, or at the very least, "taught" you how to love?

Reference: Editor as Guinea Pig - Putting Love To the Real Test by Robert Epstein, Psychology Today, June 2002.

Related: Can We Fall Back in Love Again?, Am I Ready To Fall in Love?, Keeping the Love Alive in Long Distance Relationships.

October 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm
(1) Victor @ NextDate411.com says:

I agree with you. Sometimes dating is like a skill that everyone can have it. It’s just matter of time and circumstances. I love the example of the graduate student in Minnesota. That’s amazing and somewhat similar to arranged marriages. It’s like you don’t fall in love before marriage… it’s just matter of skill that you learn when it comes your way to handle the relationship… Good example :)

November 1, 2012 at 2:40 am
(2) Lynette says:

As a single woman, I would participate in such a research if it would help find love AND teach the ‘skill’ of dating and love.

November 1, 2012 at 2:46 am
(3) Dee says:

My wife had an affair, after 16 years of marriage, last year with a guy that she met by “chance”. She moved out and moved in with this guy. Yes, it was traumatic for me and the pain was unbearable.
During our separation she still kept in touch with me and showed that she still cared for me. Things did not work out to well between them and she eventually moved out again and stayed with her mother for a while. She now since has moved back with me, but the guy she was seeing committed suicide soon afterwards.
She still misses him dearly and cries for for him. She is still in love with him.
Now, there are a few questions regarding love that comes up. I loved, and still do, even after she hurt me, and our family so badly, to take her back. Is that love? Is that the type of love that can be learnt?
What she felt and what she went through with her lover, is that love? That love was not “leant” by her, they met, they fell in love and had an affair.
What I have learnt through all of this is, if you do not love someone, you simply don’t love them. If you in love with someone, you can’t make them love you, no matter what you try. I think what can be learnt is compatibility and compassion. From that love might grow into something. Then there is passion. What is passion? Is it purely a sex driven desire to be with the person? Is it something that can be learnt? I don’t thin so. My wife said she still loves me, but there is no more passion, there is no more fire. Can that be learnt between to people?

November 1, 2012 at 7:48 am
(4) James says:

The idea of arranged marriages never seemed quite right to me. We learn about love from our parent’s example or from someone close to us.

One problem does exist for so many people is among those who were never shown love or compassion. Sometimes in public you witness a young mother with a crying child. The mother doesn’t seem to know how to comfort the child to get it to stop crying. So she simply tells the child to shut up yelling at it to stop crying. Obviously this mother was never shown love herself so she doesn’t seem to know how to give it. And now it seems to be passing it along from generation to generation. Somewhere along the line someone will have to come forward and show these people compassion.

Back to romantic love. In growing up, I seemed to not have any close friendships with anyone, not that I didn’t try. So I really wondered if I was ever going to be married since I was out of practice of having any real friends to start with. Now I am in my 60s. I can think of maybe 3 or 4 women who would just love to have a relationship with me, if I were available. Yes, I am married. 3 children, 3 grandchildren with a 4th on the way. My marriage was not arranged by any means and I’m glad.

November 7, 2013 at 5:34 pm
(5) John says:

I think long term dating is definitely a learnt skill. We all have the instinct of falling in love with someone who seems to be “the One” but we all know that after a while there will always be things we don’t like and that’s where experience gets important. I think in the end what we need to learn is to be mature enough to make a relationship last. We also get to learn from our mistakes in our past relationships.

We learn romantic relationships just like we learn professional relationships, just like we learn how to become good parents, etc. We were born with instincts but in society (and in a couple) instinct is not enough and the success relies on skills, experience and maturity.

December 2, 2013 at 12:28 am
(6) Jane says:

Hi, this is a problem that I really need advise on, and I’m new to this whole website so if I posted this in the wrong spot, I’m terribly sorry, but I just really need help right now… I feel very strongly for my boyfriend, but the thing is I don’t think about how he might feel (actually, its more like I didn’t think it would hurt him, but that’s similar) and even though I do put him in priority, when I get distracted (like say, reading a book) I wouldn’t concentrate fully on our text conversations. However he is very very important to me, he means the world to me… So what am I feeling? Do I love him, or is this something else? s it possible that we need to learn how to love, or is it something that we automatically know how to do once we really love someone? Is is possible that I love him, but I don’t know how to?

February 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm
(7) Zed says:

Love sneaks up on us.

Isn’t love a bit like a plant?

We can’t make a plant what it is. And we can’t choose who we love.

But we can provide an environment where the plant / love flourishes.

My partner and I are very much in love. Have been for some time. And we are careful to do those things that help it grow. We have examined those attitudes and habits we had that sabotaged earlier relationships and let them go. While we consciously cultivate loving habits: Little gifts. Words of encouragement. Touching. Trust.

By the way we are from different demographics different cultures different race different age different religion. So it stays interesting.


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