Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Break-up Busting 101: Love, Attraction, Need, and Lust

In part two of our Break-up Busting 101 series, we talk about the four basic reasons people get into relationships and how to know if you’re there for the right reasons or the wrong ones.

Welcome to Lesson 2 in our Break-up Busting 101 crash course. Today we’re going to talk about the reasons and emotions that cause people to come together in long-term relationships, how to identify them and distinguish between them, and most important of all, how to know if you’re in a relationship for the right or wrong reasons.

I write about this subject frequently because it is so vital to the success of anyone seeking a happy life in a relationship, and I want to write about it every day, because it is indeed the cornerstone of every well-rounded, well-matched, and happy relationship. These emotions, needs, and reasons are love, attraction, need, and lust. What happens if you confuse them? Did you know that they are different?

Unfortunately, most people don’t, and they are indeed not only different, but entirely independent of each other, as you are about to see. Thanks to Hollywood, poets, and poor grammar, among other things, many people use the word “love” in referring to all four of these very different and entirely unrelated conditions. Do you have any idea of the potential impact of such a mistake?

What if you feel as if you can’t live without somebody, which is need, and mistake that for “love,” which simply is “to value”? Will you be valued by someone whom you need, treat with jealousy and fear of losing them, causing you to try to control them and abuse them when they scare you? Hardly.

What if you are addicted to sex, and confuse the gratification it gives you with love, or if your sense of self-worth mistakenly comes from self-medicating your insecurities about your masculinity with frequent sex and marry someone thinking that the feeling you have will make the marriage work, when you don’t value the other person, and worse, don’t share their values? It’s a disaster that you can look around you and see every day, and an all-too-common cause of broken marriages.

Let’s stop with the what-if’s, since many may not see the difference at this point, and define these four conditions:

To love is to value, to hold in high regard. Over the years, dictionary writers have included the other three conditions in their listed definitions for love, not because it was correct, but because it had become prevalent in our language as everyone sought prudish euphemisms for emotions and conditions they did not want to name because they would then have to face them.

Lust is a purely physical, biologically-caused desire to engage in sexual acts with another person – any person. Lust can even be at least partially satisfied by masturbation because it is just physical. The orgasm (sometimes multiples are required) sets off a cascade of chemical reactions that ends the state of heightened sexual desire. Neither love nor attraction is required to experience lust; in can indeed by induced by oral or injected medication, including testosterone, the male sex hormone.

Attraction is also biologically-triggered, automatically and consistently, but it manifests as emotional excitement and desire for intimacy and sex with a specific person who has triggered it; engaging a person for whom you do not feel attraction will not fulfill the desire it creates, which differentiates it from lust. It is not, however, a feeling or indication of value, because a person can feel attraction for someone they literally despise, such as women who crave the attention of men who beat them and wait for them to come home for prison, telling themselves it will be different this time, or men who try to drink themselves to death or engage in other self-destructive behavior because they can no longer sleep with the wife that just left them and took everything he owned to boot.

Need is just that, a demand placed upon another person for something they have, usually their life. Where love is characterized by a strong feeling of happiness when with its object, and wanting the object of your love to be happy as well, looking forward to your next meeting, etc., need is characterized by a fear of losing another person, and thoughts center around what will happen if they are no longer in your life, creating an overwhelming concern for not being able to live without them. Where love causes one to do nice things for another and enjoy it, need causes one to either try to “buy off” someone with nice gestures or to overwhelm, manipulate, and/or control them, resenting them and the power they hold over one at some – if not all – times.

Not one of these four conditions is in any way related to or dependent upon another; any of the four can be experienced in the total absence of the other three. This blows a lot of poetic notions and language right out of the water, such as “making love,” “in love,” “love child,” etc., but that’s irrelevant. What is supremely relevant is that you must accept these conditions and their differences as they are, understand them, and appropriately create them, enjoy them, or guard against them (as in the case of need, lust, and at times, even attraction) in your own committed relationship or marriage:

Yes, you want to love and be loved. If you’re not valued by the person you value, or don’t value a person who values you, you’re mismatched, and doomed to a life of boredom and resentment at best, and most likely headed for conflict, resentment, affairs and divorce.

If you experience lust and indiscriminately desire sex with people outside your relationship, your partner may resent it tremendously, as you might if the shoe is on the other foot (not all people regard sex as exclusive to a single partner – “open relationships,” etc.). Such hedonistic desire and values can only work in a relationship where both partners share such a value structure and view of sex, and rarely if ever is it enough to support a relationship.

Attraction for your partner is a wonderful thing, as is having them attracted to you, but attraction outside the partnership can be disastrous in the same way and for the same reasons as lust, except it can be worse because of the emotional element that goes with attraction. A relationship without attraction between the partners is a simple friendship, and a boring one. Such a relationship with love but no attraction is the relationship where you hear about partners having affairs, saying, “I love my husband/wife dearly, but I need more.” That “more” is the excitement, fun, etc., that are created by attraction, and if they are missing, trouble’s coming or already upon you.

Need is bad for everybody. If you or your partner is being needy, the negative emotions described above will be present, especially in a codependent pair. If the symptoms of need are found, somebody needs to start an intense effort to increase self-esteem to a healthy level. If it can’t be done, the relationship is virtually doomed, and a “defensive exit” must be considered after all other options are exhausted. Partners want partners, not dependents, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say, “He was fun when we met, but he turned out to be so needy I just couldn’t stomach him,” or men say, “Well, she waited on me hand and foot, and that was the problem. It wasn’t because she cared that much about me, it was that she was that insecure and just smothered me to death.”

Gentlemen (and Ladies!) I know many of you may be thinking that this is a load of crappy opinion and that it doesn’t work that way for you, but it’s not. It works this way for everyone, and unfortunately, many are unable to see it until so much damage has been done that they are forced to drop all pretenses in a last-ditch effort to salvage and redeem their lives. Don’t let this happen to you. Accept reality and make the choice to use it to your advantage in fixing and enhancing your relationship instead of fighting it while your relationship continues to come apart. It’s not hard to do when you know how.

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It’s so profound and works so well that even people who may not be intending to pay for it are deciding it’s worth every penny. Read the writing on the wall, make the choice to take responsibility and improve your life and relationship, and take charge by getting your copy today at http://www.makingherhappy.com. Life really is too short to spending it wishing you had answers when they are this readily available and affordable.

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