Ask Dr. Tracy

Why People Love


As you've probably found in your own life, being "in love" doesn't necessarily mean you've found true, long-lasting love. Ideally, falling in love leads to long-lasting love, but most often that doesn't happen. Let's look at what's involved with being "in love" first, and then I'll come back to "True Love" below.

Falling In Love

Recent studies on love have come up with a revealing insight into the "in love" feeling. The studies found that:

In order to be in love, a person has to have their love returned somewhat, but not altogether, while having reason to hope that their love will be returned totally at some time in the future.

This discovery explains some of the most ancient and perplexing riddles of romantic relationships, such as why "playing hard to get" works, why "absence makes the heart grow fonder," and why being in love is different than long- lasting love.

It explains why men and women who treat the opposite sex with indifference are so popular. Why the person you don't really care that much about is the one who's mad for you, and the one you're dying for is not.

If you're indifferent to someone, you give them little dribs and drabs of attention out of boredom or pity, right? Now we know that's precisely the formula for keeping someone in love with you. Of course, acting indifferent is easy when you don't care. The hard part is acting indifferent when you do care a lot.

The new research findings help explain another key element of the "in love" feeling. We've known for a long time that fantasy is one of the most important ingredients of love. A person in love has what pyschologists call "aggrandizing" fantasies about the one they love.

Ask anyone who's in love to tell you about their beloved, and you'll hear about someone too wonderful to be true. You smile, reminded of the old expression, "love is blind." The old expression is true because everyone in love has a fantasized image of the person they love.

Lovers since love began have been portrayed as pining away somewhere plucking the petals from flowers and daydreaming about their love object. That classic portrayal meshes perfectly with the new research findings: if you want to be the love object, you have to give your lover time to think about you, to fantasize about you -- without you being there. If you're in their face constantly, they have no opportunity to develop an "aggrandized" image of you.

Some of my best relationships with desirable, sought-after men bloomed when I had to go away for a while or the man had to go somewhere soon after we met. The reason, of course, was that the separation gave us time to fantasize about each other.

Two months after I started dating my husband regularly, I went to Romania as a guest of the Romanian government to research youth treatments. He was left to worry about what I was doing gallivanting behind the Iron Curtain. Actually, my trip was sexless, but he imagined me cavorting with some Romanian Lothario the whole time I was gone.

He had plenty of time to miss me and fantasize about me. He even got a chance to overdose on other ladies. Since I wasn't around, I always came out more favorably than the competition. He had only the fantasy me to compare with the real them. Being unavailable actually helped make me seem more interesting and desirable.

Separation almost always makes the heart grow fonder, and this works later on in your relationship as well as in the beginning. Always plan some time apart. It's good to give your loved one a chance to miss you once in awhile.

If you've read "Are You Giving Too Much Too Soon?" and wondered why I made such a big point of not over-giving, perhaps some lightbulbs will be coming on right about now. I'll say it again: Giving Too Much Too Soon is the biggest mistake made by both men and women in the early stages of their relationships. And learning to pace your giving -- your availability, the "I love you's," the gifts -- is the hardest thing to learn.

Perhaps now, though, knowing why indifference works and "absence makes the heart grow fonder," you'll be more motivated to follow my advice about not giving too much too soon. If you're at the beginning of a relationship and haven't read the "Giving" articles, please do so; and in the meantime, promise me that:

You won't call him or her on the phone every single night just to chat. Skip a night or two. Call intermittently.

Don't send her every cute card you find.

Don't bake his favorite oatmeal raisin cookies for him on every visit.

Keep reminding yourself of the old adage, "Play hard to get." Only instead of playing hard to get, be hard to get!

The next time he asks you out, tell him you'd love to see him but you already have plans. If you've been asking her out three nights a week, cut it back to just one night for a week or so. That's exactly what you'd be doing if you were popular and busy. And that's just what he or she wants -- not someone easy to get that no one else wants.

Or, if someone is acting indifferent toward you, curb your natural inclination to try harder to please them. You know now that the way to make them stop acting indifferent is to act even more indifferent than they are.

If making someone fall in love with you isn't enough reason to "play hard to get," there are other reasons you shouldn't fall in love too quickly. One is because you need time to get to know someone before you fall in love. Falling in lust is understandable, but don't let your love be so blind that you ignore the checklists in "Qualifying Someone". Another reason to pace yourself is to let a little true love develop along with the lust and the "in love" feelings.

True Love

True, long-lasting love is built on trust, communication, and shared experiences. People who are deeply in love seem to somehow identify with the inner core of their mate -- they're "on the same wavelength." Even if it's been 50 years since they had the first "in love" feelings, they still look and act in tune. They sit alike, talk alike, finish each other's sentences.

It's like they're linked with a special, deep form of communication. If you've ever been deeply and mutually in love with someone, you've probably experienced this. It's a magical feeling, and it's wonderful when it happens as if by magic. But you don't have to wait passively, hoping that the magic happens. If you have someone who meets your Criteria and passes the checklists in "Qualifying Someone", you can do more than you might think to create this magic in your relationship.

Read "The Amazing Power of Mirroring", where you'll find the secrets of creating rapport with someone and building their trust in you. Then go on to "Inner Languages", where you'll find how you can deepen your relationship with him or her and start to develop the special, deep form of communication that's the basis of True Love. And don't miss "Love-Building Strategies", which describes techniques for strengthening the bond of your relationship.


Related Keywords: Love Strategies, Attracting, Making Love Grow, Giving Too Much



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