In 1993 Tina Turner released her mega-hit What’s Love Got to Do with It, which would become her first #1 song since the 1970’s. As the chorus of this song is now likely to be playing itself over and over in your head, a somewhat serious question has planted itself in my head:
What the hell was that song about?
I mean it.
Love is a “second hand emotion”? Could anything be more wrong?
Don’t believe me? OK, let’s look at the chorus-Tina sings:
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second-hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken…
Well, I still don’t have much of a clue as to what Tina was trying to say. Fortunately, I have been able to learn some things about love, especially love in romantic relationships that might be helpful for all of us whether we are currently in romantic relationships, or are now in a “preparation phase” for one.
For those of us who have been fortunate to be in a romantic relationship, one that we can remember feeling “in-love”, we are more than likely to have experienced a point in our relationship where we were absolutely head-over-heels for the object of our affection. Some call this period of a relationship infatuation. Scholars call it limerence.
Whatever you call it, you probably remember that time when that special someone in your life consumed just about every thought and warm feeling that you could muster.
This unparalleled experience that occurs in just about every romantic relationship is spurred on by the excessive release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and phenylethylamine (also known as PEA).
These brain chemicals are responsible for creating a temporary phase in our relationships where we develop what relationship experts call a prolonged state of positive sentiment override. This is the period when the objects of our affection can pretty much do and say no wrong (such as pick us up for a date in the world’s ugliest car).
This period of ultimate love typically lasts from 18 to 36 months before we return to reality and the errors of our love’s ways are no longer distorted by our temporary rose-colored lenses.
It has been said that “Limerence creates families… but love keeps families together”
Without limerence it is very likely that there would be many fewer families. And without love it is very likely that fewer families would stay in-tact.
As a marriage therapist I often am sought out to help couples to find reconciliation with their relationship problems. Couples who come to me for marriage counseling might complain to me about one another’s behavior, problems with communication, and feeling stuck in conflict. Sometimes my clients come to me with the expectations that I will serve as their coach, showing them all of the X’s and O’s of how to navigate their problem areas and move quickly into a state of marital and relational bliss reminiscent of when they first fell for each other…
The reality of my experience as a marriage therapist is that most couple issues are multi-layered, like an onion. Typically, once my couples and I begin to work on some of the symptoms of their dysfunction, we then begin to peel back at least a few layers of discontent before getting to the core of the issue.
On the surface couples may looking to find reconciliation for problems like arguing, poor conflict resolution or problems with sex. Ultimately, after peeling back a few symptomatic layers of discontent, couples find a few common themes as the true roots of most marital discord.
The most common issue found at the root of these problems is the need for three crucial components found in adult romantic relationships: Security, Safety and Connectedness.
Psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Sue Johnson sums up this phenomenon stating that what couples seek when they come to counseling is to find more love in their relationships.
What researchers have found is that when couples get into a pattern of marital discord, resulting in anything from inability to get along to outright disdain for one another, at the root cause is a disruption in the ability to connect with their partner in key areas that promote the necessary components of romantic relationships: Safety, Security and Connectedness.
In the eight years that I have spent as a therapist I have learned that everyone has a unique story. Our stories are what make up who we are.
All of the good.
All of the bad.
All of the joys.
And all of the pain.
And it is by exploring our stories that we find genuine love and intimacy with our partners. Security, Safety and Connectedness are found here as well.
Tina was wrong. Love has everything to do “with it”.
Love, that strangest of emotions, draws us to one another and brings us a joy incomparable. Yet, love can bring us pain like no other emotion. Fortunately, in our romantic relationships we can cultivate love, through the sharing and exploration of our stories with our partners. This becomes a place of safety, security and connection where we find our deepest needs met and our relationships fulfilled.