What’s Your Passionate Love Score?!

Bachelorette: “I’m veeeeeeery in love. I feel giddy and blissful and excited and my heart feels really really really joyful and happy and at ease when I think about Jake and I’m in love and I’m happy and I really really trust Jake with my vagina heart and [I want to] kiss him for hours and hours and hours and I just really really really really love being in love.”

Bachelor: “Umm….we have had such an amazing time getting to know each other (read: sexually) and there are so many things I love to do to you about you. I do love you and your ass is you’re just perfect.”

Bachelorette: [Cue beauty queen tear-fest]

Bachelor: “But …..ummmm….. Something doesn’t feel right.”

Bachelorette: [Cue devastation]  Wait for it….

Passionate love is a wildly powerful emotion that is experienced as intense longing for the selected love object, along with profound sexual arousal and confused feelings. As viewers witness each week on TV shows like The Bachelor, it can either be a blissful experience if the love is reciprocated, or a painful experience if the love is ignored.

Passionate love—also sometimes referred to as romantic love—involves a mix of a pounding heart, a choking sensation in the throat, sweating palms, and a constricting sensation in the chest.

The emotional manifestations of passionate love include idealizing the romantic partner, an intense sexual attraction, a surge of self-confidence, adoration of the love interest, and an all-consuming, selfless desire to do whatever you can for the love interest.

In short, it’s the love-struck stuff that reality TV shows are made of—but not what long-lasting marriages are made of.  Passionate love starts very quickly and often leads to what we think of as “love at first sight.”

Romantic love almost always occurs as the result of an attraction to some physical trait, like his thighs-that-could-crack-a-walnut or her so-tight-you-can-bounce-a-quarter-off-of-it rear end.

Sure, physical attraction is an important element in any love relationship—but it’s not a factor in whether the relationship will last or not.  You see, with passionate love there usually aren’t a whole lot of other things we love about that particular person.  We don’t really love that person…we only love being a attracted to a certain part of that person.

When the attraction to the particular body part begins to wane (or when we become attracted to someone else’s equally tantalizing body parts), so too does the “love.” No surprise there.

Are you in love with someone now, or have you been in love? Go hereto determine your Passionate Love score!  Come back and post your results!


Photo Credit:  Justin Bugsy Sailor (flickr.com)

Chocolate Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

What is love, actually? What is the basis of the giddy, walking-on-air feelings we experience when we fall in love? Recent advances in science may reveal the answer.

The initial feelings of love don’t have much to do with romance, but instead have more to do with functions of the brain. Information between brain neurons is communicated by the movement of certain chemicals—neurotransmitters—across areas of the brain. When we begin to fall in love, the “high” we experience is the result of the release of these neurotransmitters.

When two people are attracted to one another, the brain becomes flooded with a gush of neurotransmitters that mimic amphetamines (commonly referred to as “uppers”). The neurotransmitter culprits are dopamine, which makes us feel good, norepinephrine, which causes pounding hearts and racing pulses, and PEA (phenylethylamine), which causes feelings of excitement and euphoria.  (Did you know that, because chocolate has PEA, it has long been rumored to promote passionate love between lovers?)

The neurotransmitters then signal the pituitary gland (located in the region of the brain known as the hypothalamus) to release a multitude of hormones that rapidly flood the bloodstream. The sex glands, in turn, release even more hormones into the bloodstream.

It’s the combination of the flood of neurotransmitters in the brain and the subsequent release of the hormones into the bloodstream that allow new lovers to make love all night or talk for hours on end.

When these chemicals are produced over a period of time, people interpret the physical sensations as “falling in love.”

Love, actually, is a cocktail of neurochemicals. Who knew?!

Source: Welch, Kelly (2010). Family Life Now.

Photo Credit: Verity Walsh (flickr.com)

Lust? Love? Or Love That Lasts?

1978. South Padre Island. Spring break. Size [much smaller than I am now]. Sun and sand and surf. Shoulder to shoulder college students. And all I could think about was, “Do I love Dave?”

Not the oh-my-gosh-he’s-so-slammin’-hawt kind of love. That kind of love gripped me the first time I saw him (1976. At a high school debate tournament. I beat him.).

The question I struggled with during that infamous spring break trip was, Did I love him with a marriage kind of love?  The kind of love that lasts? (Not that he was even considering marriage at that point….but a gal has to be prepared, right?)

On that trip, one afternoon I happened to have a pool-side conversation with an elderly woman. When I asked her how she knew her husband of 50+ years was “the one,” she said something like, “When you see his face in the clouds and hear his voice in the wind, you’ll know.”

I’ll looked up to the sky. Nope. Nothing.

I tilted my head into the wind. Zilch. Zippo. Thanks, Grandma Moses.

So, how do we know if what we’re experiencing is love—or love that lasts? For decades, researchers have studied the different experiences of love, and they’ve determined that there are basically two kinds:

  • Passionate Love: This love is a wildly powerful emotion that is fueled, in part, by chemicals in the brain and by hormones. The intense sexual attraction and the all-consuming desire for the other person are the hallmarks of this bow-chicka-bow-bow kind of love.
  • Companionate Love: This love is a deep, tender, mature, affection for a love partner. Unfolding gradually over time, this love develops between partners who have known each other long enough to have acknowledged and accepted all of the failings, faults, shortcomings, oddities, and quirks of each partner—and still like them.

Hang out this week, and you’ll learn the differences between lust and the I-forever-I-do kinds of love.

Have you ever wondered if your partner was “the one?”  How did you determine if she/he was or wasn’t? Or was?
Photo Credit: flickr.com

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Attachmentis a developmental phase that we never outgrow.

Our experiences with early attachment relationships to our parents become the foundation on which all future love relationships are built—both our ability to love others, and to allow others to love us in return.

There are different classifications of adult love relationships:

·Secure attachment types: Like securely attached infants, secure adults have little difficulty seeking and maintaining closeness (physical, emotional, affectional) with another. They don’t fear being abandoned or losing their partner. They allow others to get close to them and depend on them. They experience enduring, happy, warm, trusting relationships.

·Avoidant attachment types: Avoidant types feel as though they never find “real” love. They are uncomfortable when too emotionally or physically close to another person. They show discomfort with intimacy and are hesitant to trust others. They find it difficult to allow themselves to depend on others.

·Anxious/ambivalent attachment types: Insecurity is the hallmark of this adult attachment type—it is not a matter of if a romantic partner leaves them, but when. With the constant fear or worry that the partner isn’t really in love with them, anxious/ambivalent adults cling to their partner and push for commitment. They may also withdraw and pull away before they get rejected.

What is your adult attachment style?  Take the quiz here!

Now that you have an understanding of your attachment type, reflect on how this understanding of “love” affects your marriage or your intimate relationship.

In what ways does this help you to better understand and appreciate your love map? How does it help you to better understand and appreciate your partner’s unique love map?

Photo Credit: Northern Star (flickr.com)

“No Matter What” Kind of Sex


Remember earlier I told you that research shows us that nearly 3 out of 4 marriages end in divorce when a woman becomes seriously ill? Other research might also help to explain why some marriages can’t survive the “worse” in those for-better-or-worse marriage vows.

I spent the better part of two years studying what happens to a woman’s body image and sexual response following a breast cancer diagnosis and/or a mastectomy. Like many other researchers before me, I found that breast cancer is intricately linked to body image in some way for most women (in 93 of the 110 women I studied).

When I did my PhD internship at a breast cancer center, I discovered that the breasts-are-sexuality-femininity connection for women is so significant that many women who needed a mastectomy yesterday to save their lives, refused to do so—primarily because they were so afraid that losing a breast (or breasts) meant that they would also lose their sexuality and femininity. Or their husband.

I vividly recall when one woman in her 30s looked at her husband in desperation and said, “Will you still love me if I’m not pretty?”

But losing a breast isn’t just about appearance and sex to women—it’s about a sense of being whole, about self-esteem, about body image….essentially, it’s about losing their identity.

(WARNING: You are about to see photographs of post-mastectomy women. Please do not read further if you believe these images will disturb you or cause uneasiness.

I include these images so that you can see the reality of breast cancer, and why recovering physically, mentally, and emotionally can be a very, very long process. I also include the images so that you can see why it’s so tough for marriages and sex to survive after an illness like this—and why teaching women to be sexual objects for their husbands can be potentially dangerous to their marriages.) [Read more...]

Boobless and….Well…..Still Boobless

This is a lengthy one, so grab your pumpkin spice latte and settle in.

There are a lot of studies out there that have looked at how stress and severe illnesses like breast cancer affect marriages or intimate relationships.

The news isn’t good. Of course, there are many factors that contribute to whether a marriage or an intimate relationship succeeds or fails in times like this (well, or even in times not like this), but a number of the studies show that the divorce rate during or after a serious illness is over 70 percent. Folks, that’s nearly 3 out of 4 marriages that tank after a health crisis.

If you know anything about me, you know that I hate divorce.

Hate it.

I hate what it does to men and women. I hate what it does to kids. I hate what it does to society. I didn’t have divorced parents—but I have taught over 31,000 students and have spoken to college students across this country, and I know what they struggle with. And when I write the books, I read hundreds and hundreds of research articles about divorce. There’s no way to pretty it up. And I refuse to be politically correct about it.

<You’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up now instead of talking about breast cancer.>

Here’s my point. If marriage really is about through-good-times-and-bad-and-in-sickness-and-in-health-and-when-life-is-stormy-and-when-it’s-quiet—WHY oh WHY do 70 percent of marriages fail in the bad times?

Because this is what happens when we reduce love to something that we do, instead of experiencing it as a part of who we are.

Are you starting to get me, where I’m coming from?

If you do love, you react certain ways when things happen. When you are love, nothing changes. You’re unmovable. You’re steadfast. Rock. Solid.

When I got my diagnosis, I literally couldn’t breathe—I couldn’t gasp in, I couldn’t breathe out. Everything came to a screeching halt. And that’s because no one in my family had ever survived it. I was petrified, and I had good reason to be.

But I had one thing that a lot of women don’t have: A husband who loved me right where I was.

Not the superficial bring-me-a-cup-of-coffee-or-rub-my-back-when-I-don’t-ask-for-it kind of love. But a kind of love that accepted and embraced my weaknesses.




One day Dave helped me into the bathroom (okay, you gotta admit that’s a different kind of love altogether). He made a phone call, a phone call he didn’t expect me to overhear. He called my doctor.

I didn’t listen to the entire conversation. But I did hear him say—broken, sobbing uncontrollably, begging—“Please. Please. I just want my wife back. Just promise me you can give me my wife back. I can’t keep watching her go through this. Please.”

<This is the point where, if I were talking to you in person, I would almost be am pleading with you to understand what I’m trying to say. And I would be am crying.>

I didn’t even need to hear his words. All I needed to hear was the emotion behind his words to know that he. loved. me. with a kind of love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. The kind of love that never fails.

Don’t you see? That’s what this entire blog experience is all about. To teach you, to show you, what I know about love…from a research viewpoint…from a personal experience viewpoint…from reality. To somehow get the message out that love is more than a dare.

And to understand that love is more than a promise.

I want you to experience the kind of love that withstands [the early death of a parent or the death of a child or mental illness or a job loss or bad in-laws or money troubles or rebellious teens or cancer or arguing or a horrible job] anything the world throws at it. The no matter what kind of love.

And over the next few weeks I hope to show you how to get this kind of love—so when you do bring your partner a cup of coffee, it’s out of that rock solid love place in your heart.

A couple of days ago, I said that my breast cancer experiences were as much about love as they were anything else.

I mean let’s be real. When all was said and done, nothing changed the fact that I was boobless and, well…..still boobless.

But even though my body didn’t make it through the experiences unscathed, my marriage did. Our love did.

And that’s a victory in and of itself.

Boobless But Not Broken

It’s Pinktober. That most wonderful time of the year, National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The time of year when you can’t find a roll of white toilet paper at Target, much less an orange M&M or an Oreo with white icing.

That time of year where people everywhere remind people everywhere else that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.

To be perfectly pinkly correct, I thought it might be a good idea to take a little detour to share something with you about my life. But as I sit here and think about it, we’re not really going off course at all….because what I have to share with you is as much about love, intimacy, sex, and relationships as it is anything else.

I’m the boobless girl behind the pink ribbons.

Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with DCIS, an intraductal breast carcinoma. I was 36-years-old. At the time I had four boys all under the age of 12, and I had just begun work on my PhD. And just two years prior to my diagnosis, I buried my mother who died of cancer (at the age of 57). Her sister died from breast cancer at the age of 39, her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 52, and a cousin, diagnosed with breast cancer just a few months after me, died at the age of 43.

Talk about a crappy roll of the genetic dice.

Ironically, it all started on a perfectly pink October day. And once it started, it was a runaway train…..

I found a lump and went to the doctor and he said “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, I’m the doctor and I’ll do the worrying for you, come see me in 6 months,” and I thought “You’re crazy, I just buried my mom you [expletive], I’m not waiting!” so I found another doctor and [skip forward about 4 months of maaaaaaany tests and scans and needles and oh-so-painful biopsies but I still needed to be a good parent and an “A” student and a good little Christian who counted it all joy] she said, “Come into the kiss and cry room and I’ll give you the dreaded diagnosis, the diagnosis I know you know is coming because you saw my face when I drew the fluid out of your breast,” and so Dave and I sat in the low-lit room that had nothing but a box of Kleenex on the table, and we looked at each other and knew and she came in and said, “Both breasts need to be removed immediately to save your life!” and she expected us to cry but we didn’t even need the Kleenex because we were so dumbfounded and confused nothing made any sense so there were no tears and she explained how the breasts that fed all of my babies and gave my husband and I so much pleasure would be “removed” and how the surgical “procedure” would take about 12 hours and how the treatments would start about 4 weeks after the “procedure” and I had the “procedure” and the pain was indescribable and parenting and loving and living with 12 glass drain tubes and two IVs and 100s of stitches was ridiculously unbearable and insanely hilarious all at the same time and like every woman who had cancer before me, and every woman who has had or will have it since me, we took it minute by minute and sometimes we were incredibly strong and other times we were incredibly weak but we did it.

Whew.  We did it.  And that’s what Pinktober is all about.

Boobless, but not broken.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll share what we learned about love through the process.
(Which, ironically, in Gaelic means “Warrior Princess.” In breast cancer survivor speak it means “bad ass”!!!)

So Simple a Cave[woman] Can Do It? Parenting Like Cavemen

Did Fred & Wilma Flintstone and Barney & Betty Rubble know something about parenting that we don’t?  According to University of Notre Dame psychology professor, Darcia Narvaez, our ancestors knew a thing or two about raising happy, healthy kids.

Narvaez, who focuses her research on the importance of a child’s first three years as foundational to their overall personality and character development, recently released several new studies. Her research shows that there are certain parenting characteristics that foster mentally healthy, smart kids who show empathy, compassion, and morality.

“The way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being and a moral sense,” says Narvaez.  She provides parents with six childrearing practices in the child’s first 0 to 6 years that lead to healthy attachment:

·Lots of continuous responsive, caring touch—carrying, cuddling, holding, patting. This includes keeping Baby with Mom and Dad, not isolating the baby in her own room.

·Prompt, patient responses to a baby’s cries—it’s impossible to spoil a baby the first several months of life, because babies aren’t biologically or cognitively capable of manipulating people or things in their environments.  It’s best to respond to a baby’s fusses, before they become fully upset. This prevents the release of toxic stress chemicals in the baby. As Narvaez says, “Warm, responsive caregiving keeps the infant’s brain clam in the years it’s forming its personality and responses to the world.”

·Breastfeeding—ideally to the age of two (Narvaez suggests even longer). A child’s immune system isn’t fully developed until about age 6, and needs the healthy building blocks provided in breastmilk.

·Other adult caregivers—grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends…babies enjoy novelty!

·Playmates—of all ages!  Freeplay (not organized play) is the best. Narvaez’s research suggests that children who don’t play enough are more likely to develop ADHD.

·Natural childbirth—Narvaez maintains that unmedicated childbirth provides mothers with hormone boosts, giving Mom extra energy to care for her baby.

Whether a parent adheres to all of these suggestions is purely an individual choice, and clearly, many of them aren’t conducive for the majority of moms who must work outside of the home.

But I think the heart of her message is what matters most:  “Kids who don’t get the emotional nurturing they need in early life tend to be more self-centered. They don’t have the available compassion-related emotions to the same degree as kids who were raised by warm, responsive families.”

Do you believe that children today have lower levels of compassion and morality?

Photo Credit: Dave Nimitz (flickr.com)

Your First Love Experience

As a mom of four sons, it’s tough to find words to describe how I felt when I held each of them in my arms for the first time…especially with my first son, who was pretty beat up trying to make his way into this world.

Looking at his teeny little [very] bruised, [very] scratched face, his [very] wrinkled, pug-like forehead, and his [very elongated] cone head his daddy was sure would never get better, I looked at my baby and said, “You poor, pitiful little thing. Mamma’s gonna love you. Mamma’s gonna keep you safe.”

Oh, I loved each of my babies, no question about that. But it wasn’t a love I had ever before experienced. It was warm and tender and caring, yes. Yet there was something different about this love. Something very different.

My love for my new babies was protective. I was protective. Like never before, I felt this surge of she-bearness. This overwhelming desire to keep my babies from harm. This drive-push-urge to keep them safe. To shield them from whatever the world threw at them.

I nurtured my babies. I kept them safe. I protected them.

But my babies didn’t experience me as nurturing. As keeping them safe. As protecting them. They experienced me as love.

Little did I know, I was shaping their abilities to someday fall in love and to become parents. They love today because we first loved them 20+ years ago.

You see, for most of us, the first love relationship we experience is the parent-child relationship. Born helpless with nothing more than survival reflexes, we are fully reliant upon our parents for every need.

It is this very dependency on others that propels us to form emotional bonds in which we give and receive love. And it is from the experiences of the earliest of all love relationships that our later-in-life love relationships take place. Researchers refer to this close, emotional tie in the early days/months/years as attachment.

Photo Credit: London looks (flickr.com)

What Kind of Lover Are You?

You’ve done a lot of homework this week, so now it’s time for a little fun!  Let’s find out what type of lover you are.

Canadian sociologist John Lee conceptualized love in a manner similar to the Greeks, and he came up with six different love styles. Take a look at these:

  • Eros: Passionate and Tantalizing. Eros refers to a type of sensual or sexual love. Erotic lovers are passionate and romantic and seek out passionately expressive lovers. They thrive on the tantalizing nature of gotta-have-it-baby love and sex. They have an “ideal mate” in their mind’s eye and believe there is only one “true love” in the world for them. Sexual activity usually occurs early on in the relationship, and the sex is hawt, passionate, exciting, and insatiable all at once.
  • Ludus: Flirtatious and Fun. Ludus is a playful, flirtatious, carefree, and casual love. Ludus lovers don’t’ care as much about commitment as they do about playing the sport of love. Variety is the spice of life for ludic lovers, and the more partners, the better. Because ludic lovers don’t share intimacy, ludic lovers consider love to be fun and easy-going. When it comes to love, they are nonchalant and unconcerned about tomorrow.
  • Storge: Affectionate and Constant. This type of love develops over time, and engenders shared interests, trust, and acceptance. Storgic lovers are friends as well as lovers. They’re patient and consistent.
  • Manic: Frenzied and Chaotic. Jealousy, envy, protectiveness, and exclusivity (to the point of cutting off family and friends) are the hallmark traits of manic lovers. Manic love is frenzied, agitated, hectic, and chaotic. The highs are very high, the lows are very low—making the relationship very much a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
  • Pragma: Practical and Careful. Practicality and logic guide the pragmatic lover. If the “perfect mate” items on the pragmatic lover’s love map are fulfilled—suitability of education, family background, religious beliefs, and so on—the love candidate has a good chance of becoming a mate.
  • Agape: Selfless and Patient. Exemplified by Jesus, agape love is a selfless, enduring love. It is altruistic in nature, which means love partners promote the well-being of the other. It is an other-centered—not a me-centered—type of love. It is an unconditional, willful, I-love-you-because-I-choose-to kind of love. It does not demand immediate gratification of needs or wants, and it expects nothing in return. Inherent to agape love is patience, kindness, and permanence.
What type of lover are you?  What type of lover is your spouse? Find out here!
Photo Credit: papillon (flickr.com)