Pleasures Of Loving
Styles of Loving Relationship
One of the issues often faced by couples in new or existing relationships is that they fall out of love soon after the passion or "honeymoon period" is over.
The stark realities of living a life together are such that sometimes the crucial aspects of a relationship are forgotten - in particular, the sexual compatibility of the man and the woman. (Especially true where making love regularly is concerned.)
Of all the subjects discussed here, love is the most difficult to define. To define it would be to make it finite, whereas love is infinite - no matter how much you love or give love, it is still there in you. I love and I feel loved and yet I can only begin to describe, not define, what love is.
What I am certain about is that at every stage in the life cycle we need to love and to be loved. From the moment of birth a baby begins to learn what love is as it is held and nurtured by its parent(s); the emotional bond between a baby and its parents, the child's first experience of love, is the foundation for the child's abilities to give and receive love for the rest of its life.
Without this elementary education, the child's life will lack a crucial ingredient.
We learn more of love as we develop. Not only do we receive love from our parents and give love to them, but we learn more of what love means from the ways that parents, siblings, more distant family members and other adults interact.
We learn gradually to accept ourselves as people capable of giving love and worthy of receiving it.
We learn to love ourselves, and we learn that without being able to love ourselves we are unable to express love properly for others. Love is learned.
Views of love are almost as numerous as the people who have sought to define it.
Plato, for example, taught that the god Zeus cut people in half and gave each half the desire to find the other; matching the two halves meant completion and love.
St Paul's description of love is justly famous: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous, or conceited or proud; love is not ill mannered, or selfish or irritable: love does not keep a record of wrong: love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up. Love is eternal....There are faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Sociologist Robert Winch believed that love is the result of two people with complementary needs getting together - the weaknesses of one are balanced by the strengths of the other.
Erich Fromm saw love as the way out of the isolation we all feel, while another psychologist, Harry Stack Sullivan, believed that love was caring for another as one cared for oneself.
Sexologists take a fairly original view when they speculate that there are pathways in the brain that are particularly concerned with love; when we understand the circuitry of the brain we will understand more about what makes us love.
It seems that whatever love is, it contains elements of an inbuilt urge to express care and nurturing, support and affection. When we love, we express some profound and intrinsic parts of ourselves. But what of the relationship between love and sex? And what of he way we fall in love? Are the ways for a guy to fall in love and the ways for a woman to fall in love different?
Can sex be separate from love?
Yes. Although there seems to be a growing tendency toward making true affection a precondition of sexual activity, many people have had pleasurable and non-exploitative sex without being in love. Psychologist Albert Ellis, among others, believed sex without love should be socially acceptable as long as no harm is done to either partner, and that such an attitude would remove the guilt from many sexual relationships.
For me, however, sex and love are connected. I believe that sex is one of the ways in which love is expressed: sex is the language of intimacy, mutuality and friendship.
It is dignified and it embodies commitment to oneself and to one's partner. It is in this context that sex can be truly fun and playful - within a loving relationship, playfulness in sexual acts does not reduce the dignity of the communication, rather, it is an additional, valuable dimension. When someone has once experienced sex and love together I believe it is the combination he or she will seek thereafter.
Why do people sometimes talk about romantic love as something different from ordinary love?
The concept of love changes a little from society to society and from age to age; the word 'love' is always there, but slightly different meanings attach to it.
'Romantic love' was the name given to a modified view of love that came into fashion about 200 years ago. It was intended to convey the highest, purest, most passionate form of love, defying all laws and conventions and superior to all other emotions.
The ideas contained in romantic love were not new, but they were more dramatic and insistent than what was around at the time. We have a strong legacy of romantic love in our popular view of what we call 'love,' but we tend now to mix it with more realistic considerations of making relationships work.
Q. "Can there be love without sex?"
A: "Absolutely. People who choose for whatever personal or religious reasons not to express their sexuality in a genital way can and do love. Parents love their children, but their love is not genital; platonic love is described as a friendship, chaste in expression and characterized by love and respect, but without sex. Men and women have always had same and other sex friendships that were deep, enduring and loving, but in which no genital acts took place.
The Greeks defined two such types of love: philia, friendship or brotherly love, and agape, an idealistic love that is for the welfare of others. (The Greeks described love that included sex as eros.)"
AGE and SEX
There are no age limits on loving or the need to be loved. From the moment of birth to the moment of death, men and women alike need to be loved and can express love.
The ways in which love is felt and expressed vary from stage to stage in life but the central need and ability remain. Loving during infancy is different in its expression from love during adolescence.
In adulthood, loving relationships have their basis in what was learned during earlier years and the expression will probably change again as adulthood proceeds.
One of the enduring myths about age is that older people cease to love and at best let their love dwindle to a serene affection. Their capacity for loving is undiminished, as is their need to receive love.
The most potent symbol of this love is the act of sexual union, for a woman, the potent symbol of her love for him is the implicit permission she gives her man to love her physically, to enter her body, and delay his ejaculation until he is deep inside her vagina; for him, the symbol of his love for her is his capacity to control his approach to ejaculation, not to ejaculate too quickly, and to pleasure her before he takes his own pleasure from her body.
Q: "We have been together for many years, and I still have strong feelings of love for my wife. Sometimes my friends tell me I'm an old romantic. Is romantic love out of fashion nowadays?"
A: "No. Romantic love is in like it has been in one fashion or another for centuries. Keep giving your good example!"
Q: "During my adolescent years, I remember having crushes on several people. Could they have been love?"
A: "Yes, why not? They may not have been the same as your feelings of love now but at that time those feelings had the ingredients of love. That kind of love may not be an adequate foundation for an enduring relationship, but the feelings are nevertheless very real."
When people appreciate themselves and recognize their value and worth, it could be said that they love themselves - not in in an immature, narcissistic way, but in a mature, respectful one.
When a person has achieved a true sense of him- or herself in this way, he or she has the capacity to enter a relationship and love another person. Love is infinite and will not run out when shared, but to love fully people have to have learned how to love.
Part of learning to love is appreciating the worth of other people, and part of appreciating their worth is coming to an understanding of one's own.
Q. "At first I thought we were truly in love. We were inseparable and it felt so good. I just thought that the sexual thing was part of what love meant and even though we had sex frequently it was OK.
Then we were in situations where we couldn't have sex so easily, and I noticed a change.
At first I thought it was my imagination, but soon I began to realize that we couldn't really be alone unless sex would be involved.
Then when I began to resist having sex from time to time we didn't talk about it or anything. Our relationship just seemed to end. I felt used. What we had can't have been love, can it?"
A: "Physical attraction and sexual intercourse are powerful forces and keep many relationships going, some for short periods, and some for longer. Physical attraction alone is not however the proper foundation for an enduring relationship. Knowing this and having experienced it can be very helpful in preparing for future loving relationships. The important thing to remember is that there is a future."
Q "Do you think a person can love more than one person at a time?"
A: "Yes. Love is not a commodity that must be rationed out for fear of losing it all. Most people love more than one person at a time: a spouse, friends, children and parents all can be loved simultaneously.
The sexual acts which are the special language and communication of one kind of love may be expressed in one relationship only, but the loving relationships with the other people are still valid.
The situation that presents more difficulty is when someone feels love for more than one person and wants a sexual position too - check out www.sex-techniques-and-positions.com for more advice here. If you believe in sexual exclusivity in relationships, then you have a fundamental decision to make about how to carry on. No-one can prescribe an answer here, it must come from within. The experience of others - good or bad - is no better guide than their advice."
Q. "Once I really loved a person and was hurt deeply when I was rejected. Now I am very frightened about getting hurt again, so I find myself shying away from relationships."
A: "This is very common and very natural. Loving someone means among other things allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and when the relationship does not develop as you expected you not only get hurt but you can also lose trust in the potential of other loving relationships.
If you anticipate being hurt again and guard against it by not opening up and giving love, you may never love fully again. From your previous experience you know how much love can mean, so why rule it out for ever?
Opening yourself up to someone else can be very scary once you've been hurt, but if you didn't care about the value of loving relationships, you probably wouldn't have made your comment in the first place."
TOUCHING AND CARESSING
Touching and caressing are enjoyable, fulfilling, sensuous and sexual. From earliest childhood touching is crucial to emotional development and the growth of a healthy self-image.
In adulthood it is an important source of fulfillment and communication. Touching, caressing and fondling can be enriching, satisfying acts of sensual communication in themselves.
Some people seem to regard them as being appropriate only when intercourse or some other sexual act is to follow, but it is devaluing this form of erotic contact to see it in such a limited context.
Touching and caressing can be enjoyably explored through some kind of massage, in which each partner takes time to touch or stroke parts of the other's body in a deliberately sensuous and relaxing way. It is not necessary to have learned the proper techniques of massage to make this kind of communication highly satisfying, but it works best when each partner lets the other know what he or she enjoys most.
Some parts of the body are particularly sensitive to touch - the genitals are the most obvious example - but all parts if touched sensitively can bring pleasure. Everyone differs in their responsiveness in different areas and in their responses to variations in the nature of the touch.
An erotic massage can be a satisfying act in itself, whether or not it results in orgasm. It is an act that some couples enjoy particularly because it is an opportunity for one to concentrate on giving and the other on receiving, rather than both partners giving and receiving simultaneously, as in intercourse and other acts. It is a very good way both for partners to arouse each other and to prolong a sense of intimacy.
Touching (or massage or caressing) is not an obligatory act or a requirement of liberated sexuality. Nor does it have to be structured. Couples who do enjoy it however sometimes use oils and lotions (at room temperature) to increase the sensuousness of the experience (they also ensure that their hands are warm before they start).
Do you need to use all those oils and lotions to get into the massage thing properly? No.
Many couples find that the use of their hands alone is sufficient. The important thing is that you and your partner should choose what you both enjoy most.