Loving You – Developing a Healthy Relationship With Your Partner

Love, like all the other human emotions, can be learned and nurtured and if it is well developed, will flourish like any other kind of passion or love. A new study by Dr. Steven Hendlin, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, suggests that people are not as attracted to others as they are to themselves. This may come as a surprise to some who consider themselves to be intensely attracted to others, even at great distances. “When I first read this it sounded unbelievable,” said Dr. Hendlin. “I studied love for thirty years and during that time I never saw love as being something about which someone has an inner secret.”

According to Dr. Hendlin, love is not just a physical feeling but involves a range of emotions and cognitive responses, including an emotional recognition of a shared core values, an emotional identification with another person, and an understanding of the self and its place in society. Love encompasses a whole range of positive and negative emotional and psychological states, from the highest personal virtues or religious devotion, to the most sublime personal pleasure, to the lowest run-of-the-mill emotional frustration. Emotions are complex and multifaceted and are the key to both love and its absence, according to Dr. Hendlin.

In a paper published in the May 2021 issue of Evolution and Human Behavior, Dr. Hendlin suggests that although people’s intentions and motivations in forming romantic relationships may differ, the outcome is usually the same. People want to form satisfying and enduring relationships and are particularly drawn to each other when they share similar attitudes, interests, values and well-being. Those who are naturally drawn to each other, love each other, find affection in their relationship and have fulfilling and lifelong relationships tend to live longer, happier and healthier lives. However, the study found that there are some negative outcomes as well. People who have failed to develop satisfying relationships that are fulfilling and healthy are more likely to divorce and have lower levels of overall well-being than those with successful and fulfilling relationships.

According to Dr. Hendlin, “it seems that we were wired for relationships based on an evolutionary psychological principle of genetic fitness that has been effectively transferred into human relationships.” He continues, “while our brains contain the genetic instructions for creating and nurturing relationships, we may be stuck executing these programs in different ways.” This may explain why some people have successful relationships, while others struggle and develop no relationship success at all. The difficulty may be related to the conflicting demands of wanting to be loved and wanting to be healthy. To make matters worse, other people may use anger, manipulation or fear to get what they want. Also, the environment in which they grow up may not promote healthy relationships or self-discipline.

Dr. Hendlin’s research suggests that the key to developing long-lasting, satisfying relationships is to learn how to let go of your attachment to relationships and instead focus your energy on being engaged with others and doing great deeds that help all people. Love does not require unconditional love. It also does not require attachment to someone else’s interests, ideals, or lifestyle choices. “If you want to be a devoted friend and lover,” Dr. Hendlin states, “then loving yourself is sufficient.” He then explains that a “relationship” is not a goal in and of itself-a goal for the sake of having a goal, which inevitably leads only to relationships.

If you feel like your relationship is not healthy, start with the basics: good communication, shared goals and a clear understanding of each other’s needs and expectations. Be honest about where you may go wrong and talk with your partner to find solutions to your conflicts. Love yourself first! Then find a partner who truly loves you.