Attraction to others is not something you can force, and it is something in which nature plays a big part. Yet even when you are strongly attracted to someone, that attraction tends to decrease over time as the “newness” wears off (i.e., we become “used” to each other). It is also true that our attraction can decrease over time due to the lack of the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain passion and love for someone else. To maintain a commitment to anything requires having the skills and knowledge to keep nature from ruling and to keep “newness” alive.
Social, Mental and Emotional Love: Three Keys to Relationship Success
Love is a skill not to be confused with lust. It’s not that lust (physical and emotional attraction) isn’t a critical component to “jump start” a relationship. But lust, unfortunately, is not enough. Love requires more than lust for relationship success. It requires that people learn to love beyond that first “physical attraction.” It requires us to learn to love “socially,” “mentally” and “emotionally.
Social love is the way partners talk to each other using their words and body language. This is sometimes called nonverbal communication. For example, saying the right thing at the right time to a distressed loved one is a social skill using words or verbal skills. Giving a hug or a smile to a loved one when you first see him or her is an example of a nonverbal skill.
Mental love is the way a partner respects the other partner’s knowledge and thinking. For example, one partner may have the kind of knowledge and thinking that makes them good at managing money, whereas the other partner has the kind of knowledge and thinking that makes him or her better at repairing mechanical things. And together they bring different knowledge and thoughts to a problem that can help them be more creative and effective solving that problem than if they each tried to tackle the problem alone. In other words, it is the realization that two brains, and their separate stored knowledge, bring more information “to the table” to help solve life’s unexpected and complex problems.
Emotional love refers to the way partners respond to each other’s’ emotional needs. It involves the ability to express emotions and receive emotions in a constructive manner. For example, a partner who emotionally loves his or her partner, and who has had a difficult day at work and is now coming home tired and distressed, does not take it out on the partner. And the other partner respects the emotional state of the tired and distressed partner.
Relationship Skills Matter
A critical principle in being in a personal relationship is skill. There is a distinct difference between knowledge and skill. Knowledge refers to having information about a subject. For example, you may know a lot about the game of golf or tennis by reading about it and watching it on television. Yet that immense knowledge of the game does not mean you could pick up a golf club or tennis racket and be able to play proficiently.
Skill is the application of that knowledge in everyday life. Skill is the action that supports the knowledge. All too often people read books on relationships that provide them with information in the form of facts and ideas about relationships. This new-found knowledge can be helpful, but it is usually short-lived. The reason is that new knowledge tends to be lost if it is not acted upon quickly, repeatedly and accurately.
If knowledge is not acted upon quickly, it does not get converted into a memory and the information can be lost. If knowledge is not rehearsed repeatedly, the brain tends to lose it due to memory decay. If knowledge is not applied correctly through skills that “accurately” reflect that knowledge, it is lost due to its failure to accomplish the goal.
The skills in personal relationships are more complicated than playing golf or tennis. These skills require every aspect of your physical body including hand and head gestures, facial display control, voice intonation, placement of your body, personal grooming, timing and emotional and mental control. Most people don’t have the willingness or ability to control and apply all the above skills within their personal relationships.
An added complication in the application of skills in a relationship is the belief of the relationships being natural versus a learned set of behaviors. This belief of relationships being natural makes success difficult. This belief is complicated by the carefully promoted view by movies and books that they are natural/magical and not hard work. I call this faulty belief “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
Want to Learn More?
Personal relationships can be complicated and diverse due to the nature of the partners’ unique personalities, needs, life circumstances, ages and a variety of other factors. Learning the knowledge and the skills necessary to be in a successful personal relationship can be a challenge for all these reasons. But help is available. To find out how our company approaches these challenges with our clients, contact Sampson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, read more about our flagship training, How to Be in a Personal Relationship.
About the Author
Stephen J. Sampson, Ph.D. has been teaching social intelligence, conflict resolution and interpersonal skills for over 40 years. He brings both academic knowledge and practical experience to his seminars.