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The Desire for Real Romance and Intimacy
by Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D.

Men and women are expecting more from a romantic relationship than ever before in human history. And never before have men and women been as free to seek love -- a love that they determine to be real on the basis of their own perceptions and feelings.

Almost all cultures of the world have believed that romantic feelings were dangerous to developing family and a stable community because those feelings were out of their control. A man or woman would be "swept away," carried on a torrent of emotion, desire, lust, and abandon.

So in all cultures, and in many today, marriages were arranged by third parties -- matchmakers, parents, clergy. It was believed that only a third party could make a sound enough decision about who should be mated with whom. As far as the couple was concerned, there was no freedom and their only responsibility was to obey the dictates of their elders.

Today we take it for granted that:

  • a relationship should be made by two people, each choosing the other of their own free will, not influenced by family, church, or community;
  • they will share their lives in intimate detail, and their sharing will be the basis of the how and why their relationship thrives;
  • their choice will be based on the love they feel for one another and on no other considerations;
  • that being together is the context for the sweetest happiness possible;
  • that sex will provide the transformative power of ecstasy and will continue throughout their life together;
  • that their love will open a vision of spiritual transcendence and encourage and support their lifelong efforts.
    And we, Judith & Jim, concur. A relationship can be the context for all of the above. And love is nothing if it is not free. But freedom is more than simply a matter of unrestricted choice. Freedom is always coupled with responsibility; in other words, with the impact our choices have on us and those around us.

    Today we have almost limitless personal freedom to choose our mate and our lifestyle. What we lack is the training to live with the personal responsibility it takes to mine the riches available within such freedom. However, a real-life relationship, based on real love freely chosen, requires lovework, and two people need to:

  • trust each other with their real feelings, the only basis of being loved for who they really are;
  • feel determined to face into the inevitable conflicts all couples experience;
  • relax their resistance to the lessons of love;
  • enjoy and treasure the esteem and mutual regard that comes from true respect and interest rather than fantasy;
  • acknowledge and accept each other's differences, while still reserving the right to want some things to change;
  • and finally, to feel less need for romantic illusion and more desire for real romance and intimacy.

    The New Intimacy

    Copyright 2001 Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D., all rights reserved.