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Dating From the Inside Out
by Susan S. Davis

The Effect of Self Esteem on Romantic Love

There are many conceptualizations of the idea of "romantic love." This could be due to the fact that in so many instances, it’s an “idea,” versus a concrete, measurable commodity. Various definitions of romantic love and its components affect the kinds of communication and other behaviors that researchers study.

Consideration of all the various definitions of romantic or passionate love is so expansive; the subject has taken up entire books. One clinical definition: “Romantic love is a unique emotional state of intense excitement, great calm, or enhanced well-being in the presence of the other,” (as described by Liebowitz, 1983). According to some theorists, there exists a strong desire for sexual intimacy and exclusivity, along with a deep concern for the other's welfare. Also present, is an element of idealization and extensive emotional involvement. It can best be characterized as a passionate, spiritual-emotional-sexual connection between two people that ultimately reflects a high regard for the value of each person. According to Rand theorems, romantic love is an integrated conscious and unconscious response of mind and body to one's highest values as seen in another person.

Some scientists believe that romantic love is a powerful, but irrational attraction or addiction; characterizing it merely as a temporary phenomenon comprised mostly of sexual fantasies that will diminish over time. It has also been considered a feeling that results from a general physiological arousal based on negative impulses, such as fear, anxiety, guilt, or the like. There is no evidence, however, for the view that all emotions are the same on the physiological level. It is most likely, however, that biological and environmental cues only fine-tune one's feelings or emotional responses.

Part of the confusion surrounding romantic love, stems from viewing different types of love as mutually exclusive entities, rather than as occurring in a conceptual hierarchy. Romantic attraction causes one's sense of self to change. The person “in love” feels more confident, capable, optimistic about the future, energetic, and often, in need of less food and sleep. Not only can love be considered as an emotion, but also as an attitude, a process, state, or disposition.

Romantic love is most often considered a normal and healthy emotional state, with human potential and capacity developed over evolution. In both a literal and a psychological sense, healthy romantic love occurs among adults, rather than children.

Extensive research has detailed the factors leading to attraction, attachment, and bonding, with regard to the “process” of falling in love. While numerous papers and books describe dissolution, termination, and divorce, examine the courses associated with each; none seem to determine how to maintain an established relationship along with the love with which it began.

The basic characteristic of the individuals who are most successful at love is high self-esteem. It has been demonstrated that a high level of self-acceptance, knowledge, identity, and individualism are all required before one can function successfully in romantic love. In other words, it all starts at home. The theory is that in order to understand how to “love” someone, you must first love yourself. And the only way to accomplish that is with a high level of self-worth.

Self-esteem is defined as consisting of two interrelated aspects. The first component, self-confidence, comes from one's sense of competence in dealing with oneself and the outside world. Self-confidence arises from a commitment to rationality and an awareness and understanding of what is true.

The second aspect of self-esteem is self-respect or a sense of self-worth, stemming from adherence to values and judgments. People with self-respect possess an ability to see themselves as deserving to be worthy of happiness.

Theoretically, one's self-esteem could be determined by a basic orientation to life. While it may be influenced by variable situational success or failure which is not under an individual's control, it is still a relatively guiding personality characteristic.

It has been determined that those high in self-esteem experience romantic love more often than those with low self-esteem, and ultimately have better romantic relationships. This could be partly due to the fact that they are less emotionally dependent on partners and view love as a fulfilling personal experience rather than an intense interdependence. It could also be due, in part, to the fact that people with internal satisfaction have learned that the basis for happiness comes from within, rather than external sources such as wealth, health, or education.

Nonetheless, a person must value oneself first, before it is possible to accept and value someone else's love. This is why, before developing a plan to meet a soul mate, it’s a good idea to first thoroughly examine who you are, and what you really want in your life. The first person you should “find” and connect with, is yourself. If there are areas of your life that need sorting out, it’s a good idea to work on those before anything else. It’s always also possible, to find that soul mate during your personal exploration.

Either way, by the time you’re done figuring out your life path, you’ll begin to attract more positive people, and meet many interesting people, as a result. And one never knows; one of those extraordinary people may be the very person you’ve been “searching” for all along.

Susan S. Davis is a published book author and writer, currently doing research for a romantic screenplay she is writing. Her Dating From The Inside Out column is published every Tuesday.

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