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Love is a skill, no magic involved


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The Power of Love

Love is the best antidepressant—but many of our ideas about it are wrong. The less love you have, the more depressed you are likely to feel.



Love is as critical for your mind and body as oxygen. It's not negotiable. The more connected you are, the healthier you will be both physically and emotionally. The less connected you are, the more you are at risk.


It is also true that the less love you have, the more depression you are likely to experience in your life. Love is probably the best antidepressant there is because one of the most common sources of depression is feeling unloved. Most depressed people don't love themselves and they do not feel loved by others. They also are very self-focused, making them less attractive to others and depriving them of opportunities to learn the skills of love.


There is a mythology in our culture that love just happens. As a result, the depressed often sit around passively waiting for someone to love them. But love doesn't work that way. To get love and keep love you have to go out and be active and learn a variety of specific skills.


Most of us get our ideas of love from popular culture. We come to believe that love is something that sweeps us off our feet. But the pop-culture ideal of love consists of unrealistic images created for entertainment, which is one reason so many of us are set up to be depressed. It's part of our national vulnerability, like eating junk food, constantly stimulated by images of instant gratification. We think it is love when it's simply distraction and infatuation.


One consequence is that when we hit real love we become upset and disappointed because there are many things that do not fit the cultural ideal. Some of us get demanding and controlling, wanting someone else to do what we think our ideal of romance should be, without realizing our ideal is misplaced.


It is not only possible but necessary to change one's approach to love to ward off depression. Follow these action strategies to get more of what you want out of life—to love and be loved.


* Recognize the difference between limerance and love. Limerance is the psychological state of deep infatuation. It feels good but rarely lasts. Limerance is that first stage of mad attraction whereby all the hormones are flowing and things feel so right. Limerance lasts, on average, six months. It can progress to love. Love mostly starts out as limerance, but limerance doesn't always evolve into love.

* Know that love is a learned skill, not something that comes from hormones or emotion particularly. Erich Fromm called it "an act of will." If you don't learn the skills of love you virtually guarantee that you will be depressed, not only because you will not be connected enough but because you will have many failure experiences.

* Learn good communication skills. They are a means by which you develop trust and intensify connection. The more you can communicate the less depressed you will be because you will feel known and understood.


There are always core differences between two people, no matter how good or close you are, and if the relationship is going right those differences surface. The issue then is to identify the differences and negotiate them so that they don't distance you or kill the relationship.


You do that by understanding where the other person is coming from, who that person is, and by being able to represent yourself. When the differences are known you must be able to negotiate and compromise on them until you find a common ground that works for both.

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Sometimes when we care and give off love and care vibes to others (not necessarily others of the opposite sex, but just in general), doesn't mean we attract it back. True love is very elusive and sometimes, when we do have it, we don't appreciate it and wish it were different, etc. Then when we DON'T have it, we desperately crave it, or crave it back.


A conundrum.

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I don't agree that personal love relationships (as in long term romantic engagements) are necessary in order to avoid depression. The key to avoiding depression is simply having a life that is oriented towards achieving your personal goals -- not in a selfish way, but in a purposeful, driven, conscious way. That may involve the romantic love of others, and it may not. I think that a key issue is that many people do not think they can be well-adjusted without a long-term romantic love, and then *that* will lead to depression.


Relationships sometimes work, and they sometimes don't. Even if you are highly skilled at them, your partners may not be. Much lies beyond your control. The key to a well-balanced life is leading one that is open to relationships, but not dependent on them for a sense of well-being. So to be honest I'm rather skeptical of the theme of this piece to the effect that if you do not have a long-term romantic love you will be depressed -- as I see it, it's actually this mindset that leads to depression in many people. The most important thing is to love yourself enough to get your act together and lead a fulfilling independent life -- not one that is selfish and closed to relationships, but also not one that is dependent on relationships for a sense of well-being either.

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Brilliant post. Something more people need to be aware of...


I also agree with novaseeker that love isn't limited to romantic relationships... or even people. It seems like some people can have things that they are deeply passionate about, such as music, which give their life meaning, while having minimal relationships with other people. Agree/disagree?

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I was just thinking...since my breakup my idea of a "desired partner" has drastically changed. Well, it's still similar but now emotional intelligence, or rather, the skills and desire to make a relationship either work or end peacefully is at the tip-top of the list. Not something people usually mention.

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I think the author was talking about giving love where ever you can. To all your relationships, friends, lovers, acquaintances, etc.. I don't think it's exclusive to romantic relationships at all.


I'm skeptical of that, because it speaks of thinks like limerance, which is clearly not a stage of friendship, at least it has not been with my friends. Reading through it again, I do get the impression it's saying that you need a romantic love in order to avoid depression, which I really disagree with.

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Regardless of what she meant. Learning skills like communication and emotional depth can be useful in all loving relationships, whether it's with lovers, friends, or our children.


Most depressed people don't love themselves and they do not feel loved by others- I know that has been true for my depressed moments. Now I am not in a romantic relationship, but I love more fully and I feel loved.

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I think that the biggest misconception about romantic love is that it will always make you feel "swept off your feet", especially if it did in the beginning.


The deepest and most meaningful type of love in a romantic relationship is when you reach the point that you love them like family and you have a real home with them in their hearts, not just in a physical home.


In long term relationships there will always be ups and downs of the "in love" feelings but the deep family type love doesn't fade....it should get stronger over time.

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