On the last track, we discussed deciding about sex. This included five negative consequences and five positive consequences.
On this track, we will discuss being in love. This will include choice, giving, closeness, trust, caring, responsibility, respect, delight and self-awareness.
As you are aware, we live in a society where love and sex are important topics. That is easy to notice when we examine the themes of books, videos, movies, music, magazine stories, television shows, and even advertising. Would you agree that love is also portrayed much of the time in very unrealistic ways? Love is often made to seem simple and uncomplicated.
Once the love conflict in the story line is resolved, the couple lives happily ever after without having to work at love again. As many of us can testify, love is usually entered into with great hopes and expectations and promises, yet hardly any human venture ends in failure as often as does love.
As you listen to the rest of this track, think of a client with whom you might have this discussion. At what point do you violate the ethical boundary between advice giving and client self determination?
Sarah, age 17, came to me regarding being in love. Sarah stated, “I’ve been dating this guy for a while now, and I really enjoy being with him, but lately I’ve been asking myself, ‘Do I love him?’ If you’ve never been in love before, how can you tell? Am I ready to take the next step in our relationship, if that step means sex?”
I asked Sarah to think about what it meant to be in love. Here is, in essence, what I conveyed to Sarah over a period of several sessions. You might play this track for your client in an upcoming session who is thinking about what it means to be in love and if that means he or she is ready for sex.
Nine Elements of Being in Love
By talking about love with a wide variety of people, alone and in couples, I have come to believe that there are nine elements that seem to be common to any relationship where people are working at being in love.
Element #1 - Choice
First, let’s discuss choice. We consciously choose what people we can let ourselves be fully close to, and we choose how much of ourselves we feel able to show to any other person. But the choice must be mutual if it is to be love. All individuals involved in the loving relationship must choose one another.
Element #2 - Giving
Second, let’s discuss giving. To love, we must give to another. This does not mean giving up or sacrificing, necessarily, nor does it just mean giving objects or money. Instead, there is a mutual giving of qualities of one’s life, such as experiences, feelings, humor, sadness, and all things that are a part of us. Giving brings us joy and it enriches us. It helps bring us closer.
Element #3 - Closeness
Third, in addition to choice and giving, let’s discuss closeness. People in love strive for more honest knowledge of each other, including knowledge of their past experiences, of ideas and values, of feelings and hopes, of weaknesses and defects and disappointments, of what their bodies have to offer. To reach continuously new depths of intimacy requires time, privacy, and trust.
Element #4 - Trust
Fourth, let’s discuss trust. We come to trust another as we gradually risk revealing our inner thoughts and feelings to that other person. In love, if the other person treats what we reveal with care, gentleness and respect, we learn to feel a sense of trust. Mutual trust seems to be essential to being in love.
Element #5 - Caring
Fifth, let’s discuss caring. Being in love also means being actively concerned for the person whom we love, being concerned for that individuals feelings and needs. People who love care about seeing each other grow and be happy and fulfilled.
Element #6 - Responsibility
Sixth, in addition to trust and caring, let’s discuss responsibility. When we choose to be close to another individual and care about him or her, then we have accepted a degree of responsibility to respond to that other person’s needs. I do not mean that this is in any way a duty.
Instead it is a willingness to be responsive to another human being. The other side of responsibility is letting our needs be known to those who love us, so that they can then respond.
Element #7 - Respect
Seventh, let’s discuss respect. This is a quality that is often misunderstood. When I respect others, it does not mean that I do what they want because I am afraid of them. It means that I see them as the unique individuals they are. It means that I will want to see the other person emerge as he or she is, as fully as possible.
Element #8 - Delight
Eighth, let’s discuss delight. Loving involves mutual delight as we care for one another and share and watch one another emerge. When we allow another person to grow or give him or her pleasure, then we delight in ourselves and in each other.
Element #9 - Self-Awareness
Ninth, in addition to respect and delight, let’s discuss self-awareness. It seems that the more we know about ourselves, the more we can understand what is happening between us and others. Being in love necessitates a continuing struggle keep in touch with what is happening inside ourselves. In that way, what we give to one another is clearer and more meaningful.
Do you have a Sarah who might benefit from hearing this track?
On this track, we have discussed being in love. This has included choice, giving, closeness, trust, caring, responsibility, respect, delight and self-awareness. Regarding ethical issues, especially if your client is of the opposite gender, care must be taken that this discussion of love not be construed as the therapist feelings towards the client. Prior to this discussion you might decide upon setting a boundary regarding an appropriate level of self-disclosure to use with the client.
On the next track, we will discuss six kinds of love. These will include humankind, God, someone to help, parents, oneself, sexual longing, and where sex fits.
What are some of the nine elements of being in love? To select and enter your answer go to