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How Love Grows...

2/13/2013 8:00:00 AM
Written By:
Janis Omide, MS, CSAC

February has been called "The Love Month"; therefore, I was excited when Joan Lucera offered me an opportunity to submit a February posting for Behavioral Health Matters News Blog because I so much want to share a "how to" from the late world-renowned expert on love and loving, Felice Leonardo "Leo" Buscaglia, Ph. D. (1924-1998) (also known as "Dr. Love").

The late Dr. Leo Buscaglia ("America's laureate of love") dedicated his life to understanding the meaning of love and most notably for sharing his findings with the intent of teaching how we can all embrace love as well.

Being fifty-something, I (and perhaps my fellow baby boomers) have endearing memories of Leo Buscaglia's dynamic televised lectures about love on PBS (Public Broadcasting System)-which earned great popularity during the eighties. So it was no wonder that I gravitated to an article written by Leo in 1984 that was published in The Reader's Digest, entitled, How to Make Love Grow: 10 ways to build a good partnership into a better one (condensed from his book LOVING EACH OTHER). I still have the article today, and as I've matured I've come to value the information even more!

In the article, Leo made an observation about how important loving relationships are to all of us; and at how "little" time we spend on trying to understand what makes them work (or grow).

Leo then set out to learn "how to make love grow" by "questioning the architects of relationships themselves". He sent out 1,000 questionnaires to people who had written to him about love and asked them to examine their primary loving relationship (for over two-thirds of the 600-plus respondents, it was with a spouse) and their secondary relationships (with parents, grandparents, children, in-laws, friends, and co-workers).


TEN qualities were identified-and the first FOUR were above all others:

1. Communication.

Leo noted that "any loving relationship will be enhanced if each party makes-and acts upon-these suggestions:

Tell me often that you love me, through your actions and words. Don't assume that I know it. I may look embarrassed or even deny that I need the attention-but don't believe me. Do it anyway.

Compliment me often for jobs well done, and reassure me when I fail. Don't take what I do for granted.

Let me know when you feel low or lonely or misunderstood. Knowing that I have the power to comfort you makes me stronger. Remember, though I love you, I can't read your mind.

Express joyous thoughts and feelings spontaneously. They bring vitality to our relationship. The world is full of delights and rich in possibilities. Allow the unplanned and unpredictable to enliven our routines.

Listen to me without judgment. Don't tell me what I feel is insignificant or not real. It's my experience and therefore important and real to me.

Let others know you value me. Public affirmation of our love makes me feel special and proud."

2. Affection.

"... demonstrations of affection are necessary for health." Dr. Harold Voth, a psychiatrist at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kan., says, "Hugging can lift depression. It breathes fresh life into a tired body and makes you feel younger and more vibrant."

If we are strangers to physical affection, naturally it will make us uncomfortable at first. We may want to start among family and friends, with a handshake, pat on the back, a touch of the fingers. From there we can move to a warm hug or a tender kiss. It takes so little to open our arms to one another, and it is one of the clearest statements of love we can make."

3. Forgiveness.

"There is warmth and strength in the verb 'forgive'. It suggests the power to soothe, heal, reunite, and re-create. ..."

Love enables us to put the wrong in perspective and view the act apart from the person. We can see our long-range relationships as greater and more valuable than the momentary pain caused by an isolated negative act."

4. Honesty.

"... Trust is impossible without the truth. And when there is no truth there can be no love. Even insignificant deceptions, those meant to spare feelings, can lead to tangled webs of distrust.

Truth can be offered lovingly: "I'm not as fond of that outfit as I am of your blue one, but remember it's only my opinion and I'm not Yves Saint Laurent." This is far easier to take than "It's awful! I hate it!"

We must accept the fact that we may fall from truth from time to time. But if we want our relationship to last and grow, honesty and trust must be our consistent goals."

The respondents to Leo's questionnaire highlighted other qualities that enhanced growth in love:

5. Freedom from jealousy. "... Love must be set free, and only when it comes back to us will we know the real thing."

6. Acceptance. "Developing as a person is a lifetime process. ... If we are afraid to disclose our imperfect selves, we cannot expect others to do so, and we remain strangers. . . . To form lasting relationships with others, we must be happy with what we-and they-are. We must have as deep a respect for their rights, attitudes and feelings as we do for our own."

7. Consideration. "... We should create an environment of warmth and consideration for those we love, treating each other with dignity. We grow best in an atmosphere of thoughtfulness."

8. Tradition. "... As they (traditions) are passed along from one generation to the next, they remain something certain in a world of uncertainty."

9. Sharing dreams. "Dreams elevate us beyond the mundane. They enrich our future with possibility. To dream together adds an element of wonder to our relationships. ... Sharing it with those we love allows ourselves to be known."

10. Courage. "Timidity can prevent us from coming together. Relationships require us to be bold, to assert, to commit. Problems, disagreements and frustrations are inevitable, so we need courage to meet them."

In closing, Leo noted: "We must give our relationships a chance, because there is nothing greater in life than loving another and being loved in return."

I hope that you can carry these suggestions not only into the Love Month, but also into your Love Life.

Thanks for letting me share!

"Don't spend your precious time asking,

'Why isn't the world a better place?' It will only be time wasted.

The question to ask is 'How can I make it better?'

To that there is an answer."

-Leo Buscaglia

Janis Omide is a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor with a MS Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling for Addictions from the Medical College of Virginia/VCU. Currently, Janis is a Therapist for CBH assigned to provide SA counseling to VPRJ's Therapeutic Community. She has over fifteen years of experience in the profession of providing treatment to people with addictions of varied ages, genders & cultures: Substance Abuse (SA) Counselor in out-patient and residential; Vocational Rehabilitation SA Counselor; SA Specialist for ex-offenders/probationers & DUIs; SA Therapist for Impaired Healthcare Professionals; and Director of SA Services for people with co-existing psychiatric and addictive disorders.

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