What’s Love Got to Do With It: Understanding and Establishing Healthy Relationships

What’s Love Got to Do With It: Understanding and Establishing Healthy Relationships

Whether you believe love comes from the heart or the head, many agree love is a complex emotion.

Written by Suzanna Cisneros

Through proper communication and healthy love, Douthit believes relationships can withstand almost anything.

Through proper communication and healthy love, Douthit believes relationships can withstand almost anything.

Aristotle, like many ancient Greeks, believed the heart was the seat of everything. It controlled all reason, emotion and even a person’s daily thoughts.

But in today’s world, there are those who argue love comes from the brain. What should we believe? Is love psychological or physiological?

Paul Douthit, Ph.D., Texas Tech Physicians – Lubbock, said love comes from both the brain and the heart.

“We are psychological and physiological beings,” Douthit said. “To say love comes from one or the other does not make much sense. It is intertwined in our being, and that is what probably makes love so difficult to understand.”

Attraction and Warning Signs

Love is vital for a healthy relationship, Douthit said, and it is important to have some idea why you are attracted to another person.

“There has to be a distinction between feelings based on your needs versus feelings that are based on another person’s needs,” Douthit said. “A Platonic love, for example, is less of the love found in more intimate relationships, but still about caring for a person because you want the best for them. It is about your needs as well as the other’s needs or reciprocity of needs.”

Beware of the extremely self-centered person who treats others as “things” that can provide for their needs, Douthit said.

“People who exhibit significant self-focused and self-centered behaviors can suck a person dry,” Douthit said. “Often these people lack internal confidence and use or rely on others to make themselves feel more significant or better. They cannot be happy except for what other do for them, or productive unless someone provides that for them. These people need that feeling of worth from others.”

Douthit said these people often search for the Holy Grail – always seeking and never finding. Healthy relationships require people to do and achieve things, not necessarily from others, but for themselves. There has to be a significant degree of happiness that comes from within oneself to be happy.

Conflict and Communication

He said many times in relationships people experience conflict. For example, you may not like what a significant other has done, whether that person did not say, “I love you,” missed a birthday or anniversary, left the toilet seat up or didn’t fix your favorite meal. Despite disagreements, even small ones, it is vital for you to address these topics. A steadfast commitment is important to maintain a significant and long-lasting relationship.

“It is important to let your significant other know what bothers you, but remember that love does not give us permission to slam that person,” Douthit said. “It can be dangerous to the relationship if you begin to see it as broken beyond repair because of disagreements.”

Douthit encourages couples to evaluate their relationships. If you believe something is impacting it negatively, discuss your concerns. If you feel you can’t do this, then how equally shared is the relationship? The level of self-confidence that each person feels is important in maintaining a healthy relationship. Confidence within and among partners should grown throughout a committed relationship. When you are confident and reassured, you can both withstand challenges.

“Love is resilient and can grown even through tough times,” Douthit said. “Commitment and recommitting is vital; doubting is okay. Dynamic, positive relationships can withstand almost anything.”

Our earliest perceptions on love and relationships come from our parents, Douthit said.

Our earliest perceptions on love and relationships come from our parents, Douthit said.

Growth and Perception

As we grow as individuals, our relationships naturally grow as well. From conception to death, our relationships are developing and changing.

“We mature and gain knowledge as we grow,” Douthit said. “Relationships are dynamic. Sometimes people change and grow apart. However, if your commitment is such that you are willing and able to appreciate changes in each other and, more importantly, accommodate to them, then you can enjoy substantial ever-changing love.”

As we continue to grow, the way we see love changes as well, Douthit said. Our perceptions about ourselves and relationships come from parents, siblings, extended family members, friends, television, books, etc. One of the earliest significant factors is what we observe in our parents and their relationship, he said. Parents are always modeling for their children and should be mindful that children are always watching.

“How people experience love is impacted by how they perceive love,” Douthit said. “Moms and their newborns probably come as close to pure love as possible. Giving oneself completely to an infant to ensure they have everything they need is as close to unconditional love as anyone can experience.

What we observe in our parents gives us permission in how we can act. How you speak to your spouse, how you treat them. Kids are logical little beings. They will often repeat what parents have set as a foundation including how to understand relationships. Perceptions come from both verbal and nonverbal actions.”

But is what you see perceive really always reality? Douthit adds relationships cannot and will not be perfect.

“Imperfect people cannot create a perfect relationship,” Douthit said. “When a person expects or demands perfection, they set all up for possible failure.”

For many, perfection could mean the perfect Valentine’s Day. And while it is important to remember and celebrate that special love and relationship on Valentine’s Day, Douthit said it is helpful to carry the loving spirit all year.

“Remember more often than not to let your special someone know how much they mean to you and that you care deeply for them,” Douthit said. “Whether it is your spouse, significant other or friend, it does not take much to say, ‘thank you,’ for what you do and who you are. How powerful is it to feel appreciated and how affirming is it to hear from the person you love? It takes little time out of your day. Be willing to go out of your way to let them know your feelings.”


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Texas Tech Physicians
Texas Tech Physicians

Texas Tech Physicians is a physician group and part of the School of Medicine and the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.

Clinics are located in Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock and the Permian Basin, encompassing 108 counties of Texas and New Mexico comprising 103,000 square miles with a population of 2.6 million people.

Receiving care in a medical school setting is unique – many Texas Tech Physicians are also teachers. They must remain up-to-date in new treatments and diagnostics, not only to care for their patients, but also to pass on that knowledge to resident physicians, physicians studying in fellowships and medical students.

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Beginning in 1969 as Texas Tech University School of Medicine, TTUHSC now is a six-school university with campuses in Abilene, Amarillo, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Lubbock, Midland and Odessa.

TTUHSC has trained more than 20,000 health care professionals, and meets the health care needs of more than 2.5 million people in the 108 counties including those in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico.

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