Is love really blind? I wonder. Having been happily married (and some of the times not so happily) for 30 years, I cannot help but ask myself more frequently whether my love is blind. Unsurprisingly to myself, the answer seems to be affirmative. How else would I have been able to go through the various difficult times in our relationship? Logic would dictate that we would have broken up by now. The next question I have been asking is whether it had been good that my love is blind.
I found an interesting section in the book An Introduction to Positive Psychology by WC Compton with the title Is Love Really Blind?. What you will find in the rest of the article is based on what Compton wrote together with my thoughts.
In our minds, very often, we have pictures of our partners that are inaccurate. We have what is called positive romantic illusions about our partners. These illusions explain why we are oblivious to the faults of our partners and so enamoured of them.
While it is true that these illusions tend to fade with time, it is also true they can also strengthen with times, albeit with different characteristics.
In the former, when marital problems surface, and if the illusions disappear completely, it might lead to eventual marital breakup. Fortunately, most of the times, the illusions might weaken but do not disappear completely. The remnant illusions might help to weather the storms in the relationships.
In the latter case, the marriage might stay strong even though there may be many situations and incidents that might wreck a weaker relationship. We might even increase our willingness to accept many apparent faults and mistakes, and even idiosyncrasies, of our partners. Let us examine why this happens.
It has been found that couples who idealized their partners attributes, or had exaggerated beliefs about their control over the relationship, or were overly optimistic about the future of their relationship, were happier. Their relationships were also more stable and lasted longer.
These observations lead me to draw the following inferences/conclusions:
It is through the positive romantic illusions about our partners that explain why we choose our partners and not someone else.
The positive romantic illusions about our partner help us to stick to our partner even during bad times and under otherwise unfavourable conditions.
We might continue to deliberately keep a biased positive view of our partner so as to maintain, or even enhance, the relationship.
There is mutual enhancement of the positive romantic illusions that partners have for each other.
People are more committed to spouses who see them in positive light.
However, should the stress present in the couples life lead to strains in the relationship, the positive romantic illusions might begin to fall apart, leading each partner to realize they have been fooling themselves about the qualities of their partners. Without the presence of the positive romantic illusions, the relationship can then deteriorate very rapidly.
Overall then, it is good for couples to maintain the positive romantic illusions they have. This way, they will remain in love and continue to experience all the joys of romantic love.
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Give Paul Bloom one hour, and he’ll teach you “the psychology of everything,” illustrating some of the most fundamental elements of human nature through case studies about compassion, racism, and sex. He discusses some of the biggest questions in the nature versus nurture debate, including “Are we hard-wired to care about others?” Bloom points out why stereotyping can be both detrimental and beneficial, and he even explains what the porn preference of monkeys tells us about our own sexual choosiness, or lack thereof. After the hour is up you’ll understand why Bloom calls psychology, because of its cross-disciplinary nature, “the perfect liberal arts major.”
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Originally released September 2011.
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