Falling in love is characterized by some to be the greatest feeling in the world; others say that it comes but once in a lifetime. Many individuals fall in and out of love throughout physical and mental development only to never experience what is referred to as “true love.” Being no exception to this rule, I found myself trying to find what it was in another individual that I considered to be my perception of love. As I developed through my childhood into my young adulthood, I have passed through many of Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development as well as displayed many other aspects of various psychologists. What have I found?
Beginning in my early childhood, I developed what Mary Ainsworth classified as a combination of anxious-avoidant and secure attachment. Her theory that the type of bond formed between myself as a child and my parents has been reflected in my ability to form my relationships that I have today. Ainsworth considered children who formed a secure attachment in the early stages of childhood would have a more positive view of themselves, their partner, and their relationships. I found this to be true as I tend to have a positive outlook on my relationships and maintain a confidence in my ability to hold them together. On the other hand, coming from a larger family, I have shown tendencies of what Ainsworth considered anxious-avoidant attachment. In adulthood this is often referred to as dismissive-avoidant, and is characterized by my suppression of feelings, sometimes distancing myself from the situation or the problem, and my desire to prove myself as self-sufficient.
How did my attachment as a child progress throughout the years into my adulthood? Poorly, I seldom kept friends, formed lasting relationships, displayed feelings of inadequacy, never formed lasting relationships, and became self-sufficient. According to Feldman (2009), during the first stage of Erikson’s psychological development the Trust vs. Mistrust, is defined as “an essential truthfulness of others as well as a fundamental sense of one’s own trustworthiness.” A slight sense of mistrust was developed due to lack of attention and interaction from parents because of the large number of siblings. This affected how I would later view my partner in my future relationships.
Fast-forward to the stage of life known as early adulthood and this became evident in what Erikson referred to as the Intimacy vs. Isolation stage. During this stage of psychological development an individual seeks to make long-term commitments to others. Whether it is close friends or marriage, that individual is willing to make sacrifices and compromises to form a lasting, long-term intimate relationship. I found this to be true and the desire to share part of my own life with someone. Although I had developed an anxious-avoidant attachment, as stated previously, the desire was still there. So the search for “love” began and I found myself quite reluctant to pursue just any partner. I was seeking an individual who would not reject me. This shyness dominated my childhood, teenage, and young adult years and caused me to become even more avoidant in forming relationships.
Karen Payne, a PhD at the California Institute of Technology defines shyness as “a feeling of discomfort or inhibition in social or interpersonal situations…” this is how I felt about approaching others, and she goes on to state that this problem can “…keep you from pursuing your goals, either academic or personal” (n.d.). This was evident in my inability to form even the basic friendships that most individuals have. So how was I to find love? In her article, Payne talks about finding someone to talk to, medication, even therapy. I used none of these methods, but rather developed myself to become more confident and social as an individual. While it took some time and tremendous effort on my part, I was able to overcome my shyness and pursue finding that intimate bond.
My pursuit was met with an end in the summer of 1999, which is when I met my first love. Finally I had fallen in love. Research says it only takes about a fifth of a second to fall in love, and that falling in love can “elicit not only the same euphoric feeling as cocaine, but also affects intellectual areas of the brain” (Syracuse University, 2010). Guess that is why people do dumb things in the name of love. I was no different and spent all my time trying to create a lasting relationship with this person.
This relationship was intended to be lasting and I found myself going through many hardships trying to keep things together. However, this was all for not, as both parties did not have a mutual desire to keep the relationship together. Perhaps it was our temperaments that clashed against one another, or maybe it was just something else. Whatever led to the demise of this relationship it affected my developmental stage and perceptions on love. For many years my view became twisted and almost led to hatred of the very feeling itself. That was until I met a wonderful person who matched on all levels.
Erikson’s sixth stage of development, the Intimacy vs. Isolation stage, was once again tangled with and this time a lasting relationship was meant to bloom. Of course I was leery about this relationship failing just as the others. Using caution I approached this relationship slowly and kept distant from many emotional surges that would arise. I could not hold these feelings forever. Eventually they spewed forth and a prominent bond of intimacy, passion, and commitment came to follow.
Throughout the dating period all of Murstein’s Stimulus Value Roles (Feldman 2009) were displayed and played an important part in forming a strong bond. During the stimulus stage our attraction for one another led us to more dates which carried us through to the value stage where our individual beliefs and ideas came together in harmony. Even though our ideas and beliefs were the same our roles had yet to be determined. Quickly both she and I realized that we had mutual roles in the relationship. We found ourselves depending on one another and seeking to help the other through both emotional and physical problems. This was something that was lacking in great magnitude during the previous relationships.
According to Steinberg’s theory of Triangular Love (Feldman 2009), each of us had developed feelings of intimacy, passion, and commitment. Our feelings of affection and closeness led us to form a connection of both passionate and companionate love. All of our decisions and problems are met with discussion of how it will affect us as a couple, not as individuals. This mutual connection and care for the other’s opinion and feeling about things has presented me the feeling, which I like to believe and call, love.
With this feeling, I know I have a life partner that will help me through many more stages in my life. Talks of marriage are in our future and the most interesting part of the marriage situation is the fact that it goes against the marriage gradient. Unlike what the normal gradient which states men want women younger, smaller, or lower in status. I have found myself with a slightly older woman who not only makes more than I, but makes me smile and laugh more than I could have ever dreamed.
The elusive feeling of love has been a tricky one to catch, but it is obtainable. Through all the different stages and moments of development that I have undergone, I am sure many more will come, but with love, I will not have to go through them alone. Once again my developmental stage has taken a turn for the positive, and it is all thanks to “love.”
Feldman, R.S. (2009). Development across the life span. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
Payne, K. (n.d.). Understanding and overcoming shyness. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.caltech.edu/InfoandResources/Shyness
Syracuse University (2010, October 25). Falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second, research reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com-/releases/2010/10/101022184957.htm