The Four Biggest Myths About Romantic Love

by Drs. Edward Hoffmann and Marcella Bakur Weiner

The search for intimacy is now happening world-wide. For the adventurous, getting romantically involved with someone 500 or 5,000 miles away is now as easy as a click on the Internet. But unfortunately, people are wasting so much needless time and effort. How so? Lasting intimacy is based on personality compatibility. The right physical "chemistry" is necessary, yes, but it's never enough. You must know your own "core personality" related to intimacy, and then match it up with an appropriate partner -- someone romantically available and likewise seeking romantic love. Another thing is also necessary: getting beyond the destructive four myths about romantic love. The quicker you do so, the sooner you'll find your soulmate.

Myth #1: One Size Fits All

This myth says that people are basically the same in their intimacy needs. That somehow, a generic Prince Charming or Aphrodite will be sent to you and love will capture you in its warm embrace. Or the overall picture is of mother-baby love: a mother snuggling with her newborn, each doting on the other in that early stage of oneness when the world seems perfect.

But actually, all mothers and children are different. One mother casually prefers to nurse, another says it's old-fashioned and rejects it, while a third eagerly seizes it as a delight. And, if mothers are different, so too are babies, right at birth.

If your fingerprints are unique, God-given to you alone, how can your intimacy needs be exactly the same as those of all others? They cannot. While there is a soulmate out there for you, no generic Prince Charming or Aphrodite exists. Believing so is like believing that the earth is the center of the cosmos. To know what you need from someone, you first must know yourself. You're not one kind of person one day and totally different the next. The point is to know who you are.

Myth #2: Work on Your Relationship and All Will be Well

A prevalent view, perpetuated by movies, TV, books and therapists today is that a relationship is something you must work on. That view is a huge fallacy! Far more accurate is the view of the ancient Greek philosophers who said that leisure is something you enjoy for itself; work, if it's enjoyable and what you look forward to, is leisure!

A relationship that's work fills you with the same tightness in your stomach as a job you dislike does, one that gives you headaches or ulcers, and makes you ache to have the day end. Your partner is not someone to be "worked on" like a car that needs to be shined, washed and gadgets added in an effort to make it look nicer. Rather, your partner is a person sent to you as a means of teaching you lessons about yourself and life, a true gift from God. Think of a plant. Some need lots of water or they wither or die; some little. It doesn't work at growing. Nor should you.

Myth #3: Love Conquers All

While many believe this myth, it's obvious from our globally growing divorce statistics that love isn't enough. Indeed, research reveals that big personality differences consistently "trump" love, and bring unhappiness. Still, this concept clings to us as flies to a fly-trap. Women, in particular, are susceptible. Why? Because they're often convinced they can change their partner, if love is truly there. Forget it. If there's one thing we psychologists know, it's that change only comes from within, never from the outside. If you can't accept your partner's flaws, move on. Don't expect to change him or her.

Myth #4: Opposites Attract

This silly notion arose after WW2 when the sociologist Robert F. Winch disagreed. His theory stated that we're attracted to those whose needs match our own differing needs: for instance, that dominant and submissive persons are paradoxically drawn to each other. Hence, the "Opposites Attract" theory. It works for electricity, but not for people. Look at your flashlight battery. If you took a wire and attached one end to the positive and one to the negative end, you would now have a complete circuit which produces a viable electric current. Wonderful!

But wires aren't people who enter this world quasi-full blown with minds, hearts, spirit and soul. Coming from diverse genetic backgrounds, we're fully equipped with our own brand of tastes, feelings, wants and needs. We need someone who can not only understand this, but share it.

Finding lasting romantic love is an exciting adventure. Once you know your own intimacy needs and reject these four destructive love myths, happiness will certainly be yours.

Based in New York City, Edward Hoffman, Ph.D. and Marcella Bakur Weiner, Ph.D. are licensed psychologists and authors of "The Love Compatibility Book" (New World Library: 2003: $14.95). For information about their classes and sessions, call 212-947-7111.