Love at First Sight

February 1, 2004 by  
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Love Doctor

Q&A

In this issue dedicated to Valentine’s Day, love and romance, it is a good idea to ask the expert about that indescribable feeling that can lift us to the moon when we’re in it or pull us down to the dredges when we’ve lost it. So H Texas turned to Dr. Luis Salinas who is a professor and author on the subject.
Salinas has been teaching undergraduate and graduate sociology courses on marriage and the family for 21 years and is particularly interested in multicultural approaches to the subject. He has published extensively in the area and is a nationally acknowledged expert in the field.

Q: Is there such a thing as love at first sight and, if so, what are the odds of its lasting? A: Because love is such a complex matter, it is not likely that it occurs at first sight, although there is attraction at first sight, which may subsequently lead to love.

Q: Do opposites attract
A: Mostly on magnets. Homogamy, the word used to describe human attraction of people with similar interests, is the name of the game for humans. The more homogamy there is, the more likely humans will stay together and experience a successful relationship. Only one study supports the “complementary-needs theory,” and it is regarded with suspicion in the academic community.

Q: Does living together before marriage help or hurt the marriage?
A: It depends on the motivation for the cohabitation. If cohabitation is to “try it before you buy it,” there may be more commitment anxiety, which would therefore be more likely to hurt a subsequent marriage. If cohabitation is done for economic reasons, i.e. buying a house rather than paying for a wedding, it is more likely to help a marriage.

Q: Should relationships between same-sex individuals be legal?
A: These relationships have existed in our society for a very long time. They have just not been able to avail themselves of the many legal benefits afforded to the married. Many of the arguments against these are the same as those that backed the anti-miscegenation laws (laws prohibiting interracial marriage) until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws in the late 1960s. After same-sex relationships become legal, they will be another of those events that become an accepted part of society, much like women’s suffrage and mixed marriages. Same-sex marriages have been legal in some European countries for years, where the only apparent effect has been the strengthening of the Euro.

Q: So many high-profile people – rock personalities, movie stars – are having children before, if ever, getting married. Does this affect the children in later years?
A: Being a celebrity by itself places many stresses on a person. A child of a celebrity or celebrities experiences most of these stresses, as well. For these individuals, the marital status of the parents is very likely a small problem compared to these other stresses.

Q: How long should a couple date before having sex?
A: Couples should wait until some type of relationship has developed. Sex then has a context in which to occur and is more likely to be not just more fulfilling but also augment the relationship. Otherwise, it is just lust.

Q: How does a person know when he or she is in love?
A: As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, “It is difficult to define, but I know it when I see it.” The rush felt by the endorphins engulfing the body is difficult to miss. This is why love is called “chemistry.”

Q: How does a person know when it’s over?
A: A person knows it is over when there are no feelings for the other person. Even negative feelings for the other party indicate that the emotional entanglement is not over. A more tangible sign is when the ring is pawned.

Q: Men and women are getting married later today than they were a generation ago. Does later marriage promote happier and longer lasting marriages?
A: Men are getting married at about the same age they were 100 years ago, after dipping significantly halfway through the last century. The difference is that they are now marrying women two years younger rather than five years younger. This homogamous trend has been associated with higher marital satisfaction and lower divorce.

Q: What are the primary social causes of breakups?
A: Liberalization of social norms, divorce models, individualism and the Social Goal of Happiness. This is why the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world. It has become more accepted to be divorced. There are more divorce examples that serve as role models for others. Modern concerns about being happy and “what is in it for me?” also drive individuals to break up.

Q: What is romance, anyway?
A: This is very difficult to operationalize. It is difficult to plan. It is also so individual. Unfortunately, it is media-driven for most people. What they see in a movie or a commercial is what becomes romantic for them.

Q: What are the three most important qualities of a lasting marriage?
A: Clear communication, respect and patience.

Q: Any benefits to being married?
A: Many research studies have found that married people are generally healthier and happier than the single, divorced or widowed. Married people are ill less frequently and recover faster. They do tend to have a healthier lifestyle, consequently, they do live longer. The security afforded by marriage also has considerable and consequential advantages for emotional well-being, particularly for women.
Dr. Salinas can be e-mailed at lsalinas@uh.edu.

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