Category Archives: life

How would you feel if your life turns out opposite to what you plan?

How would you feel if your life is radically changed by society, opposite to what you want it to be?

change ahead

Most people are sincere to plan their life according to what they see as fit to their life goals and values. But sometimes, society and historical events alter this plan and turn it opposite or substantially different from what the person intends it be.

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I remember the late Father Diego whom I personally knew when we were still studying in the same college seminary. He was an intelligent, honest, and God-fearing seminarian. I  predicted that he would be a good and holy priest, judging from his personality and piety. Few years later, I heard that he was ordained priest and was doing well in his ministry.

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But my prediction turned out to be totally different from what actually happened to him, some few years after his ordination. I didn’t expect the tragic ending of his life. He encountered personal and pastoral problems in his ministry as a diocesan priest. He met a woman whom he didn’t know to have secret vices. He left the priesthood and live with her. Soon he discovered that his partner had a secret relationship with another man, addicted to cigarettes and gambling. He also faced poverty after he left the ministry. As an ex-priest, he could not find a stable and high-paying job. He was also lonely and had lost contact with his brother priests and old friends in his parish.

As his personal and economic problems piled up, Father Diego suffered a serious stroke and became totally confined to a wheelchair. The infidelity of his partner intensified when he became totally disabled. Neglected with no money and friends who could help and cheer him up, Father Diego died at an early age of around 40 years old. What appeared to be a life of service and holiness for Father Diego became a life of suffering, frustration, and even excommunication by the Church he loved.

crossroad

The German sociologist Max Weber speaks about the 2 consequences of human action and decision: The intended and the unintended effects. The intended effect is the purpose of a person’s action, while the unintended effect is the unforeseen effect of his or her action. According to Weber, one cannot avoid the unintended effects of human action. What is intended by the actor for his or her life may be good and noble but because of historical events beyond control, the result of the action maybe negative or opposite to what he or she intended. Father Diego is a deeply religious and sincere person who intended to follow Christ and serve people in the Church. But because of problems and life circumstances beyond his control, what he intended for his life did not occur but the unintended consequences such as leaving the priesthood, neglect and infidelity of his girlfriend,  and frustration. Indeed, life can be cruel if one is not prepared for the future.

Photo credit: shutterstock

 

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Why People’s Commitments Change?

Wedding vows

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INTRODUCTION

Why people’s commitments change? Despite the fact that people promise to love one another or married couples take the wedding vows seriously, permanent commitment to stay together is not always attainable.

Well, let me just explain here two important reasons why commitment in a relationship changes despite the serious promise of couples to stay together no matter what happens in the future.

open system

First, people change. Thus, what people promise today may change through time. There is one theory in anthropology and sociology which states that a person is an open system. This means that a person’s self is always being influenced by culture and society. It is not a finished product. The moment the person is born, the mind begins to receive impressions and images based on experience that gradually form his or her self. This continues until his or her death. Thus, a person’s perception of his or her self as a committed loving person in a particular historical moment such as the wedding or engagement day is still subject to future historical events that can break this commitment, which he or she may not foresee or anticipate. One lawyer married his wife but has not made a formal break-up with his girlfriend. Five years later, they accidentally met each other. Despite his marital promise to love his wife forever, he did not expect that he would commit extra-marital affairs with his former girlfriend.

change ahead

Second, society and social environment surrounding the relationship change, thus people’s loving commitments change. Depending on the value system of the couples, historical events often change people’s commitment. For instance, the couple undergoing extreme stress due to poverty and  financial problems after marriage can lead to divorce or separation. Job loss or retrenchment due to economic recession and underdevelopment may affect people’s commitment. Maintaining a relationship implies resource allocation. It’s difficult to maintain a relationship without the necessary resources and money to meet the needs of the couple and their dependents.

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The advent of the Internet and digital technology can be both a blessing and a curse. The cyberspace and mobile technology have done a lot of advantages to create and maintain romantic and marital relationships. But this societal change in technology also facilitate infidelity, relationship break-ups, or separation of married people, since it is very easy to meet new people in the cyberspace and social media with numerous dating sites and chat rooms. Again, people may be very committed with their loving relationships, but with the constant technological change in society that facilitates infidelity, commitments become more difficult to maintain. Unless the couples believe in something supernatural or some form of spirituality as a foundation of their loving relationship that transcends the material world, maintaining a commitment will always be a great challenge to every one living in today’s fast-changing technological age. Cheers!

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Photo credit: shutterstock

How to Mend a Broken Heart!

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1. INTRODUCTION

To experience a broken heart in romantic love is indeed painful but passing. There’s no pain that won’t subside and heal. It depends on how the broken-hearted person deals with the pain and positions himself/herself in an environment that can gradually erase the painful memory.  Let’s first read Rona’s letter before we’ll tackle this problem (from Joe the Mango’s love notes):

Dear Joe,
It’s been 3 years since my friend Diane wrote u my story. We’re now professionals and are both doing good in our jobs.
I would like to give you a background on how my life 3 years ago was – you see I was the one hopelessly fighting for the love Fr. Kiko and I shared. It was love beyond compare. Indeed there were lots of sacrifices we endured . I must admit I was blinded, we tried to be like a normal couple but we were just not meant to be. All of a sudden he changed, he avoided me and I was left devastated.
During that time, John came. He was an old acquaintance. He was a former partner in a school dance and he was so sweet and thoughtful. Just for fun, we decided to have a trial relationship. I was nursing a broken heart back then and he was a welcome escape for me.
But as the time passed by. I found myself slowly falling for him. It was a smooth sailing relationship. And so even when Fr. Kiko made it known to me that he still exists, I completely forgot about him. My relationship with John became deeper. He introduced me to his parents and I introduced him to my family too and they got along pretty well. I could not ask for more, Joe. A family who loves me, a stable job, lots of friends and a boyfriend who loves me more than anybody else. Or so I thought.
On our first year as a couple, our relationship suddenly came to a halt. A friend of mine caught him arm in arm with another lady moonlighting in Tagaytay. My friend told me about it. But I was not about to freak out without asking him. I confronted him but he told me it’s not true. I can’t deny the fact that John is indeed, two timing me. But instead of throwing a fit of anger to him, I stooped down and blindly understood him. He pleaded for my forgiveness and I readily gave it to him. Call it foolishness, but that was how I loved him. Our relationship went on, this time in a deeper level. Marriage in two years time was in the air.
And so I programmed my mind that he was the one for me. We celebrated our second year anniversary promising each other that the love we shared will be there always and forever. But I was wrong. Late last year after a petty quarrel, he decided to break up with me. I was caught unguarded, my hopes and dreams came shattering in front of me. I didn’t know what to do. It was as if my whole life had fallen into pieces. I asked him why and he casually said he needed time and space. Not measuring the pain I felt, I gave him what he wanted. Maybe, that’s what will make him happy and contented. The days passed by and I anxiously waited for him to come back, but I waited in vain. I came to know that he was courting one of his officemates. I guess that’s why it seemed so easy for him to end the relationship. How could he betray me, twice, when I gave him my full trust. But, Joe, I was still foolishly in love with him. I silently prayed and wished that we can mend this broken relationship….
As always,
RONA

 

2. TIPS ON MENDING A BROKEN HEART

There are lots of romantics out there nursing a broken heart because they cannot forget the past and move on with their lives. To be rejected by somebody we love in a romantic relationship is painful. Since people’s minds are conditioned by society that to fall in love is natural, the bodily and psychological effects of a broken romantic love to people’s live can be devastating. Since people are historical beings, the pain of a broken heart is not forever. It can heal depending on how we deal with the past experience and how we change our social environment. Here are some important tips to expedite the healing of a broken heart:

 

  1. Avoid all things that can remind you of the past relationship. 

    Avoid people, places, and things that can remind you of your former lover. The more you hold on to the past, the longer the healing process  to end. Always remember, that this person is only one of the many millions of people you can associate yourself with in the future. This relationship has ended and there is no reason to hold on to it. Probably, it is the happy memories of the past that keep you clinging to the failed romance. But it is only a matter of time that you can meet your next lover, depending on your attitude and openness to begin  a new relationship.

  2. Change something in your self and environment to mark a new beginning of your life. 

    You can change your looks, hair, or fashion which can make you feel good about yourself. Some people would cut their hair or have a new hairstyle to forget the past. If possible, you can change your job or activities that would remind you of your former lover and past experience. You can engage in new sports, hobbies, or enhance your talents to heal the wound and repair your broken ego. Achieving something for yourself and others can improve your self-confidence and help you forget the past.

  3. Evaluate your past mistakes and try to avoid them in your next relationship.

    Learn from your mistakes. Do your homework before you decide to enter a new relationship. Do some background check first before saying “yes” to your next lover! A simple research whether the person is already married, a womanizer, or a drug dependent, etc. can avoid a lot of future headaches! Also, check whether you can manage the cultural difference with your next love. Marrying a foreigner or a person with a different cultural background can also cause a lot of headaches in personal compatibility and adjustment.

  4. Be patient. Only time can heal a broken heart. There is no medicine or pain reliever that you can take to remove the romantic pain immediately. 

    Just don’t panic. All romantics undergo the painful experience of nursing a broken heart. The good news is that this pain will be more bearable  as you grow in experience, maturity, and wisdom in romantic relationship. To mend a broken heart is more painful for first-timers but less for experienced lovers and repeaters.

  5. Don’t forget to pray and ask God to guide you.

    Based on research, religious people are likely to hurdle difficult problems in life than non-religious. Romance is only temporary but faith in God is eternal. What matters is your ultimate goal in life. Don’t lose sight of it. One failed experience should not define you life. Rise and see the beauty of life!

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What is Confluent Love?

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Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Confluent love has no commitment or intention to enter into marriage. It is passing and it is good while it lasts.

“It was three years ago when I became friends with a guy I met through a mutual friend. It was hard not to like him. He was sweet, charming and thoughtful. He became the friend I would call when I couldn’t sleep at three in the morning. I woke up one morning and realized I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

I had no illusions about the relationship because I knew he had a girlfriend from the start. I knew I was special to him, but did he love me? I was much too afraid to know the answer. I just held on to what we had, just happy to be with him, knowing deep in my heart that it wouldn’t last and yet hoping against hope that it would.

And then one day he told me his girlfriend was pregnant. I felt like someone had put a knife through my heart and twisted it in really deep. I knew at that moment that I had to let him go. I didn’t want him to see that the happiest day of his life was the saddest day of mine. But though I was slowly dying inside, a part of me
was happy because I knew he was happy. Walking away from him was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I never looked back, afraid that if I did I wouldn’t have the strength to let him go.

It’s been a year now since we last spoke. Even though we made a vow to stay good friends, there was also an unspoken understanding between us that I needed time away from him to give me a chance to heal. There are days when I still miss him badly and I wonder if I can ever really let him go. I know one day I will love again. But for now I just take it one day at a time knowing that if I make it through the day, then tomorrow will be easier” (The happiest and saddest day, By Joe d’Mango).

Sincerely,

Gabrielle

What is Confluent Love?

Confluent love is a type of romantic relationship which is attuned to the present postmodern times. In his book, “The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies,” the British sociologist Anthony Giddens (1992) describes confluent love as a type of love which is based on pure relationship. And  pure relationship is a “social relation…entered into for its own sake; and which is continued only in so far as it is thought by both parties to deliver enough satisfaction for each individual to stay within it” (Cornville & Rogers, 1998, p. 97). ‘Unlike romantic love, confluent love is not necessarily monogamous, in the sense of sexual exclusiveness. What holds the pure relationship together is the acceptance on the part of each partner, ‘until further notice’, that each gains sufficient benefit from the relation to make its continuance worthwhile (Giddens, 2011). Romantic love is a type of relationship which is often viewed as ‘forever after’ monogamous love. This type of love prepares people for the lifelong commitment of marital love after courtship and engagement.

Confluent love is different from romantic or marital love. In consensual love, the partners agree to have sexual relations with others whom they have no intention of marrying or, if they marry, do not necessarily see the marriage as having permanence (Kendal, 2014). The essence of confluent love is its contingency. It is not a “till-death-do-us-part” kind of relationship. It lasts as long as the lovers find the relationship mutually fulfilling. Thus, a one-night stand, a regular orgy of couples, or a temporary live-in arrangement or cohabitation with no intention of marrying, are some expressions of confluent love. Furthermore, confluent love, unlike romantic love, is not always monogamous. Sometimes it allows polygamous, bisexual or homosexual relationship. In this sense, confluent love does not conform to the criteria of true love as defined by the Bible and Church teachings. It has no religious dimension. It ends when both or all parties involved feel that the relationship is no longer working and satisfying. “The emergent morality of confluent love recognizes the rights of individual to happiness and appropriateness of ending relationships that are no longer experienced as fulfilling” (Goodwin & Cramer, 2009, p. 48). This emerging concept of love and commitment, facilitated by the liquidity of the world by the process of globalization and secularization, contravenes the religious understanding of marital love as sacred and a lifetime commitment.

What is an “Unhealthy” Romantic Love?

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Fig. 3.1 “A Couple Having a Fight” by David Castillo Dominici (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

    A true romantic love is said to be a sincere and based on mutual self-giving. People must avoid a one-sided affair where one partner in a romantic relationship is just using the other to satisfy his or her own needs. Sadly, there are people who allow this type of love and allow their partners to manipulate them, most probably because of lack of options. This particularly true for people who desperately look for a romantic partner despite being used by the other. A person who is single with mature age or a young person who is pressured by his or her peer group and relatives to have a boyfriend or girlfriend may cling to an unhealthy or one-sided romantic love. As the following lyrics of the song “I can’t live without you” by the Bad Company illustrate:

The first time you deceived me, it nearly broke my heart
What hurts me most was I’m the last to know
So lately I’ve been thinking, thinking ’bout you
I know deep in my heart you had to go

Last night when I told you, you looked into my eyes
A wicked smile just spread across your face
You know I can’t resist you, no matter what you do
The way you treat me babe, it’s a disgrace [1]

According to the great Winston Churchill, an “[i]mmature love says, I love you because I need you, mature love says, I need you because I love you.” A true and mature romantic relationship does not use the other for selfish reasons. True love allows both partners to grow as persons and does not manipulate or use the other. Here’s an example of a one-sided and unhealthy types of romantic relationship. The lack of option is one important reason why people stay in a one-sided love affair. Obviously, this type of romance is not true love:

     “I don’t really know if I can call it love, but I really care for this guy in my college. I had always been a reserved, socially awkward individual. I never really dated any guy in my school years because I couldn’t even look in the eyes of a man without blushing!… However, I am a changed person today—more confident, smart, straight forward and honest. This guy in my college was the FIRST guy who told me “I am falling for you”. He told me he thought I was beautiful. It took over a month to finally tell him a yes, because I was afraid if he would hurt my feeble heart. The thing about me is that if I love, I love unconditionally….And so we spend a lot of time together and during one of our conversations he told me about his psychological condition—he had split personality, was a socially disconnected individual and couldn’t handle relationships. He told me about how his “falling in love” phase lasted only four hours to a few days… But the more I knew about his flaws, the more I loved him.

      Over time, I empathized so much with him that I ended up mirroring his emotions and his personality… I also realized that the only reason he sticks around with me is because 1) I am regularly at work and is a good student at college. Hence, I can inform him of assignments to be submitted and college holidays. 2) He said he can’t afford a girlfriend at the moment and I am available at a ‘cheaper price’ and mostly free because I don’t demand for anything. 3) I am a girl and he is a guy and he can satisfy his ‘needs’….[2]

      No! This is certainly not the way I wanted a man to love me. But I continued to remain in this one-sided, broken relationship in the craving and greed for the temporary happiness I gained when I was with him. I’ve lost all my self-respect; I have begun to value him more than I value myself. I know this isn’t good, but I just can’t get over him and I just don’t seem to find the true love I have been looking for my entire 19 years.

      Love and intimacy go hand in hand in romantic love. But this must be felt by both partners. Love is the physical, emotional, sexual, intellectual, or social affection one person holds for another, while intimacy is the close relationship of two people where mutual acceptance, nurturance, and trust are shared at some level.

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Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

   But not all romantic relationships can blossom into real love. Because of some psychological issues faced by people in romantic love as well as incompatibilities in terms of personal trait and character between lovers, the initial feeling of love or infatuation can turn into an “unhealthy” romantic relationship. People who experience the following types of love are advised to leave the relationship and move on to search their true and meaningful love.

    The most common types of unhealthy romantic love include obsessive love, unrequited love, and deceptive love.

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Source: Saved from hug2love.com (Pinterest)

References

 [1] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/badcompany/icantlivewithoutyou.html.

[2] “I am in Love” by Nandana96 in www.experienceproject.com.

Male Physical Traits Attractive to Women

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Photo: “Lovers” by photostock (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

On Physical Traits

     Romantic love often begins with physicality. People are embodied beings and communicate with the world through their bodies. In cultures where marriages are arranged, physicality is not a major problem in the selection of partners. But in urban and advanced societies with strong emphasis on romantic love and falling in love before marriage, physical looks play an important role in the selection of partners. Research has shown that it only takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes for a person to fall in love at first sight or fancy someone. And what usually attracts the person during this moment is not what the other says, but what his or her presence projects through body language (55%) and the tone and speed of the voice (38%). The content of what the person says is only 7%.

      There has to be some sort of physical basis before two strangers fall in love. People have some minimum standards of beauty which he or she learned through social learning. This is usually attuned to his or her cultural upbringing and taste. Thus, “loving one’s own” is a common pattern in falling in love. People with similar culture, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, geographical location, and social categories usually more disposed to fall in love with each than those with more dissimilarities and cultural incompatibilities. Cultural similarities reduce a lot of social barriers that make the love relationship easier to maintain. A study published in the journal  Psychological Science found that men who live in cultures where food and money are scarce tend to find heavier women more attractive than thinner ones. These men may see the extra pounds as a status symbol; a buxom figure signals having the means to purchase plenty of food.

      People with similar cultural background share similar standards of beauty and are, therefore, more likely to fall in love than complete cultural strangers. Of course, with the advent of digital technology and the Internet, people’s standards of physical beauty may become hybrid or mixed, especially to those who are heavy users of the multi-cultural world wide web. Cultural diffusion through the Internet can change people’s standards of beauty and love and can make them accepting of foreign standards of falling in love.

      It’s probable that a person “falls in love for the first time” because of the physical presence of the other as resembling somebody, whether real or imagined, whom he or she idolizes or had a crush, whether a celebrity, a friend, former classmate or officemate or anybody he or she had been attracted to. The person’s wish list of an ideal romantic partner immediately become active during the first encounter and “falls in love” with somebody he or she has not been known acquainted with. Although popularly considered as “love at first sight”, experts and moralists do not generally consider this as love but infatuation and only a first step towards true love. Using biological theory, Helen Fisher of Rutgers University also considers “love at first sight” as only the first of the 3 stages of love: lust, attraction and attachment. For her, the first stage of love is only lust. This is the amazing moment when two people are driven by the sex hormones of testosterone and estrogen. In the second stage, the couple is truly love-struck and can think of little else. And in the third and attachment stage, the couple is bonded together long enough to have and raise children.

Based on many research studies, the following physical traits are generally attractive to women:

        1. Taller than their Women

Height matters in falling in love. Women are generally attracted to men who are taller than them. Taller men have a bigger body frame, and thus, have stronger physical strength and more capable of protecting their romantic partners.

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  Fig. 1 “Young Hugging Couple” by Marcolm (Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

      “A 2014 research conducted by professors at Rice University and the University of Northern Texas found out that out of around 1000 Yahoo! Personal Dating ads, nearly 50% of women claimed that they’d prefer to date a man who’s taller than they were.” Thus, height still matters. Tall men are usually attractive to women because of the popular belief that they can provide more protection to their female partners that shorter ones. But take note that this doesn’t mean that men should be very tall to be attractive to women. This study only suggests that the male partner must be at least a little taller than the female partner and not shorter. The average height of men and women of a particular culture of countries applies here. Southeast Asian men such as Indonesians, Thais and Filipinos are generally shorter than Caucasian European or American men. So what is the average height for men in a given culture is still socially acceptable as long as male lovers are taller than their female partners. What is generally unacceptable is that the male partner is shorter than the female partner. In this case, it seems the woman is physically stronger and providing protection to her male partner which is considered as a reversal of roles; thus, culturally unacceptable.

      But people must not make this height requirement absolute as there are couples who are happy with shorter male partners. For older people, what matters more in a relationship are intimacy, companionship, social status of the partner, and financial security rather than the height and other physical attributes of their partners. By age, the youth and young adults seem to value this requirement of height than older people.

  1. Athletic Body

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  Fig. 2 “Portrait Muscular Male” by domdeen (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

       Researchers have found out of all the body shapes, women in general seem to prefer a “V-shaped” athletic body of their men. Respondents say a strong and well-defined musculature on the upper body and a narrow and slim waist. “Because body type is a reliable indicator of health and fertility, men are more attracted to women with a lower waist-to-hip (WHR) ratio and an average body mass index (BMI), neither thin nor plump, because these are associated with youth and sexual maturity.”

   3. Slower Movements

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  Fig. 3 “Young Romantic Couple” by imagerymajestic (Image courtesy of DigitalFreePhotos.net)

       Researchers have found that men who have slower movements and speech are often perceived as more at ease and confident, and thus, more attractive. This particularly true in first date or where the partners are still cautious with one another. The male can give a good impression if he is slower in his verbal and nonverbal communication that allows the female partner to be at ease in the social interaction. “Stay calm and lean back in the beginning to persuade your partner that you are safe, trustworthy, and likable. Lean in and get more energetic once you’ve earned their trust, to motivate them to become excited about the prospect of seeing you again.” Slower movements can also indicate good manners, confidence, gentleness, and good breeding.

    4. Smaller Belly

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Fig. 4 “Portrait Muscular Male Torso” by Domdeen (Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

A large amount of abdominal fat can indicate lower levels of testosterone and lower sex drive and fertility. It’s absolutely no surprise that women love that washboard stomach. The ripples are the epitome of what a man is defined by. Some women didn’t necessarily require rock hard ab, but a flat stomach is important just the same.

  1. Deeper Voices

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 Fig. 5 “Young Businessman Talking to Client” by stockimages (Image courtesy  of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

      Men with deeper voices are more likely to appear attractive or make an impression than those with higher voices. Deeper voices are generally associated with masculinity and power while higher voices are associated with femininity and weaker strength. According to a group of researchers from University College London, women perceive men with a deeper voice as a sign of a larger and stronger physicality.

       6. Symmetrical Face

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Fig. 2.7 “Portrait of Handsome Model” by imagerymajestic (Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

An Austrian study found out that women prefer male faces that are symmetrical with evenly spaced eyes (which are often considered a sign of good health).

       7. Alpha Male Features

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 Fig. 2.8  “Smiling Man With Towel” by imagerymajestic (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

      Heterosexual females tend to be physically or sexually attracted to men with traditionally masculine features such as a muscular frame, a square jaw, big nose and small yes. These physical traits often signify higher levels of testosterone, and are more common in “alpha males”, males with a set of personality traits that include directness, decisiveness, and intensity.

  1. Attractive  Eyes

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  Fig. 2.9 “Smiling Young Couples” by imagerymajestic (Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

       Many women attracted to men’s eyes. The Eyes is the window to the person’s soul. The sincerity and character of the person can sometimes be glimpsed through the expression of his eyes. An eye movement can give a lot of clues to women with regard to the kind of men they are dating with.

      Moreover, researchers speculated that human beings are naturally drawn to what’s most familiar, and eye and hair color indicates familiarity and thus induces attraction. Women are usually attracted to men whose eye color is similar with those of their father’s.

      9. Nice Butt

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Fig.2.9.1 “Back Pose of Smart Young Guy” by stockimages (Image courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

         In one survey in the United Kingdom with 1000 respondents, women find the male body parts, according to rank, as the sexiest which can turn them on. Women are generally attracted to athletic men with nice butts. Some respondents wrote that they love those “half-moon” butts, while others preferred the “slightly curvaceous” ones. Men with honed hips are also attractive to women.

    Despite all these attractive physical traits, true love is beyond physicality. It also includes mutual self-giving, strength of character, good personal values, and the capacity to commit one’s self to marriage.

 

What is a True Love?

 

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Fig. 1. “Attractive Young Couple In Love” by Serge Bertasius Photography (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 

Introduction

Judge whether this short love note indicates true love or not:

(From the column “Joe the Mango’s LoveNotes” [unedited])

Dear Joe,

I find it hard to believe that broken dreams could become a part of my life. I’m truly sad for the simple reason that my life isn’t really doing fine. Once in a while, I look back to the past , trying to figure out what went wrong. At 22, I think I’ve had enough disappointments and frustration in life.

Remembering my school days, it seemed that everything was simple and easier then, the “home-school” routine may prove boring but I understand that’s part of growing up. Somehow, I realized learning is a life- long process, for there are bigger lessons in life to learn.

May 1995, I got my first job as a banker. Amidst my pressure-filled work days , I never thought love could come my way. It did but to my disappointment I eventually lost it. After all that’s been said and done, I’m still holding on to the memories.

I met Alfred and already liked him the first time I saw him. Even then, he showed signs of interests for me. Though we had no real relationship, I know he had done his part trying to get close to me. Out of foolishness, I was not able to express my real feelings for him. I pretended I didn’t care. Maybe I was afraid to take a chance, thinking what we felt was only temporary, considering most of our colleagues were against us. There were times when I intentionally avoided him. But I realized I was in love with him.

I thought that when I met Alfred, the right time had come. I was happy knowing that what I felt for Alfred was something real. Sad to say, nothing seemed right between us.

Each day was disappointing . We kept on fooling around and there were times when I thought of giving up everything, including my job. I never wanted to see him again and stop playing a game I know I’ll never win.

But I couldn’t let go. It took sometime for me to accept he’s not here anymore, that he will never come back to me.

How I wish I had let him known how much he meant to me. I wonder if he’s happy , now that he’s free. Somehow I can’t stop thinking there could be another chance for us to meet again. I’ll be waiting for that time.

How can I really face everyday that comes when my mind and heart still lament over the past? To forget the past is to forget Alfred. Joe, I really hope your words of advice can help me clear my mind.

Sincerely yours,
Laarni

Distinguish Infatuation from True Love

In order to appreciate the reality of true love, it is better that people must first distinguish between infatuation and real love. Infatuation is the earliest stage of falling in love or what people would commonly call as “love at first sight”. Infatuation is the intense feelings associated with falling in love. However, it starts and ends quickly. In infatuation, a person instantly falls in love with someone he or she knows nothing about. Thus, when he or she discovers after an initial encounter that his or her first date is different from what he or she expects, the intense feeling immediately evaporates and he or she moves on to find another partner. Relationship coach Chana Leviton characterized infatuation as a powerful connection to someone that leaves a person feeling out of control and possessed by his or her feelings. It strikes the person without warning by someone he or she may not have nothing in common or even dislike. Infatuation is irrational and unrealistic. Since the initial interaction with the person is too short to allow deeper acquaintance, the feelings of attraction in infatuation are superficial and based on false assumptions about the true character of the partner. Of course, there are cases that infatuation can also lead to true love. But more often it can result in frustration and separation after the initial encounter.

Since infatuation is a fleeting experience and feeling of falling in love, many social scientists do not consider this as “real” love. Moralists call infatuation as lust and not love in a sense that it is more sexual and self-centered. “Real” love is said to take time and is realistic. Infatuation is a fleeting feeling of intense attraction with no knowledge of real personality and character between partners. It can, at times, become a starting point for true love if the partner decides to continue their romantic relationship despite the initial discovery of incompatibilities, but in itself, infatuation can hardly be called a real mutual self-giving between partners.

“Real” love, on the one hand, has a positive effect on the person’s personality. Infatuation, on the other hand, has a disorganizing negative effect to the person falling in love. It can leave him or her unable to sleep, eat or concentrate. It can make him/her “possessive” and prone to bouts of jealousy. Real love, on the contrary, makes the person energetic, creative, and purposeful. It makes him or her trustful of the other and feel secure. So the real indicator whether the initial experience of falling in love is a mere infatuation or a real beginning of a true love seems to the type of effect or impact of the initial encounter of the partners in their daily life. If the general effect of the falling in love at the beginning is negative, i.e., the person loses control of his or her life of the intense feeling, then it is most likely an infatuation. But if the general effect is positive, i.e., the initial feeling of love makes the partners more inspired to reach their life goals, happy, and productive in their daily routine, then it is most likely the falling in love is not just an infatuation but probably the beginning of true romance, love, and commitment.

Romantic partners who share similar traits and level of attractiveness are more likely to end together for a longer period than those who look significantly different. Many social researchers believe that there is a pattern on how people choose their mates or romantic relationships. The matching hypothesis indicate that people who are more attracted to others who share a similar attraction level with them.

couple

Fig. 2 True love takes time and has a positive effect on personality (“Couple with their Girl Child Looking Upwards” by stockimages [Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net])

 

No One “Wish List” for the Right Partner

 

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Figure 1: Choosing the right partner is cultural. The ideal partner is defined by one’s local culture. (“Pre Wedding” by  arztsamui [Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net])

Choosing the right partner is closely connected with one’s cultural taste and socialization in life. Every individual has his/her own “wish list” of traits they hope to find from their suitors, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses or lovers. In sociology, every person undergoes a socialization process or social upbringing in order to become a productive human being in a particular society. A person’s “wish List” of an ideal romantic partner is influenced by his/her socialization to romantic love, particularly by his/her exposure to love, from childhood up to the moment s/he starts to fall in love. A person who is socially isolated and rarely exposed to romanticism, for instance, would be less interested in romance than one who is addicted to romantic film, novel, music and other romantic materials. And since the process of social learning is a lifelong process, this wish list is also evolving as the person matures with age and moves up in social stature. Young people, for instance, usually have a wish list of an ideal boyfriend and girlfriend, which is more focused on looks or physical traits, while older adults are more focused on financial stability, compatibility, commitment, and social standing of the partner. Without some sort of a strong spiritual and cultural belief or tradition that binds the love relationship, people can fall out of love with their partners and file a divorce  because of some changes of their wish list through time. According to Benjamin Disraeli, the “first magic of love is our ignorance that it can ever end.”  A young man who married his sexy sweetheart may fall out of love during midlife when he observed that his wife has become obese or physically unattractive due to work or motherhood and may look for another partner who is  younger and  more attractive than his wife.

Despite the change of one’s wish list due to changes in age and life situations, it is also possible that a person still maintains some desirable psychological traits of an ideal romantic partner in life. Some research studies show that a person’s positive or negative experience with their parents or family life can determine his or her ideal qualities of an ideal partner. Thus, a girl who is close to her own nurturing father may be looking for a partner or father figure who also possesses this type of personality trait. As Charles A. Stoddard would put it: “We love in others what we lack ourselves, and would be everything but what we are.”

On Physical Traits

Romantic love often begins with physicality. People are embodied beings and communicate with the world through their bodies. In cultures where marriages are arranged, physicality is not a major problem in the selection of partners. But in urban and advanced societies with strong emphasis on romantic love and falling in love before marriage, physical looks play an important role in the selection of partners. Research has shown that it only takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes for a person to fall in love at first sight or fancy someone. And what usually attracts the person during this moment is not what the other says, but what his or her presence projects through body language (55%) and the tone and speed of the voice (38%). The content of what the person says is only 7%.

There has to be some sort of physical basis before two strangers fall in love. People have some minimum standards of beauty which he or she learned through social learning. This is usually attuned to his or her cultural upbringing and taste. Thus, “loving one’s own” is a common pattern in falling in love. People with similar culture, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, geographical location, and social categories usually more disposed to fall in love with each than those with more dissimilarities and cultural incompatibilities. Cultural similarities reduce a lot of social barriers that make the love relationship easier to maintain. A study published in the journal  Psychological Science found that men who live in cultures where food and money are scarce tend to find heavier women more attractive than thinner ones. These men may see the extra pounds as a status symbol; a buxom figure signals having the means to purchase plenty of food.

People with similar cultural background share similar standards of beauty and are, therefore, more likely to fall in love than complete cultural strangers. Of course, with the advent of digital technology and the Internet, people’s standards of physical beauty may become hybrid or mixed, especially to those who are heavy users of the multi-cultural world wide web. Cultural diffusion through the Internet can change people’s standards of beauty and love and can make them accepting of foreign standards of falling in love.

It’s probable that a person “falls in love for the first time” because of the physical presence of the other as resembling somebody, whether real or imagined, whom he or she idolizes or had a crush, whether a celebrity, a friend, former classmate or officemate or anybody he or she had been attracted to. The person’s wish list of an ideal romantic partner immediately become active during the first encounter and “falls in love” with somebody he or she has not been known acquainted with. Although popularly considered as “love at first sight”, experts and moralists do not generally consider this as love but infatuation and only a first step towards true love. Using biological theory, Helen Fisher of Rutgers University also considers “love at first sight” as only the first of the 3 stages of love: lust, attraction and attachment. For her, the first stage of love is only lust. This is the amazing moment when two people are driven by the sex hormones of testosterone and estrogen. In the second stage, the couple is truly love-struck and can think of little else. And in the third and attachment stage, the couple is bonded together long enough to have and raise children.

Life is all about loving memories

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Whenever I hear the opening lyrics of the famous Broadway song “Memory” of “Cats” I can’t help but feel nostalgic with regard to fleeting nature of life:

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember
A time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again…

What has passed will never be repeated again. Life and time unfold swiftly. If we just follow the labyrinth and race of daily life and refuse to pause and reflect for a while to know where we are actually leading to in life and why we are doing all the things that we do, we would probably miss the essentials and beauty of life. The Chinese billionaire and founder of the global retail giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, once said: “Life is so short. Don’t be so serious about work. Enjoy the lives.” Although a very busy man himself, Jack Ma knows that life is more important than work, that “being is more important than doing” in life. Another saying states: “Work, but don’t forget to live!” So if we are so preoccupied with work and worldly affairs and neglect to reflect on our life, we would miss to appreciate the beauty and nobility of living!

Ultimately, what will probably linger in our minds in our dying moments are not our achievement, popularity, and recognition but our loving memories of people whom we have touched and loved and significant events that reminded us of the beauty of life. What would probably make us smile as we struggle our last breath are the good old days when we felt happy that we shared our life with others and achieved our earthly goals! Like the words of the song “Memory”, we can probably picture ourselves reminiscing the past all alone in the moonlight and re-live the memory and happiness we have felt with others:
man
Memory,
All alone in the moonlight,
I can smile at the old days,
Life was beautiful then…
I remember the time I knew what happiness was,
Let the memory live again…

What brings more happiness to our consciousness during this review of our earthly life is probably not the wealth that we have accumulated nor the fame and status that we have  achieved in life as they are part of our past material life, but the spiritual realities of joy and loving memories we have had with our loved ones, with people we sincerely helped, and with our God. We can then smile that we live our life as we like it to be or frown for not living a “good” life as our God wants it to be. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who has achieved the pinnacle of success in the business world allegedly mentioned during his dying moments that what matters most in life is not wealth which can turn a person into a “twisted being” but matters unrelated to wealth and memories precipitated by love:

 

… In the darkness, I look at the green
lights from the life supporting
machines and hear the humming
mechanical sounds, I can feel the
breath of god of death drawing
closer…
Now I know, when we have
accumulated sufficient wealth to last
our lifetime, we should pursue other
matters that are unrelated to wealth…

Should be something that is more
important:
Perhaps relationships, perhaps art,
perhaps a dream from younger days.

Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only
turn a person into a twisted being, just
like me.

God gave us the sense to let us feel
the love in everyone’s heart, not the
illusions brought about by wealth.

The wealth I have won in my life I
cannot bring with me. What I can bring
is only the memories precipitated by love.

Whether these words were indeed uttered by Jobs or not, they nevertheless contain wisdom and insight on the limits of our materiality and material happiness. Indeed, memories precipitated by love can make us smile and happy while we review our life script at the end of our lives: A scholar or scientist who spent hours of research and writing to sincerely help humanity advance in knowledge and solve some of life’s problems and saw people smiling because his/her works and findings cured their disease or helped them see the world closer to the truth; the joy of a mother seeing her baby smiling at  her; the happiness of seeing the glowing face of a dying homeless person who silently say “thank you” in his/her last breath because we have given him/her comfort and care; the consolation of a religious encountering his/her God in prayer; the inner joy a person who stood his/her ground against a tyrant regime for sake of the truth and justice; or the inspiration of the countless unsung heroes who offered their lives for sake of their country, ideology, religion, and social reform. Indeed, what is essential is invisible to the eye. We can sometimes totally influenced by the materiality of life and get hooked in material accumulation. We sometimes take for granted or sideline the spiritual side of life which can provide us lasting happiness and spiritual joy.

We only live once in this world. As rational beings, we are creators of meaning. What makes our life meaningful would depend on our ultimate goal we set for our lives. This ultimate goal, we envision for our life is what basically guides us in our daily living. Its achievement can ultimately make us happy. The quality of our happiness would depend on our ultimate purpose in life. If our ultimate goal is to seek wealth, then our happiness will eventually consist of gaining more profit in our investments, increasing savings, achieving dominance in the market, creating new breakthroughs in business innovation, etc. If our ultimate purpose is to chase pleasure in food, sex, alcohol, or other forms of addiction, then our happiness will consist of enjoying and prolonging pleasure in our bodily senses. If our basic aim is to love God by serving others, then happiness can consist of spiritual consolation or joy that we have served the God’s poor and underprivileged. If our aim is to change society for the better by fighting oppressive social structures and regimes, then our ultimate happiness can consist of personal joy upon seeing that some of our reform efforts are realized in society. In short, the ultimate purpose, we set for our life can determine the quality of our happiness in daily living….LIFE BECOMES MORE MEANINGFUL IF WE SEE THE CONTINGENT FROM THE ULTIMATE, OUR DAILY AFFAIRS FROM OUR ULTIMATE GOAL IN LIFE!

Photo credit: The Author/Shutterstock