D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e    February 2006

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Have Spacesuit, Will Travel
Is space tourism the ticket to success for the proposed spaceport?

For Love and Money
Ivan Thompson, the "Cowboy Cupid," stars in an award-winning documentary.

Connecting the Threads
The Southwest Women's Fiber Arts Collective weaves together area fabric artists.

Blooming in the Desert
"Little Vampire" author and painter Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.

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Festus Addo-Yobo, new director of NMSU's Black Studies Program.

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The Secrets of Romance

Just in time for Valentine's Day, 10 ways to see through the fog of romance.

By Joanie Connors

Here in February, the month of love, single people often wonder whether they should start looking for a romantic companion. This could be the result of some primitive urge to find someone to help you stay warm, or it might be caused by the prospect of spending another Valentine's Day alone. Whatever the cause, it's important to be careful when making the choice to start a romantic relationship with someone.

Romance is often tricky, and when it goes wrong, it can be a major nightmare. How to manage a love relationship is something you can study in many books, for a lifetime, and still not get it right. But, in the early stages, there are some general guidelines that can help you make better choices before you become seriously entangled and are stuck with the consequences.

The First Secret of Romance

What most people don't know about romance is that Mother Nature has built a great deal of manipulation into the romantic attraction process. People who are sexually attracted to each other are flooded with powerful hormones — endorphins more powerful than heroin, and adrenaline, which allows you to feel energized and giddy and need less sleep.

These hormones tend to have the effect of making you idealize your intended mate. You see them as wonderful, are fascinated with their annoying habits, and discount their flaws. Most people take six months to two years to see through this drug-like romantic fog, which is otherwise known as the honeymoon period.

Try these 10 tricks for seeing through the fog of romance:

  1. Take a good look at their living quarters. Does it feel comfortable there? Is it about as clean as your place? Messy people should not mate with control freaks, or life together will be a constant struggle.

  2. Ask him/her about their relationship with their parents. Anyone who confides that they are stuck in intense anger towards their parents (living or dead), needs a friend, not a lover, and should be referred to someone professional or a self-help group. Be especially wary if they blame others for all their problems, of if these feelings have lasted for a long time.

  3. Ask him or her about previous love relationships. How many were there? How long did they last? Why did they end? Be suspicious of anyone who tells you that a series of people have "done them wrong," or who sees themselves as a long-term victim. People who are stuck in those patterns have a hard time not making new relationships fit into them as well.

  4. Ask yourself, "Is he/she a nice person to be around?" Watch how they treat others, especially service people (restaurant staff, store clerks, secretaries). If they treat anyone badly, figure they will eventually treat you that way also.

  5. Look at how well they take care of themselves. Do they treat their body with respect or do they abuse themselves in the way they eat, party and take care of their daily needs?

  6. Think about how you talk to each other. Do you both talk equally, or is one dominating the conversation consistently (bad sign)? Can you disagree with them comfortably? Do they seem interested in what you have to say? Are you interested in what they have to say?

  7. Look at how they manage their money. Do they earn a regular income that supports their needs? Do they max out their credit cards and have unpaid bills? Does someone else always bail them out? That could become you.

  8. Ask one of your friends what they think of this person as a potential mate for you. Psychological studies have found that roommates and friends do a much better job of choosing potential mates for you than either parents or you yourself.

  9. Wait two years before you make any irreversible decisions—that's enough to allow you both to get past the honeymoon stage. Do not mix finances, checkbooks, bank accounts and credit card accounts until after you've been together long enough to see things clearly.

  10. Do not make a major purchase together and/or get married without a bailout plan. Who will buy whom out for how much and under what conditions? Get a lawyer or a legal mediator to make a contract if a great deal of money is involved.

Look for your love interest to be someone who is at the same levels in these areas as you are, or close, but not extremely worse or better. That way you'll be on equal ground (more or less). Studies have shown that people can become healthier by living with someone healthy—or sicker by living with someone with serious problems.

Watch out for victims who want you to rescue them from difficulties. You cannot fix anyone else's hurts no matter how hard you work, because they are the ones who have to fix themselves. You can give them your life energy in a way that is guaranteed to sap you and seldom really helps them. Help them to find a good therapist or AA group.

The Second Secret of Romance

The second secret is that romance is not love. Romance entices you to make a commitment so you can do the real work of living together and supporting each other. Romance adds fun, intrigue, energy and pleasure to the work of love, but it is not love. Love doesn't measure people to see if they meet your needs or clean their toilets.

It is much more important to have love in your life than romance. And love is something you get when you act with care and concern for how you affect others. Regardless of whether someone is the love of your life, or is a stranger whom you pass by, you should treat them all with respect and kindness. This works because it doesn't create anger out there towards you as opposed to when you are constantly measuring and dismissing people. Being good to others also helps by making good impressions on others watching from the sidelines.

You do need to be choosy about whom you let into your heart and mind in order to take care of yourself. But that doesn't mean you should ignore everyone who doesn't make the cut. Life can be much more enjoyable if you can appreciate all the folks around you, especially the quirky ones.


Joanie Connors, PhD, is an adjunct professor in Social Sciences at Western New Mexico University and is an expert in the psychology of relationships and groups. She moved to Silver City last year and is in the process of transferring her psychologists' license to New Mexico.

 

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