Romance might not be best for love, says author and psychology professor

Romance might not be best for love, says author and psychology professor

If you’re looking for real love, you’ll know it, right? There’s a soul mate out there for everyone – someone who makes you feel adored, someone to make everything better. Ah, the romance! It’s almost palpable in the candlelight.

But somebody has come along to blow out the candles.

Dr. John Buri, a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas, says a romantic conception of love is actually, well, unhealthy. Romance is fine, but it’s “associated with several unhealthy ways of thinking about relationships, each of which contributes to less stable, less satisfying marriages,” says Buri, who will present his research findings this week at the Midwest Psychological Association convention in Chicago.

Buri, dubbed “The Love Doctor” by his students and “The Marriage Doctor” by a Twin Cities newspaper, is author of a newly published book on marriage, How to Love Your Wife (Tate Publishing & Enterprises, 2006), and has taught a course on marriage and family psychology for more than 20 years. 

Buri’s research presentation, titled “Cupid in America: Romanticism and Dysfunctional Relationship Beliefs,” reveals a relationship between a romantic view of love and five dysfunctional relationship beliefs. The professor and two of his students, Katie Hendrickson and Natalie Barnard Shovelain, surveyed young adults to see if they agreed with statements such as the following: “One can’t help falling in love if you meet the right person” and “Problems always work out when two people are really in love.” What they found is that people who agreed with the statements also were more likely to endorse several beliefs that undermine marital success.

What are these “dysfunctional relationship beliefs”? Here they are: that disagreement is destructive, that mind-reading is expected (i.e., your partner should know you love her and should know what you’re thinking), that partners can’t change, that there’s “perfect” sex, and that the sexes are different. These are exactly the kinds of beliefs that spell failure for long-lasting relationships, Buri says.

Buri will present his research findings at the annual meeting of the Midwest Psychological Association this afternoon, May 4, in Chicago. If you want to know more about it, send him an e-mail.