Smart People Make Better Lovers (from Robert Sternberg)

Smart People make Better Lovers. That’s the theme of Robert Sternberg’s book, Love the Way You Want It. In his discussion of Relationship Intelligence he describes six techniques for using good thinking, cognitive sense, in making good decisions about love. Let’s take a minute and look at them

1) First, is the understanding of the major components of Love. These are Intimacy (feelings of closeness and connectedness that come from genuine and honest bonding), Passion (attraction that is physical, emotional, and relational), and Commitment (investment in maintaining a dedicated relationship). Then, when we understand them, we nurture all three and blend them into one relationship.

2) Second, you make a commitment to change. While it is not a good idea to assume that we can change each other, or that the other person will change and their annoying traits will go away, it is also a mistake to go into a marriage with the assumption that we won’t need to make changes, to adapt, and to grow toward each other. If you brag about “not changing”, just compare a few birthdays along the way. In a marriage, the investment of commitment will require that we do things, and change things, molding and shaping ourselves and our marriage.

3) Successful couples learn to do Problem-Solving. They learn to respect each other’s perspective. They learn to be clear and positive (not obscure like in the common relationship games that people play) in finding what Sternberg calls the “joint articulation.” They learn to keep their minds open as they brainstorm, and they monitor their progress with a willingness to adapt for a win-win outcome. (p. 112)

4) Successful couples (Smart couples) employ and enjoy the tactics of success. They check their perceptions for accuracy. “Confusion is not a valid state in itself.” (p. 169) They don’t try to read minds, assume, or presume. They avoid automatic responses. They check outside resources. Informing themselves and informing each other, is more important than convincing each other. Their strengths and weaknesses are out in the open, and so is their agenda.

5) Smart couples avoid and unmask the “Love Villains.” Sternberg asks us to look beneath the masks of a relationship, to make it free from these villains. The Controller makes the spouse look incompetent, then justifies taking over and dominating. The Type-caster blames the relationship problems on the “type” of person they married, but the assessments are more like stereotypes. The Pious Fraud says “I have legitimate reasons, but you have character flaws.” The Procrastinator and The Conflict Avoider bring obvious problems to relationships. Their “defenses” have become offensive weapons. The “Yes-Sayer” believes that if they give in one more time that their spouse will be consumed with shame and a realization of all their wrongs. Obviously, this is manipulation of both self and the other. The Expert and The Righteous Accuser end up irritating everyone. The Pretender and The Blamer make a shrine out of the hiding places in their life. (p. 132-150)

6) Smart couples become Wise couples. They learn to tolerate ambiguity. They patiently nurture growth in themselves and in the relationship, instead of just waiting to be served. They see obstacles as challenges, and they embrace the future. They believe that “forgiveness opens the door to change”, but “seeking revenge closes it.” (p. 160) (No, Sigmund, unforgiveness is not an acceptable defense mechanism.)

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