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The Process of Love

The type of relationship Susan and I had doesn’t happen overnight, but rather is the result of a concerted effort by two people, beginning with romantic love and ending in a lifelong commitment to each other. To accomplish this, most writers agree that “true love” is action. It is active, not passive. Erich Fromm, noted twentieth-century psychologist and social philosopher, as well as one of the most prolific writers on this subject, explains in The Art of Loving that love is an act of will: “To love somebody is not just a strong feeling—it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go.”

As an activity, love is primarily GIVING, not receiving. Fromm says “giving” means giving to another’s joy, interest, understanding, knowledge, humor, sadness, and so on. By doing so, we enrich the other and enhance their “sense of aliveness,” as Fromm calls it, because we do not give to receive, but rather to experience the “exquisite joy” that is giving itself.

Fromm references American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Harry Stack Sullivan, who maintained that “love begins when a person feels another person’s needs to be as important as his own.” In their book A General Theory of Love, eminent psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon call this concept “simultaneous mutual regulation, wherein each person meets the needs of the other.”1 They explain that this type of relationship is not 50-50; it’s 100-100 because each person takes perpetual care of the other and, as a result, both thrive.

Echoing this theme that love is action, psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck, in his spiritual classic The Road Less Traveled, defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” His expression, “Love is as love does,” is based on the idea that love is an act of will—both as intention and action. He explains that will implies choice, because we don’t have to love, we choose to love. Clearly, the consensus among experts is that love is not something that simply happens, it is intentional conduct directed at another that, if reciprocated, helps to make both people more complete and more capable of realizing their fullest potential.

This post is an excerpt from The Essential Rules of Love: A Practical Guide to Creating a Harmonious, Healthy, and Happy Relationship.

“This is a book born of tears and laughter. There is certainly no shortage of authors who have tackled this subject but few have overturned as many rocks along the way and unearthed such a wealth of insights in the process. Those of us who have managed to spend time with Mr. Russotti will attest to his resolve.”
- William Parker, LCSW
“We get education for our careers but we rarely ever get education for our relationships. Phil’s The Essential Rules of Love is a book that I WISH I had before I was married and divorced.”
- Theadora Vosse, Single or Divorced Relationship Podcaster
“The book was purchased as a gift for Valentine's Day, but instead of giving it away, I gave it to myself.”
- Emily C.
“This is, as it must be, primarily a love story. One told with striking depth of feeling.”
- Paul D.