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Health & Spirit

The New Look of Love

Susan Dietz on

The days are waning when women make financial clout the main prerequisite for serious interest in a man. No longer economically second-class (if not financially whole, at least with more earning potential and hope than ever), women are asking something different from men. They're insisting that their love object recognize and actively nurture the identity and personhood they've struggled so long to define. For as much as women want the love of a good man -- and they do -- they're deeply concerned it will hinder their newly emerged personhood. Why? Because the only kind of loving they've known up to now asks -- no, assumes -- surrender of female identity. And they've come too far in their reclamation project to take any steps backward -- even in the blessed name of love!

That's the dilemma surfacing as the No. 1 female fear -- the very last significant hurdle to successful loving. (Not to be trivialized, old No. 1 has shipwrecked countless dyads, leaving a mystified male paddling frantically to stay afloat.) Seeing as it's the female who defines romantic relating and the female who sets its limits and its tone, it's only logical that she be the one to rock the love boat. From her bottomless dread of drowning in a man's needs has surfaced an insistence on partnership. She's now strong enough to (happily) surrender the myths of security and savior and ask for -- no, demand -- a partner who is a nurturer, friend and ally. (Be afraid, male chauvinists. Be very afraid.)

Many decades ago, neuropsychiatrist Abraham Low recognized the interplay of sovereignty and fellowship within a loving relationship, pinpointing both individuals' needs for intimacy and individuality. No one has yet discovered a formula for balancing them under love's umbrella, but my hunch is that workable arrangements -- many different ones -- will evolve as women (at last) learn to make themselves comfortable with love.

As I see it, partnership in love will be our love song's tonic chord.

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