Want Valentine’s Day tips? The ‘love doctor’ is in

| February 10, 2015 | 0 Comments
University of St. Thomas psychology professor John Buri holds a copy of his book about dating. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

University of St. Thomas psychology professor John Buri holds a copy of his book about dating. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Looking for love on Valentine’s Day?

Well, it might help to start with a definition of what true love is — or should be.

University of St. Thomas psychology professor John Buri, known on campus as the “love doctor,” has tried to answer that question in his recently-published book called “Intentional Dating: When You’re Ready to Leave Behind the Liars, Losers, and Lemons — 15 Keys to Finding Love for a Lifetime” (Tate Publishing, November 2014).

He hopes to help many young adults not only get the definition of love right, but use that knowledge to choose the right person to marry and enjoy many years of wedded bliss.

Buri wastes no time getting to what he believes is the heart of the matter. The very first sentence in the book’s first chapter reads: “Marriage is difficult.”

If he could get just one point across to those either in a romantic relationship or desiring one, it would be that true love involves work. The bottom line for him is that making a marriage last is as much about effort as it is about emotions.

He would know. He has been married for 42 years to his wife, Kathy. They have six adult children, all married, and have 10 grandchildren, with one on the way. He has spent four-plus decades working at building a strong marriage — and teaching others about it — and he says the process should start long before the vows are exchanged.

Hence, the dating process is crucial.

“The idea of the dating process is making it a more intentional process, so that we’re more careful in the decisions that we make,” he said. “So much of what goes on in the dating world today is really just a pursuit of fun, a pursuit of enjoyment. And, that doesn’t allow us to actually have our eyes open and our ears open and actually watch for and listen for the true indicators of the person we’re actually with.

“So, it needs to be a much more intentional process,” he added. “It has to involve both the head and the heart. Love’s got to involve both. It can’t simply be something that we fall into. There have to be some choices in the process.”

The good news is there are some time-tested, research-proven ways to do just that. And, it can start on any person’s next date. In fact, Buri has a suggestion for the perfect Valentine’s Day date.

Part one is simple, but critical — stay away from all electronic devices and media for the entire date. No cell phones, ipads, movies or video games. In short, no entertainment.

And, to make it even more radical, no music in the car while driving.

After all devices are turned off, it’s time for part two — conversation. Buri says this is where people can really find out the truth about each other.

A way to get this started is to bring a list of deep questions to ask one another. He found one set in a most unusual place — The New York Times. He happened upon a Jan. 9 article titled “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.”

The author of the article, Mandy Len Catron, decided to try an experiment that had been conducted more than 20 years ago in a lab by psychologist Arthur Aron.

It involves a single man and single woman sitting across the table from each other and asking one another 36 probing questions, which are progressively more intimate. Then, at the end, they are to look into each other’s eyes in silence for four minutes.

Len Catron chose a university acquaintance she had occasionally talked to at a gym, and he accepted the challenge. The article describes the experience, and the result.

“You’re probably wondering if he and I fell in love,” she wrote. “Well, we did. Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate.

“We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.”

She added, “Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”

And, that’s precisely the point Buri is trying to make in his book. He believes that “falling in love” is the wrong way to look at. Rather, it’s choosing to be in love. Love is a choice, an action.

“Our notion of love is skewed,” said Buri, who has taught a psychology of marriage and family course at St. Thomas for 25-plus years, hence his nickname, love doctor. “When I talk about love, what I want to talk about is fondness, warmth, affection. I don’t care if you are turned on to that person by how hot they are. That doesn’t tell us anything,” he noted.

“But, do you have fondness for that person? Is there an affection that you have? Is there a certain warmth that you feel towards this person? That’s what I mean.”

For more information about Buri and his book, visit JohnBuri.com.

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