SFSU Public Affairs Press ReleasePublished by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.
SAN FRANCISCO, February 8, 2001 --- Baffled by this thing called love? A San Francisco State University professor who has taught a class on the psychology of love for more than a decade might have some answers.
First, romantic, passionate "love" lasts on average only six to 30 months. "Early passion can die quickly. If it is true love, that fire will burn brightly for a long time," said Martin Heinstein, a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.
Second, be yourself from the beginning and find out who your desired really is as a person. "The best divorce comes before you get married," said the professor.
And what about Valentine's Day? "It's okay," Heinstein said. "It is a great feeling to show your love on February 14. But what about showing that special feeling the next day, the next week or the next month? It can be tough sometime, but that is what love is all about."
Heinstein, who has a doctorate in psychology from UC Berkeley, teaches one of the most popular classes in the psychology department at S.F. State. Enrollment usually averages 100 students, 90 percent of whom are often women. Heinstein joked that one young man once told him he had to take the class or his girlfriend would dump him.
The three-unit course (PSY 305 "The Psychology of Love") offers a historical overview of attitudes toward love from the days of the caveman and woman to today's "Sex and the City" times. In class Heinstein uses a 150-page manuscript he has compiled and hopes to publish one day on how love has been viewed through the ages.
Students in the class have a chance to write autobiographies on their own love lives that focus not on the physical aspect of love but on the origins and development of parental, sibling and romantic love relationships in their lives. Heinstein said the autobiographies allow the students to understand how common themes in those relationships come to form our views on love.
"Love is a developmental process," he said. "You just don't wake up in adolescence and say 'I know what love is.' You learn about it over time and it can take a long time."
With the average marriage lasting only 7 ½ years, Heinstein has a theory why the love sometimes doesn't last.
"Two hundred years ago when young people got married till death do us part, the average life expectancy was another 12 years. Now it is more than 40 years after we marry. For the long haul, we need to learn a lot more about love," he said.
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Last modified April 24, 2007, by Office of Public Affairs