By Julia Clarke
Photos by Brevin Blach
(Published in the February 2010 issue)
It’s an age-old question with infinite answers: What is love?
To get to the heart of the issue-to demystify the definition of romantic love-PacificSD called upon 10 love and sex experts: Loveline‘s Dr. Drew Pinsky, Steve Ward from VH1’s Tough Love, a Playboy Playmate, the Director of Sexual Medicine at Alvarado Hospital, a reverend, two sexologists, two sex-shop owners and a dating coach.
The New York Times
has called Dr. Drew the “Gen-X answer to Dr. Ruth Westheimer.” Host of the long-running, nationally syndicated radio show,
(heard locally on 91X), he’s also the star of VH1 hit shows
Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew
Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew
His hybridized role of TV host-slash-medical expert can also be seen on MTV’s
Mom and Dad
16 & Pregnant: Life After Labor.
Board-certified in internal and addiction medicine, Dr. Drew is a leading resource for young people looking for medically credible answers to their love and sex queries.
He’s also Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, runs a private practice and is on staff at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, where he lives with his wife and teenage triplets.
Juggling work, fame and family requires superhero focus. Luckily for us, the mild-mannered love doctor took the time to tell PacificSD readers what love means to him.
Love means something different for individuals across social and historical contexts. It’s such a massive topic. There’s a sociologist at UCSD who says love at first sight is just lust that works out. That’s primarily what’s going on in adolescent years; people are basically looking for fecundity and genetic fitness. And at no other time in the life cycle are males and females more different biologically. The motivational priorities are different. Suffice it to say, a female has to dedicate quite a bit more time and resources to reproduction than men.
Fundamentally there are many areas of the brains being activated-there is a basal system of the brain saying, “Go do this, or else.” These are primitive, biological mechanisms left behind by our evolutionary heritage. On a hormonal level, women respond to the influence of estrogen; men respond to testosterone. That’s what’s driving the normal systems. Then, what about choice? Certainly we look for a certain emotional fittedness that’s similar to the love maps of our childhood. Humans have an autonomous drive to be with other people. The first people we are drawn to are our parents. That attachment model tends to fit hand-in-glove with what we look for later in life.
Romantic love is something that’s overdone in our culture. When I’m talking to people in an addictive, clingy relationship, they say, "What about Romeo and Juliet?” To that I say, “Exactly! Look at how that ended: with two people dead.”
Confusing love with sex is a very common problem today. To some extent, males experience sex as a loving gesture. But for some people, the two get very confused. Things to consider: Are there boundaries between self and other? Are you sharing autonomously? Is there reciprocity in terms of giving, taking and attuning to one another?
In mature love, you’re moving away from the excitatory system to the nurturing system, the system that builds things like intimacy, attunement to others and the ability to regulate emotions. I would characterize mature love as intimacy, lust and a shared life experience.
The most important thing is to know yourself. Do you want a crazy, tumultuous, unhappy relationship with someone you’re really attracted to? Or do you want something nourishing? It’s healthy to spend time with other people to figure out who you are and what you want. Cultivate the art of dating and courtship. Try people on for size-it’s a really healthy experience. Don’t be afraid. And stop imagining your wedding dress every time you go on a date.
Other resources Dr. Drew recommends:
Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, by Helen Fisher
Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating,
Marriage, and Why We Stray, by Helen Fisher
A General Theory of Love, by Thomas Lewis
Steve Ward’s online bio claims he has “scores of long-term relationships and marriages under his belt.” We’re guessing that’s a reference to his success as a matchmaker, and not to his own love life. As the star of VH1’s hit reality show,
, this self-proclaimed “dating pathologist” guides women through the often choppy waters of the dating world-sometimes with brutal honesty, but always with his insightful male perspective.
To me, “love” can be defined in many different ways. But when you’re talking about love between two people, I believe love is the personification of beauty in anything you see, without any feeling of threat or harm coming to you from it. So, I love children, I love sunsets, I love my family, I love women.
The foundation to any relationship with any person-man, woman, older person, child, working, platonic, romantic, whatever-should be communication, respect and trust. Those are the three acid tests for any relationship. If anybody ever truly violates those principles, then they are not deserving of your love. Essentially, if you can establish that foundation with somebody, and it’s a very concrete foundation, the relationship can survive anything.
My job is to diagnose any disease or disorder that I’ve seen in someone’s lovelife. So, what I do is take a look at all their past experiences, from childhood to where they are today, and their relationships with everybody in their life-from parents to siblings to friends to employers and so forth. When I aggregate it all and look at what they do in their relationships, I am able to identify a pattern-something that they consistently do right or they consistently do wrong. And if you look at what you’re doing wrong, then you can address it with a 360-degree perspective and hopefully grow as a person from doing it.
If you’re looking to jumpstart your love life, change something-change your habits, your patterns, where you go to get your coffee, the grocery store you shop in, your gym, your way to work, where your favorite place is to go for an after-work drink. You have to expose yourself to people that you’re not normally likely to bump into and increase your possibilities of meeting somebody that you may end up in a relationship with.
According to Ward, one of the biggest dating deal-breakers is a negative personality. "Women are often too negative, and men often try to compensate where it’s not needed," he says. “Essentially, what women tend to do is complain about the littlest thing, which has no consequence whatsoever. It’s not because they necessarily are affected by it; it’s just because they are...maybe annoyed. Complaining about something as simple as losing your keys or breaking a nail or not being able to find a parking spot may not be seem like a big deal to you as a woman, but it sends a message to a man that you’re a negative person; and nobody wants to go into a relationship with someone they don’t think is going to bring a positive influence into their life. What men tend to do when a woman complains about one of these things is try to solve some sort of problem. For example, if a woman says, ‘I’m so upset, because Suzy at work is wearing the same shirt that I just bought last week, and she knows that I have that shirt and I can’t believe she wore it into work,’ a guy is going to step in and say, 'Just don’t wear that shirt anymore.’ And it’s not that you even need him to try tell you what to do, it’s just that you need him to listen.”
Hiromi Oshima -Playboy Playmate, June 2004
Feeling is the key to knowing love. Your heart feels love before your brain realizes it. Love can be the passionate sensation between two lovers, or the comforting attachment between family and friends. No matter what the source, love overwhelms me with such a strong positive energy that it brightens my entire life. I need it both ways, to love and to feel loved.
Love should be an easy thing to understand-it’s not like mathematics, with its figures and facts-but it’s not. Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you when it comes to love, making you feel sad or sick. When I find myself in these situations, I don’t let it overwhelm me. Instead, I close my eyes and just listen to what my heart tells me...how I feel, what I feel.
Dr. Irwin Goldstein
As Director of San Diego Sexual Medicine at Alvarado Hospital, the first and only facility of its kind, Dr. Irwin Goldstein is improving San Diegans' sex lives, one patient at a time. Editor-in-Chief of
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
, he has written more than 325 publications in the field of sexual dysfunction, and his research on penile erection has been funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 20 years. It’s the kind of research that has led to the development of drugs like Viagra. Dr. Goldstein, a urologist, is also Clinical Professor of Surgery at UCSD, where he’s trying to introduce sexual medicine into the med school curriculum.
Love is the joy and respect of being intimate. There are huge health benefits to having sex and love being merged: less stress, lower blood pressure, advantages to the ego and well-being. In Jewish thought, we are taught that having sex is being closer to God. It’s a very positive thing and the most wonderful way to share with another person.
Back when I was in medical school, people didn’t understand erections, G-spots, how an orgasm occurred. I was exposed to a urologist who was one of the few experts in placing penile implants. There was this condition called impotence-now called erectile dysfunction. Now we know that sexual problems are primarily biological. Your reaction to the biological problem leads to the psychological problem. The psychology is secondary now.
For men, we have penile implants, drugs that we can inject into the penis, vacuum devices we can put around the penis, surgical procedures that can increase blood flow. We just had a 23-year-old who rode his bike from San Francisco to Philadelphia to see his girlfriend. Here he thought he’d get to Philadelphia and have all this sex. Well, guess what? Bike riding is one of the many biologic things that can lead to dysfunction. The artery to his penis was blocked. So we took an artery from his stomach and replaced it. He just called to report that all systems were go.
The most appropriate diet for a good sex life is the Mediterranean Diet-lots of olive oil, red wine, fruit, nuts and vegetables. Get lots of exercise-it works toward the preservation of healthy sexual function. Except cycling, of course. Another important thing is maintaining hormone health. Women have an abrupt hormone change around 50; men have an equivalent change around 40. It’s important to recognize that age is not the determinant of sexual health-it’s hormone health. Hormones keep genitals healthy. Mental health is also important-be optimistic and hopeful.
Dr. Goldstein was on the advisory board for Viagra for five years before it was finally released to the public in 1998, just in time for Valentine’s Day. “Of the thousands of phone calls we received after Viagra came out, the vast majority were from women,” says Dr. Goldstein. “They all asked, ‘What about me?!’ Prior to that, we were exclusively treating men.” Now, Dr. Goldstein is a pioneer in diagnosing and treating sexual health problems in women. He’s very involved in the drug trials for Flibanserin, the first FDA-approved drug to treat Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) in women.
“When the partner advances, it’s like the woman’s pilot light is on but the flame doesn’t ignite,” says Dr. Goldstein. "Filbanserin rebalances the imbalances in the brain.” Another common problem for women in menopause is Sexual Arousal Disorder-"when you can’t get your tissues to engorge, pulsate,” he explains. A third issue is orgasmic dysfunction. "There are many, many men and women who can’t have orgasms.”
The “Please don’t laugh” signs posted inside Dr. Love’s Erotic Superstore in Pacific Beach reveal David Dew’s belief that sexual pleasure is no laughing matter. In fact, it’s everyone’s birthright, he says. Dew’s mission is threefold: “to serve as the world’s finest resource for quality products and information, to model honest communication about sexuality, and to take every possible opportunity to promote the philosophy that sex is fun and natural.”
Love is the unity of two souls bound together for life-a bond that survives through anger, sadness, pain, heartbreak and joy. Taking that journey through the hard times with trust and strength is a love meant to be, and the perfect foundation for a love that will last forever. Love is caring so deeply and strongly for someone, you could never imagine your life without them. You would never feel complete if they weren’t there. You would be there for them whenever they need you and you would never hurt them. You would do anything to protect and make them happy at any cost.
Sexual satisfaction is also extremely important in relationships. When people are satisfied with their sex lives, they’re most likely satisfied with their overall relationship. As sexual satisfaction increases, so does relationship satisfaction and intimacy. It is very significant to relationships and marriage. Couples who are less sexually satisfied during their first year of marriage are more likely to be divorced by their fourth year than individuals who were more sexually satisfied in their first year.
Women are hungry for sex toys and adult movies. Not all women, of course, but a lot more than you might think, and they are flocking to women-friendly businesses like Dr. Love’s to get them. They are gathering with other women in nice suburban homes and giggling at sex toy parties the way their mothers used to gather round, drink coffee and order Tupperware. People ar far less shy about their sexuality these days. They are much more open to trying new things with their partner and spicing things up in the bedroom. Couples are demanding more in the bedroom and adding toys and stimulants to enhance their sex lives.
Carrie Bradshaw and her BFFs from TV’s Sex and the City perhaps single-handedly (no pun intended) popularized The Rabbit vibrator. It’s one of Doctor Love’s top sellers, as are the sexual enhancement pills for guys, stimulating creams for her and Doctor Love’s own brand of personal lubricant (that is now being sold worldwide).
Drs. Nick Karras and Sayaka Adachi - sandiegosexologist.com
San Diego-based “sexologists,” Drs. Nick Karras and Sayaka Adachi, study “human sexual behavior and how people feel about those behaviors with non-judgmental eyes.” Both hold doctorate degrees in Human Sexuality and both are certified sex educators. They’re also part of the Orgasm Team at San Diego Sexual Medicine at Alvarado Hospital (“We work mostly with A-Listers on orgasmic concerns-too fast, too slow, not there, not strong enough, et cetera.”) and teach at college campuses, support groups, erotic conventions and several international destinations. Adachi describes the couple’s shared view on love.
Love starts within, with self. When one accepts and appreciates the whole person as they are, that’s true love. When a person loves him or herself, loving others is much easier. Yes, chemistry and compatibility matter, but without self love and knowledge, how does one know when it’s true chemistry or compatibility, and not just insecurities?It is commonly said that there are three types of love: Eros,
and Agape. Eros is what we usually think about when we talk about love. This is chemistry, lust. Philos is more like friendship love-you are compatible with each other and love grows as you get to know each other. Then, there is Agape, which is what most of us truly want. This is the unconditional love that parents give to their kids.
In our opinion, it is not one or the other. You can have it all. That is the ultimate love. You have chemistry, friendship and deep unconditional love. In our experience, this is rare, but it does happen. It seems to happen more easily when one is complete and happy by him- or herself, instead of looking for someone to fill the void. When we come from insecurity, the end result tends to be more disappointment and emptiness. When we love someone from self-love, even if it doesn’t work out, we learn from that experience, still love that other person and are able to release ourselves to a more compatible partner.
We are continuously growing and changing; love yourself and learn about yourself. When it comes down to it, love is what we live for.
At Your Service
Adachi and Karras offer love, life and sex coaching for individuals, couples and groups, as well as educational workshops and pleasure product demonstrations at clients’ homes. "People come for many different reasons, but deep down, we just help people become more authentically happy in their whole life," Adachi says. “We live in a society with lots of insecurities, competition, conformity and shallowness. Our job is to peel those off, and help our clients see their unique, authentic beauty within, through questions, humor and honest feedback. Our clients often tell us that our sessions are both fun and transformative.”
Reverend Sileste Whitbeck
Since becoming ordained as a non-denominational wedding minister in 1999, Rev. Sileste has presided over more than 100 marriages. She and her husband, also an ordained minister, have been together for 15 years.
Love is an inherent feeling that we all have within us. It is how and why we are here. It is an eternal spark that comes from deep within each of us, brought forth from the very core of our being. It is precious, very precious. It is a feeling we all know, and yet the greatest of philosophers have trouble describing it. It is expressed through friendship, creativity, acts of generosity, gratitude and the act of commitment in marriage. I call it a Magical Glow, radiating from inside of our being.
When two people are drawn together, that feeling can come almost immediately, sometimes in the form of a tingle in the solar plexus area. Other times, love comes softly in the form of friendship, which draws two people to know one another. Somewhere along the line, they begin to realize they have found their true soul mate. Desire comes when they want to spend every moment with each other, and look for intimacy as a part of the expression of that love. (When I say intimacy, I mean the physical as well as the emotional aspects.)
When a couple seeks to marry, it is important that they communicate clearly with one another early on. I always look at communication as one of the foundations of a good and happy marriage. Part of communication is to be a good listener for your partner, and to always act with kindness toward one another, even if they disagree.
Secondly, it is important to be on the same page concerning starting a family or not. Thirdly, speak to one another about budgeting and finance. One of the chief reasons for divorce is financial strain. I also feel it is important that each partner value the other as an individual, seeking to support each other’s thoughts, desires and feelings, goals and aspirations.
The God Factor
“Spiritual beliefs are very, very important,” says Rev. Sileste of couples considering marriage. While it’s not necessary for a couple to practice in the same way, she says, “It is paramount that they give their partner the space to be themselves and to grow in this area in their own individual way.” As a non-denominational officiant (“In my own personal practices, I have a deep and abiding belief in and love for the God Presence which is part of and enfolds each and every one of us,” she says), Rev. Sileste can bridge the spiritual gap during the wedding ceremony: “I always remind couples that cultural and spiritual traditions can be blended to bring the greatest meaning for them,” she says. “I become a sort of neutral zone for the couple, and sometimes this helps to keep loved ones comfortable. Each ceremony carries the flavor of the couple and their uniqueness.”
For years, Deanna Lorraine used her "sixth sense for innately understanding dating, relationships and how to attract the opposite sex” in advising friends and family on their love lives. That real life experience, coupled with a host of professional certifications (life coach, hypnotherapist and success coach among them) make this dating coach and matchmaker a major asset to San Diegans looking for love.
I define love as both a powerful feeling you experience and a mutual creation that you continuously build and evolve with a partner. Love is created from mutual attraction, core compatibility, shared interests and commonalities.
To sustain love, couples must work together to continuously grow and develop it, and that’s a concept that most people don’t understand. They think that as soon as those crazy butterfly feelings and lust begin fading, it means they must be “falling out of love.”
They don’t realize that it’s a conscious choice, that they need to take their intimacy to new heights through sharing experiences and memories, struggles and triumphs, continuously creating their own masterpiece of passion and love.
Along with my experience as a dating coach and my God-given intuition for knowing how “right” two people are for each other, my strategy for creating successful matches is combining long-term compatibility with mutual chemistry. In order to make a real love connection, the key is getting to know the people I am matching on a deep and genuine level. I spend the time to get to know who they are at the core, discovering things like what they really want for their lives, what they’re most passionate about and what motivates them.By getting a strong feeling for these things, I can introduce people with high odds of their falling in love.
Lorraine’s best piece of advice for someone looking for love? “Just go find it already!" She says holding out for that perfect soul mate will just lead to disappointment and a lot of wasted time. “You’re only getting older each year you stubbornly hold out for perfection or continue obsessing over qualities that really aren’t going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things,” she says. “But if you want to find love soon, what you can do is continuously improve yourself as a person, so you can attract the best and most compatible partner.”
Lea Caughlan cofounded North Park’s The Rubber Rose in July 2006 “with the goal of broadening discussions about, and understandings of, a larger and more encompassing take on sexuality, sex and sexual health.” The “sexuality boutique” stocks a completely nontoxic selection of toys, lubricants, erotic books and other body essentials. The shop also presents art shows and workshops on positive sexuality and sexual health. “We are always focused on the goal of creating a more diverse awareness about the most intimate topics,” says Caughlan.
Sexual satisfaction is a must for a monogamous romantic relationship to last. It’s justas important as honesty, communication and love. We often see reflections of sexual dissatisfaction that result in cheating, and excuses are often, “Well, it was just sex!" But “just sex” doesn’t exist if the person you are in a relationship with is your everything (and vice versa).
Sexual satisfaction is pretty high on the list of needs for a relationship with yourself, as well. Dissatisfaction can lead to searching in others to give that gratification, ignoring desires or acting on impulse, often making bad choices that don’t take your true desires into account. A gratifying solo sexual experience is important on so many levels-to really know your body, desires and emotional responses to sex is to truly know yourself.
There’s definitely a big demand for products to help couples achieve greater sexual enjoyment. Otherwise, the adult industry wouldn’t exist. Until recently, however, many adult toys were simply "novelties” manufactured with no real intellect behind them. In the last decade or so, we have seen a huge increase in the mainstreaming of quality products.
We live in a fairly repressed society. Our sex ed simply teaches scare tactics; consent and enjoyment never enter the conversation. If our view and education about sex included these two key factors, the learning curve might be less severe. As it is, however, we learn by trial and error until we open ourselves up to the idea of the toy box. Then, endless ideas abound: different positions, oils and lubricants to taste and tantalize the senses, toys that reach those hard-to-get-to spots and vibration galore. All of this allows our inhibitions to lessen, and as we enjoy newfound passions, we can open up to desires and fantasies that we either didn’t know we had or were too nervous to verbalize, much less act out.
The entire LELO line of toys-more specifically, The Gigi-are the shop’s best sellers. “The design and engineering are top of the line, and they are all non-toxic, phthalate-free toys that are rechargeable and designed with anatomical pleasure in mind," says Caughlan. Another perk: “They look very sexy charging right next to your iPod.”