Pat Love

Posted by Jim Garrett
 
Distinguished marriage and family counselor Pat Love, a Rotarian, former faculty member of the University of Texas, and graduate of the University of West Virginia near your reporter’s former Western Pennsylvania environs (a Mountaineer!), delivered a brief but learned discussion of concepts central to her art.  (Alas, notes could but poorly keep pace with Pat’s fascinating disquisition, packed with nuggets of information, and so this report can provide but meager hint of the wisdom she shared.  But, here goes):
 
Pat began with the observation that narcissism and the sense of entitlement are on the rise in the U.S. today.  Empathy is declining.  These trends sow the seeds of discontent among those impacted by dealings with others whose own whims, wants and wishes dominate their conduct, and impede sound relationships.
 
Pat illustrated by citing research with chimpanzees trained to conduct trades using pebbles as a sort of currency.  Chimpanzees love grapes, so one study group was offered grapes in exchange for their pebbles.  Another group was offered exchanges for slices of cucumber, much less desirable to chimps.  After the groups learned to trade, they were placed together.  Members of the first group continued to be allowed to trade for grapes, but the second group could trade pebbles only still for cucumbers, despite observing the better deal offered their peers.  Now, the second group no longer cooperated, refusing to trade for the undesirable item.
 
Even chimpanzees understand fairness, Pat said.  The research showed that the second group’s perception of unfairness impeded the key relationship, trading.   So too, she said, equity is key to human relationships.  But she contrasted equity with equality, when that means “score-keeping,” and demanding an even tally.  Score-keeping, and subsequent concern for discrepancies does not support relationships but leads to divorce, she explained.
 
Pat then discussed a common difference between men and women, beginning with a riddle.  Why do Texas men like their women to wear leather, she asked?  Because, she answered, they like them to smell like a new truck.
 
The difference Pat discussed dealt with talking.  But not quantity of talking, as men and women generally talk the same amount, she said.  Instead, it had to do with content, influenced by the hormones testosterone and estrogen, and which of the two was “dominant” in an individual.  All humans produce both hormones, and either may be dominant in any one individual.  But testosterone is dominant more often among men, Pat told us, and estrogen more often among women.
 
The speech patterns of testosterone dominant individuals display fewer and less emotive words than estrogen dominant individuals, she said.  So generally, men may talk less about feelings.
 
But, Pat said, that difference in speech patterns may not mean men actually have fewer deep emotional feelings.  In fact, she said, men may have deeper feelings, even though they talk about them less.
 
Pat next turned to the subject of stress, citing a study which featured two questions, the first calling for the respondent to rate his or her recent level of stress as low, medium or high, and the second asking for the respondent’s opinion whether stress is good or bad for a person.
For the subsequent period of five years, the study followed the lives of the respondents.  It found that the mortality rate was higher among the respondents who rated their stress levels high, Pat said, but only among the subset of that group composed of those who had opined that stress was bad. 
 
Then, Pat told the story of a Japanese classroom, observed by an American visitor.  One of the students was called to the blackboard to draw a cube.  The youngster tried, but failed.  The teacher simply told him to try again, but he failed again.  This was repeated several times, until the child finally succeeded.  He then returned to his desk.
 
The American was concerned that the child could have been humiliated by the exposure of his inability to draw a cube, especially in light of the common concern in Japan for “face,” and later asked the teacher if she thought that had been a risk.  Oh no, the teacher responded.  We believe that those who struggle, but keep trying, and ultimately succeed, are especially gifted!
Finally, Pat offered a few observations.
 
The greatest predictors of stable relationships, she said, are credit score and ear lobe size (Credit score I can understand, but ear lobes?  Maybe it’s because ears get bigger as people age, so people with big ear lobes are more likely to have had long relationships!)
And, the best predictors of happiness, she said are kindness, agreeableness and emotional regulation (an even keel).
So there you have it: be fair, don’t obsess about talk, embrace stress, work hard, and watch the ear lobes.