Relationship Counselor: Dr. Tracy Braun

Romance—Its Tri-fold Bond

“Good morning, Julie Shannon? I’m Dr. Tracy Braun,” the doctor said, extending her hand. “Please sit.” Julie sat on an off-white couch covered in rich floral prints. An abundance of plants and flowers enhanced the rich decor.

“Your office is lovely.”

 “Thank you,” Dr. Braun smiled. “Coffee?”

 After introductory chitchat, Julie felt comfortable. Dr. Braun’s easy banter and infectious laugh drew Julie. It was like giggling under the covers with your best girlfriend, confiding your secrets, at a childhood sleepover.

 “Julie, what do you hope to gain from this session?” Dr. Braun began. She listened intently as Julie poured out her heart explaining her frustrations, bouts with rejection, anxieties, and disappointments with Joe.

She then probed Julie for her definition of love, feelings about herself, feelings about how this relationship has affected her well-being, feelings about past relationships.

And finally, her understanding of the dating process — Her expectations, her role, her partner’s role, and her knowledge of the steps and stages of relationship development necessary to get what she most wanted — marriage.


“Umm,” Dr. Braun said, “I understand your frustrations because, as you spoke, I could see you are missing vital information on defining romantic love. What IS and what it IS NOT — what it depends on for growth, and how to transition through stages of the love process to grow from passion to genuine love.

Without this crucial knowledge, your frustrations will continue in an unending cycle. It happens to women young and older, rich and poor, black, white, yellow, and red over the world.

“Fortunately,” she said, leaning forward, eyes sparkling, smile bright, “I have Good News for you. We will turn your depression into sunshine and your tears into joy. All it takes is basic knowledge and the application of relationship development skills. I’m here to help you get that education, and I’ll entertain your questions along the way.


 I start at the beginning even with definitions you might consider elementary, but it’s because I want you to see how the entire process works from A to Z. This way you have a roadmap to figure out how to get back on track should you take a detour.

 The Love Development Process is to:

  • Recognize what love IS and IS NOT. Then learn the four aspects of love and how to weave them into the relationship. And emphasize the synergy between Romantic (Eros) and Principled (agape) love
  • Appreciate the definition of first love
  • Develop a Personal Profile that defines your inner core
  • Develop a Selection Profile that defines your best match
  • Understand the importance of the Selection Process
  • Learn how men and women approach the dating game differently
  • Master the six stages of the dating process, recognizing yourself as the prized ‘partner in kind’ as you and your partner work through each stage step by step
  • Trust the power of time as your best ally
  • Grasp the true meaning of commitment
  • And Walla! Invite me to your wedding day!


Once you understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how to do it, the dating game and its secrets open wide before you, and the veil of mystery disappears. You’ll enjoy dating as never before because you will understand your role, where you want to go, and how to get there.

It’s a simple process to learn. But depends on you to execute step-by-step to benefit yourself. And as you apply this information, you might turn around your situation with Joe. We’ll see.

Julie raised her eyes brows, impressed by this start.

Looking over her notes, Dr. Braun continued, “I see that much of what you have experienced past and present results from today’s freewheeling ‘do your own thing’ attitude toward relationships. Women of the 21st century think there are no ground rules. That they are free to do as they want and feel. Any time. Any place. Unfortunately, such thinking often leads to disastrous, unfulfilled relationships. Unfulfilled because this is not the way to undertake a relationship if you expect to win love.

 “While there is no single magic formula to follow, there are definite ground rules that apply. Again, the primary skill is the ability to understand the distinct differences men and women have in their approach to love development, starting with dating and playing within these limits. Not fight against them. I base these differences on human nature’s design that never changes. And because of this, there are ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts.’

 “Don’t worry though,” she smiled, looking at Julie’s puzzled frown, “I know this information is new to take in. But in time, you’ll understand it and be on your way to a loving relationship.”


Julie settled back in her chair and concentrated as Dr. Braun continued. “You won’t learn everything in a couple of sessions. But during the first several sessions, we will discuss love of self, the selection process, and stages one through three of the dating process. Once you date again, whether a rekindling effort with Joe or with someone new, we will move into discussing stages four, five, and six.

First, since the need for love stands at the center of our needs, we need to understand its four components: (storge’) love between friends, (philia) love between family members, (eros) love between a man and a woman. These three are vital in a relationship. For instance, you want your partner to be your best friend, your ardent lover, your closest relative.

       hearts and candles “There is, however, a fourth love more important than the others. It is (Agape’) or “principled” love. This is love guided by principles of what is right and in the best interest of the family. It is love that has an unselfish devotion and sincere concern for the lasting welfare of the mate and family, along with an active expression of this concern. Practicing this unselfish love enables couples to cultivate an intense love for each other.

“What makes agape’ love greater is that agape’ is the glue that holds relationships together in the ‘bad’ times. And there will be ‘bad’ times. It’s what enables couples to continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if either has a cause for complaint against the other.


Agape’ is the love that never fails because it looks out for the interest of the other. We’ll talk in more detail about agape’ later, but for now, let’s begin with defining romantic love.

“Romantic love is indeed that special chemistry poets write about. That lovers dream about. But Oh! So much more. It’s a Tri-fold bond. Romantic love is a bond of:

1) verbal/sexual passion,

2) emotional support, and

3) spiritual strength between two people who each recognize the uniqueness of the other person and appreciate and accept each other’s uniqueness.

             “That’s quite a mouthful,” Julie laughed. “I understood the first part about passion. Passion’s no problem between Joe and me. We have a fantastic sex life. It’s just the in-between times that are so frustrating.”

             “So, I see you discovered what many find out later. That good sex alone cannot sustain a relationship. Sex is important—in its place. The rapturous abandon of passionate sex can be hypnotic. Even addictive. Sometimes obsessive. Indeed, profound ecstasy is necessary for preserving intimacy. Without it, you cannot attain the deepest level of bonding.

            But, as important as sex is, relationships relying primarily on intoxicating caresses and frenzied orgasms for survival will fail.

            “Consider this. Too often couples who experience consuming sexual passion early on assume it must be love and live together or marry. Predictably, serious problems surface after the honeymoon is over.

They wake up one morning, look at each other, and discover a stranger in their bed! Their values and interests differ; future goals and outlooks collide; personalities and temperaments clash. Worse yet, they have nothing to talk about outside the bedroom.”

Julie nodded, “Yes, I’ve seen that happen to couples. Especially the young. I guess good sex is necessary, but it is not enough. More is needed.”

Dr. Braun held up a finger for emphasis. “Here’s a vital point. Did you notice that when I mentioned passion you automatically assumed sexual passion? In the early stages of dating, passion should be non-sexual passion.

Passion now is the intense attraction you feel for a person you have just met that serves to introduce this man and woman to each other. It’s there to see if there is enough interest in each other to establish a foundation to build a relationship on.


Later, as the relationship develops and moves through the stages, the attraction in stage four can become sexual passion. But not until then! This is where most women fail miserably! We’ll discuss it later.


“Getting back to Joe—did he give emotional support? That’s the second bond, emotional support.”

Twisting in her seat, Julie replied, “Sometimes. But,” she continued, avoiding eye contact, “not always. Many times, when I needed him, he wasn’t there. Sure, he was there physically, but not emotionally.”

“He didn’t seem to know what I needed. Sometimes I needed to talk. I wanted him to listen, to be there for me with a hearing ear, an understanding smile, or a big hug. Instead, he shrugged me off. Do you know what I mean?”


Couple sharing eye love over drinks

“Absolutely,” replied Dr. Braun. “What you wanted from Joe in your time of need was tender compassion. The compassion showed by the giving of himself—his time, attention, energies, and thoughts closest to his heart, in response to your need. Whether the need was spoken or unspoken.”

Julie leaned forward. “That’s it! That’s what I want from him. I want Joe to sense what I need.” Leaning back again, she replied, “But that doesn’t seem possible for us. We love each other, but somehow we’re not communicating at that level.” Excited, she rushed on, “All right, so give me some ideas on how to make this happen.”

“In due time, Julie,” the doctor said. “For now, let’s continue with understanding the third bond. The spiritual bond.”

“No, that won’t work,” Julie interrupted. “Joe is not religious. He has no interest in organized religion.”


“That’s a common today,” said Dr. Braun. “But let’s talk about it anyway from a broader perspective. We’ll look at spirituality from a religious and non-religious aspect. For instance, many couples find common strength to endure the trials and tribulations of love and marriage through a strong faith in God. Their lives revolve around Bible principles that guide and direct them. This unity of purpose cements their bond.

“Others, like Joe, are not religious. Spirituality is not important to them. But Julie, organized religion aside, can you think of any valid reason for incorporating spirituality into a relationship?”

“Not really. I mean, I’ve never considered it.”


Gesturing, Dr. Braun stood and explained, “Let’s liken spirituality to building your dream house. You want one that is structurally sound, solid, secure. A home that will last a lifetime and be passed down to your children and grandchildren. It all begins with laying a solid foundation set deep for strength and support.

“Why is setting a firm foundation so important?”

“That’s obvious,” Julie answered, “Because everything else hinges upon the stability of the foundation.”


“Exactly! And so it is with relationships. Any relationship of substance begins with establishing a solid foundation. There has to be some semblance of spirituality, such as moral and ethical values, honesty, kindness, goodness, love, faithfulness, self-control, peace, and so forth. Without such, upon what do you build?”

“Touché,” said Julie. “I’ve never considered spirituality from this standpoint. But I guess you’re right.”

“This spirituality goes hand-in-hand with the principled love (agape’) we spoke of earlier. Looking out for the good of the other in the relationship. Some food for thought, at any rate,” said Dr. Braun.


“Another cup of coffee?”

“Yes, please.” Julie settled back and crossed her legs, eager to continue.


“The closing phrase of romantic love states it’s a bond that recognizes and accepts each other’s uniqueness. That means each one accepts the other for who he or she is as a person. The ‘good, the bad, and the ugly’. Their strengths, weaknesses, talents, goals, fears, biases, courage, idiosyncrasies.”

Julie laughed. “That covers an awful lot of territory.”

“Yes, it does,” said Doctor Braun. “And we’ll discuss it next session. But for now, I want you to meditate on the definition of romantic love. Try to understand its meaning down deep inside. We will develop insight into each phase of the Tri-fold bond in the weeks ahead.”

“Here, she said,” handing Julie a binder. “This contains the material covered in this first session. We’ll add relevant material to it in the months ahead.”

“Thanks, I can’t tell you how eye-opening this first session has been. See you again in a couple of weeks.”

Later that night, Julie read the material and wrote summary notes in her diary.


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