SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – Marcia Millman’s seven stories of love that are explained in her newest book are:
* First Love: This story is about a lover who helps us separate from our parents and establish our own independent identities.
This is why adolescent girls flocked to “Titanic” and “Dirty Dancing.” Pining for a first love years later is a signal that something is missing in life, and it often accompanies a desire to recapture our youth.
* Pygmalion: The Mentor and the Protege: “My Fair Lady,” the most famous modern “Pygmalion” story, focuses on the controlling male teacher.
But the protege also has an agenda: A desire to be recognized and nurtured by a parental figure even as she wants to gain his knowledge and power for herself.
Can relationships that start out distinctly unequal have a happy ending? It can be difficult if the “teacher’s” need for admiration and control conflicts with the “student’s” need to grow.
* Obsessive Love: Millman examines real-life scenarios and several examples from popular culture, including “Fatal Attraction,” and concludes that an obsessive relationship is doomed unless the one who loves more can shift some emotional energy to other interests and people.
* Downstairs Woman and the Upstairs Man: This rags-to-riches plot, familiar to fans of “Pretty Woman,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Pride and Prejudice,” features a smart but poor and unconnected woman who reaches beyond her social status to a powerful and influential man.
Initially cool to a woman so beneath him, the man ends up defying convention and committing to her.
Women drawn to this scenario had fathers who criticized or abused them, making them feel worthless and unprotected.
They repeat this story not to suffer, but to triumph – to be desired instead of ignored, and to prove that they are the equal of any man.
* Sacrifice: Guilt Overwhelms Desire: People who live out this plot don’t believe they can have what they want without harming another or paying a terrible price.
This scenario raises self-esteem through renunciation rather than happiness. Classic examples are “Casablanca,” “The End of the Affair,” and “The Bridges of Madison County.”
* Rescue: Doing What Your Mother Could Not: The woman who is drawn to rescue scenarios often had a father who was sick, weak, or absent.
Although the woman believes her love can help her wounded lover reach his full potential, the key element of this story is the woman’s ultimate wish to restore a strong lover/father so he will rescue her back.
The story of “Beauty and the Beast” contains many subtle aspects of the rescue plot.
* Courage to Love: Overcoming Postponement and Avoidance: Probably the universal favorite, this love story is about the willingness to take a risk for love – and having the faith things will work out, as fans of “Sleepless in Seattle” will recall.
People who live out this scenario fall in love only after they are forced to confront the reality of time and mortality.
The courage to love actually provides a sense of immortality, while people who avoid or postpone love usually discover that their lives have gone by unlived.