Valentine’s Day brings up all kinds of emotions, some positive, some negative, and perhaps mostly mixed. There are memories of lost opportunities, of climactic meetings, of joyful reunions, and of bitter breakups. Then there also those who couldn’t care less about the day.

However one may think of V-Day, it does bring up the discussion on what love is, how one defines it, and how any of us is affected by it. Love comes in different contexts: Romantic love, parental love, love for friends, for the country, and even love for preferences (Chocolate, anyone?). Whichever form of love you want to focus on, there is a related human capacity that affects it: Empathy. Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines empathy as: “The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in anobjectively explicit manner.” I believe that if one lacks the capacity, one cannot fully love. If I cannot be sensitive to what is or was going on with you, I am encapsulated in a world that includes only me. A good parent is very much in tune with their child, and the child returns this love by trying to model the parent. I hasten to add that raising a child is a much more complicated issue than that but in its core, that is the key.

In a romantic relationship, adult needs may interfere with how empathy functions. If I feel insecure, I may pester you to demonstrate your love in many ways without thinking of how this need affects you. In a healthy and strong relationship, partners reciprocate caring for one another by considering the effects of one’s own behavior on the loved one, which is where empathy operates. It is important to note that there is zero correlation between IQ and emotional empathy. You don’t have to be super-intelligent to empathize with another living being. I wrote “living being” because many people (some more than with other humans) relate to their pets with strong emotional attachments.

In the words of Daniel Goleman, author and science journalist: “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” So on this Valentine’s Day, check to see how the people you care about are doing, tell them you are thinking of them, whether they are near or far, and do something to show your love by giving a hug, a hello, or an email. We all need love.

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Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577