Being Fredearl

Being Fredearl

I spent my childhood in a magical time known as the 50’s and 60’s. I lived in a magical place called Stevehaven. One of the finest abodes in my hometown I lived surrounded by family, lots of dogs and horses and a serious penchant for going to church.

That I call it a magical time and place should tell you something about me already. Among the privileges I ‘survived’ were riding my horse on fox hunts (Tallyho!) and Sunday sliced roast beef lunches at the club after church. And if you have not figured it out already, we were white.

It suddenly ended one day with the death of my father. Without him I soon drifted into my own reality. Along the way I got into and absorbed a variety of life styles and outlooks, testing each one for how well it filled the holes in me.

A Love Affair with Being in Love: Why He wrote It.

Stevens’ story

Stevens’ story is truly a love story in that his life has been a quest to make sense of everything he’d ever heard about love. With so many claims on what love is, confusion was a constant companion. In his search, he was triggered to write Winning at Love during a workshop on manhood in the early days of the men’s movement. The workshop leader insisted that real men should not share or show their feelings with their partner. He plainly stated that mask-wearing invulnerability is required to survive the rigors of marriage and family.  What a disconnect! Good money had been paid to receive advice on how to passive-aggressively belittle women and to cripple himself further emotionally. With this advice, he could only look forward to the same relationship problems that had plagued his entire love life!

Establishing Credentials

With so much confusion about the nature of love, Stevens wondered how he could make his way out of this briar patch he found himself in. While guidance in the marriage and relationship field usually came from those who’d been married with long-term success, he  didn’t belong in that club. Those mentor wannabe’s only worsened his feelings of being misunderstood. After a marriage, a divorce, another marriage, a child, and another divorce, he shut down and went into hiding. Taking matters into his own hands, self-study preoccupied him. All he could do was write about the question—what is love? His writing led to a return to his previous research psychology in couples’ intimacy and the theory he once tested around the sharing of hurt feelings.

Going Back

Years earlier, Stevens’ looking for love led him to graduate school in family systems theory. With dreams of being a psychologist, he was introduced to a theory called the Sharing of Hurts, a research niche of his program supervisor. The Sharing of Hurts suggests that when a couple can share their feelings of hurt, vulnerability, and imperfection with one another they become more intimate. In scientific circles, “intimate with each other” was about the closest he could get to the study of love. He created and successfully tested a way to measure how hurt feelings impacts behavior. The findings suggested that a couple feels closer to one another when they openly speak about their vulnerable feelings. The results marked something of a landmark in couple’s therapy. With publication of his findings in the prestigious American Journal of Family Therapy (Stevens and L’Abate, 1989), he soon learned he was too wounded and too vulnerable to go any further with research about such a sensitive issue.

As a profession, psychotherapy was too private a process—i.e., too scary—for him. He had some deep hurts of his own to deal with that were connected to his family’s attitudes about love. The process of negotiating a friendship with his pain seemed inconceivable at the time. Years later, in this day and time, he now understands how asking what is love might include asking what hurts. What hurts!?

Going Way Back

 In his quest to know love, Stevens’ problems with it traced back, surprisingly, to his childhood. In one life-changing moment, he came to understand that his ultra-religious parents had no idea about what love truly was. Extremely codependent themselves, they did the best they could with the tools they had gotten from their parents and did a lousy job of it. The fruits of their labor meant struggles that led him across relationship mine fields and through emotional patterns that nearly killed him. His story is one of both discovery and recovery. Taking responsibility for how this past made him who he was, he came to experience a renewed love within himself that had previously been abandoned.

Loving Anew

After writing about what is love for some years, he came out and met for the first time all over again the love of his life. Their love together includes sharing their vulnerable feelings and practicing a universal and epigenetic empathy. He will tell you of awakening self-love, validation, and a passion for understanding someone he’d never met before. Gone is the depression once shaped long ago by his confusion about love. With his new love has come understanding how his past beliefs about love shaped him and determining that this past will not show its ugly self in his/their future.

Stevens began to practice what he preached. The lessons he learned about love now fire on all cylinders. He will tell you, “To be the age I am and to be so in love, so self-actualized, to have the sexual connection alive in me as we do together, rebirths for my every day.” The story of this new and tender relationship describes a couple winning at love. Now Fred lives for the future, one known for a favorite question—what’s next?