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In successful romantic love there is a certain absorption by, and fascination with, the being and personality of the partner. Hence there can be, for each, a powerful experience of visibility.

Temperament or personality is the sum of a number of different things. It comprises our basic premises and values. Our sense of life. The level of our intelligence. Our characteristic manner of processing experience. Our biological rhythm. 

“Personality” is the sum of all the traits and characteristics that distinguish a human being from all other beings.




We express our psychology through behaviour, through the things we say and do, and through the ways we say and do them. It is in this sense that our self is perceived by others.

When others react to us, to their view of us and of our behaviour, what they see is reflected back through their behaviour. By the way they look at us, by the way they speak to us, by the way they respond and so forth.

If their view of us is in agreement with our deepest vision of who we are (which may be different from whom we profess to be). If they transmit what they see through their behaviour. We feel perceived. We feel visible.

When we encounter a person who thinks as we do. Who notices what we notice. Who values the things we value. Someone who tends to respond to different situations as we do. We not only experience a strong sense of affinity with such a person. We also experience our self through that person.




There are several factors that effect the degrees to which visibility is possible.

When two human beings encounter each other the willingness and ability of each person to see the other is important.

Suppose a self-confident and assertive woman encounters an anxious, hostile and insecure man. The man reacts to her with suspiciousness and antagonism. Interpreting negatively whatever she says or does. He sees her self-assurance as the wish to control and dominate him.

In such a case, the woman does not feel visible. She feels bewildered or mystified or indignant at being so misperceived. In this instance the man is not seeing her at all. The gulf between their orientations is too great. 

Now suppose that another man witnesses their encounter. He smiles at her in a way that signals his understanding of her feelings and his support. She relaxes, she smiles back –she feels visible.

This is what we mean by willingness and ability to see another person.




Beyond this there is also the extent of the affinity of mind and values that exists between two persons. A commonality of intellect, of basic premises and values, of fundamental attitude toward life.

These similarities are the essence of visibility in authentic friendship, or, above all, or romantic love.

Without this commonality the reflection we get back from the other person is a distorted one. 



Portrait of a beautiful young couple sitting together on couch at home - Indoor

The final factor that influences visibility is the extent to which the self-concept of a person corresponds to the actual facts of their psychology. The extent to which each knows and perceives him-or herself realistically. And the extent to which the inner view of self conforms to the personality projected by behaviour.

As an example of this last factor, suppose a man inclines to rationalise his own behaviour and to support his pretence at self esteem by means of unrealistic fantasies. His self-deceiving image of the kind of person he is conflicts with the actual self conveyed to others by his actions.

The consequence is that he feels frustrated and invisible in human relationships, because the feedback he receives is not compatible with his pretensions.

Were someone to buy his act, it would not make him feel visible either, since there is no way for him to avoid knowing, somewhere in his psyche, that his act is not him.




An intimate relationship, in which we feel seen by another human being, always entails at various points elements of self-discovery. The awareness of hitherto unrecognised capacities, latent potentialities, character traits that never surfaced to the level of explicit recognition, and so forth.

A sustained experience of visibility in a relationship generates contact with new dimensions of who we are. When visibility goes to any significant depth, and especially when it lasts across a significant period of time, it always stimulates the process of self-discovery.

This is one of the most exciting elements in any human encounter – the possibility of this expanded awareness of self.


This essay draws on the work of Nathaniel Branden and his book The Psychology Of Romantic Love: Romantic Love in an Anti-Romantic Age. To learn more click here.

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