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Our desire for love from others is inseparable from our desire for visibility. 

We would not think it genuine if someone who professes to love us gives reasons that do not match our own. Naming characteristics we do not think we posses. Or traits we do not especially admire.

We do not wish to be loved blindly. We wish people to be loved for specific reasons. 

If someone professes to love us for reasons that do not bear any relation to our self-perceptions or values or standards, we do not feel gratified, we do not feel loved, we do not feel visible.

We do not feel that the other person is responding to us.

Family together outside their home


The desire for visibility is often experienced as the desire to receive understanding. If I am happy and proud of some achievement I want my achievement understood. I want to feel that those who are close to me recognise my achievement and its personal meaning to me. That they understand and attach importance to the reasons behind my emotions. 

If I am given a book by a friend and told that this is the kind of book I will enjoy, I feel pleasure if my friend proves correct. I feel visible, I feel understood.

If I suffer a personal loss, it is of value to me to know that those close to me understand me and my emotional state.

“Blind” love may help to quell anxiety, but it will not answer the need to feel visible. It is not unconditional and unseeing support that we need, but perception and understanding.




The experience of visibility may entail receiving sympathy, or empathy or compassion, or respect, or appreciation, or admiration, or love, or almost any combination of these. Visibility does not always entail love. But “love” devoid of visibility is a delusion.

The desire for visibility is by no means an expression of a weak or uncertain ego, or of low self esteem. The lower our self-esteem, the more we feel the need to hide, the more ambivalent our feelings toward visibility are likely to be.

We both long for and fear it.

The more we take pride in who we are, the more transparent we are willing to be.




Self-esteem means confidence in our efficacy and worth. It means having confidence in our mind and judgment. One of the characteristics of a self-esteem deficiency is a pre-occupation with gaining the approval and avoiding the disapproval of others. Hungering for validation and support at every moment of our existence.

Some people dream of finding this in ‘romantic love.’ 

But the problem is internal. Because the person does not believe in themself, no outside source of support can meet this need. The hunger is not for visibility; it is for self-esteem. And others cannot supply this.  

One of the purposes of romantic love is to celebrate self-esteem.

Not to create it in those who lack it.

To the extent that we have evolved toward autonomy (self-trust, self-reliance, self-regulation), we hope and expect that others will perceive our value, not create it. We want others to see us as we actually are –even to help us to see it more clearly – but not to invent us out of their own fantasies.

We can feel visible in different respects and to varying degrees in different human relationships. It is romantic love, though, that has the depth and comprehensiveness in its visibility.

In no other relationship are as many different aspects of our self expressed. 

In no other relationship is as much of our self involved.


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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