Psychiatrist Dimitris Karagiannis not only believes in love, but also explains how you can make it last by choosing it as a lifestyle.

Psychiatrist Dimitris Karagiannis not only believes in love, but also explains how you can make it last by choosing it as a lifestyle.

In a time when love is sought after, tested, questioned and even mocked, it is optimistic to observe that the book "love or nothing" of the psychiatrist-psychotherapist Dimitris Karagiannis it has remained on the center shelves of bookstores and on bestseller lists for a decade.

"I believe in love," he tells me on the occasion of the Valentine's Day. "Because even in times of doubt, love can flourish and endure through time. After all, we are not referring to a simple feeling that is caused to you in a moment by someone else. Love is an attitude to life. As I mention in the book, it's not who you fall in love with, but the way you stand towards life. In other words, be romantic about your life."

If this is how our conversation about love starts, I think as I press the record button, imagine how beautiful things we will say next...

"Be in love not with yourself, but with life"

– Does being romantic mean loving yourself?

It means that your attitude towards life is romantic, creative. Don't whine. Be attractive to yourself, authentic, ecstatic in your everyday life, in your work.

My proposal is existential. It's a way of life. Loving yourself is a cold, calculating thing that produces a lot of narcissism. I say love life, honor life, be in love with life, not with yourself as it is. If you love yourself, you are called to show it for what it can be, not what it is.

Don't blame everything on you. May it be sunny or cold and don't complain, but be happy. Not manic, not fake, not as a check, not as a trick to be able to endure, but to find the meaning of life in everything, in every experience, even in those who make it difficult for you.

– So the one who loses interest in love also loses interest in life? Is he getting closer to death?

He is a dead man waiting to live through others or through what he will consume, either objects, or relationships, or persons. If he himself has sunk and lost vitality, he will fall upon his children to consume them, not to delight them. He will have the extramarital affair to escape his addiction. He will not attempt to live and constantly discover himself and his partner.

– How can someone live without love?

Come on! It seems to me something like a reversal fueled by whining, by complaining, by deprivation, by complaining. This man complains that there is no such thing as true love. In the style of a Pope with infallibility, he tells you "come on baby, love doesn't exist. You are married, you have been in a relationship for so many years and you are in love. You lie to me". So he rules that what is called love doesn't exist, so he doesn't lack it.

As in "capsule songs", where pain, deprivation, like love is recorded. When the other has moved away, left because they are bored or rejected, the performers present love as pain. This, however, is not love for the other. It is narcissistic love. Where you want the other person only to give you what you want.

Many people tell me that their wife is not so erotic, she does not provoke them sexually, but they do not see that they themselves have given up on themselves. They speak e.g. about the wear and tear on their wife's body and they don't see that their own body also has corresponding wear and tear points. So, they ask for love as an illusion, as a cover-up, as a healing of all their gaps and they do not talk about love as a conquest of life.

"If love is not cultivated, it goes away"

–At some point in the book you mention that the one who seeks other, extramarital relationships is the one who is unable to provide what he/she wants from his/her partner.

Correctly. These people go to open a window, to feel a little better in what they live in, and they don't see that what they are asking for is little. It is not bad because it is against morality. It is bad because it is little. And why does it leave you worse off than when you started.

– So what happens to some couples after a few years of marriage and they seem empty of love?

It happens nowadays that people talk about relationships and not relationship. That is, they start a relationship and list it as the most recent, not a lifelong relationship, because they don't see it that way.

It still happens, as young women see their professional careers as important elements of their identity – and rightly so – that they postpone indulging in a meaningful relationship, as the "boys" of the past once did. And when they get to 40-something or 40-something, they suddenly want to have a child. So they find someone who is a good boy – because they are tired of love – and who will allow them to stay out of their lives so they can focus only on their child.

I am not referring to an ideology now, but to what is really happening. So, they begin extracorporeal, which are blessed but can become the destruction of love if there is not the necessary relationship between the couple, and then the pregnancy begins, the threatened pregnancy, then the caesarean section, all this begins and the couple ends up having sex 3- 4 years. How to keep the relationship? In essence, the two partners become parallel solitudes. However, it is not the fault of the marriage that killed love, but that there was no love before either.

– However, love can also go away with a better relationship condition.

Love as a feeling, if it is not cultivated, it goes away.

– So, the couples that we see even in old age have this play with each other, this desire for each other, the companionship as well as the love, what have they done so well?

Everyone is romantic in their own life, they are creative themselves in terms of their own life and therefore they are also interesting to the other person. They don't just remain who they once met, they don't stay in what they once lived, but also in what they can share in today and how to enjoy it.

I maintain that the long-term relationship these days may be better than ever before in the history of mankind. Because nowadays the couples they may have sharing, friendship, laughing together. The old people didn't laugh together, didn't say words of love, didn't enjoy sex.

– Do great loves never end?

How a partner stands at work makes them attractive or not when they come home. The way he stands and takes care of his children, the fact that the man can do well in his work but knows how to tenderly change his child's diaper, then at that time he becomes more romantic over time. If the woman who knows how to be good at her job knows how to prepare a meal with love and then sit with her partner, enjoy the food and have a chat, then all this is not just about the food. It's about the relationship. So, they can find love afterwards. Enjoy sex.

Otherwise, bitterness, disappointment, the concept of law remain... A sadomasochistic relationship is established within the couple, power games begin. Who is right, who is above, whose will pass. In the end they deprive each other of sex to punish him.

A couple, however, who live in caring conditions for each other creates the conditions that lead the relationship to monogamy.

– Does that mean that the partner in such a relationship is precluded from experiencing feelings of love for someone else?

Alas if not all men challenge us. Alas if we do not find some men and some women attractive. Just because we're in a relationship doesn't mean we lose our ability to listen and think, believe and be disappointed. On a conscious level, however, what do we choose? If we look at ourselves at the level of reality, we humans are not just polygamous or monogamous. We are pangamous. Practically anything can be done with anyone.

So being with a person and having our continuity and being able to keep our relationship alive isn't because I can't find someone else attractive, it's because I choose to invest in that person, in that relationship.

I also write it in the book, that big projects also require time. Investments over time are more important. Think of the landmarks, the Parthenon for Athens, the Eiffel Tower for Paris, the Statue of Liberty for New York. Why are they important? In the space where the Parthenon is, couldn't we build something more impressive today? It is not only the content of the landmark that is important, but also the relationship and history it has developed with the place. The opposite is Calatrava's roof.

"True love endures even disappointments"

– Some say that love is a matter of chemistry. If this is true, how is it that sometimes one falls in love and not the other? Doesn't chemistry affect both?

When both are not affected, there is no chemistry! What is called in popular terms "chemistry" is what can "flow" between two people. That is, the set of common elements that can bring them together. What they don't all need to analyze and negotiate. If you have to negotiate everything, there is a stranger.

If you have to convince the other person, to draw them into your waters, to tell you that what you believe is not logical, then there is no luck. If there is no physical attraction, there can be no chemistry. If there is no laughter in the relationship, there is no relationship. So, what we call chemistry is the possibility of sharing, without much consultation, without complex negotiations.

– However, it often happens that all these are not present and again someone feels romantic feelings, while the other does not.

These are not romantic feelings, they are romantic fantasies. Love takes two. When only one falls in love, it's a fantasy. How many times do we not hear of people falling in love through apps with someone who is miles away? In these cases, you have not fallen in love with the other person, but what has awakened you, what has moved inside you.

That's why I recommend to couples who are in a long-term relationship and feel that something in their love has weakened, to have an extramarital affair. They take a breath and then I tell them: have an extramarital affair with your partner! The extramarital affair is not just the sex that has been missing. It's the madness that's been missing, it's escaping your routine, escaping your work, stealing two hours from your work for a surprise!

– Can we make someone fall in love with us?

The answer is no. We can be who we are, feel good about ourselves and when we reach out to the other person to "suffer". If it doesn't "get" then we've escaped someone who can't see us as anything important.

– Why does love intercourse sometimes not give birth to more love than it can also bring disappointment?

If love is translated as the need for sexual intercourse, once this is done it makes no sense for anything more. The goal was achieved. So I'm going to turn off my phone and block the one I had sex with last night, because I don't have anything else to ask her. If the sex was really good I might ask for it again one more time. The sex, not her. Not love, that is, but the covering of sexuality.

A genuine love relationship, however, endures even that time when there will be a failure in love intercourse. Where complete sexual intercourse will not take place. Because even so, it is possible that at that time the way the two partners will find each other will be much better than if they had the best orgasm.

Because genuine love also endures frustrations, while false love is the one that, if there is a frustration, ends.

– So is love the meaning of life?

It is the attitude towards life. It is the way that gives meaning to life, that colors life, that makes us transcend our inadequacies, that makes us not just what we are given, that makes us beyond survival. Because sex is at the element of need, while love is at the level of desire. So when we enter into a loving attitude toward life, we bring out the desire for life. It's not that we can just fulfill some needs, and that's what turns us into love or nothing.