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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Elements of Love

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hilosophers have been struggling to find an adequate definition of love for thousands of years. Love is a complex subject. It is fluid and changes over time as a relationship ages. What is love to one person may not be to another. Is love a feeling or an emotion? Is love a more cognitive concept; such as a choice? What is the difference between hearing "I like you" and "I love you"? An article by Sternberg argues that a love relationship consists of three elements, namely: intimacy, passion, and commitment. When a relationship is based on just one or two of these components the love relationship takes on a different character. A relationship based only on intimacy, for example, is no more than just liking a person. Similarly, when a relationship is only based on passion the relationship is infatuation. When a relationship is only based on commitment we find empty love; the couple is just living together. There can also be combinations of two elements in a love relationship, such as, intimacy and passion resulting in romantic love. Other possible combinations are between intimacy and commitment resulting in companionate love, and between commitment and passion resulting in fatuous love.
What is very important is that most happy, healthy, and lasting relationships contain all three of these elements: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Sternberg calls such love consummate love. There is also an element of love which I believe is as important as the other three. That element of love is relational safety. Relational safety has to do with how safe each partner feels in the relationship. These elements asks the following questions:
©    Is it safe to tell you my secrets?
©     Can I really open up my heart to you? 
©     Will you still love me if you know who I really am? 
©     Will you use my disclosure against me later on? 
©     Will you laugh at me or joke at my expense if I tell you what I really think? 
©     Is my heart safe in your hands? 
©     Will you keep my heart's secrets safe?
Without relational safety real emotional intimacy will not develop into a deep and rich experience. Marital love requires emotional intimacy, physical passion, commitment, and safety for it to flourish and last.
It may be helpful to assess your relationship along these four elements of love. Are there one or more elements of love which are not doing well in your relationship? Is your relationship balanced (regarding these elements)? Is there any element that you may need to work on? You may find it beneficial to:
• Regularly have a heart to heart talk with your spouse about these four elements of love
•Honestly inquire how committed you are
• Measure emotional intimacy by how often you talk and about what you talk
• Romance, play, and build the passion between you
• Resolve to be a safe spouse
Relationships are all about how we relate. Do a lot of relating with your spouse this week.

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