mind over heart in love

Most people envision a romance with husband/wife/lover. However,there are several additional kinds of love: parent-child, brother-sister, that of a friend…

Robert J. Sternberg of Yale University says love can be divided into three components: intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. The intimacy component includes the closeness, connectedness and warmth one feels in a loving relationship; intimacy may be expressed by:

  • Promoting the loved one’s welfare.
  • Having high regard for him/her.
  • Having a mutual understanding.
  • Sharing of one’s self, time and possessions.
  • Receiving and giving emotional support.
  • Communicating intimate inner feelings.
  • Valuing the loved one in one’s life.

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The passion component includes the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction and sexual consummation. Sexual needs are often the predominant needs associated with this. Passion is usually expressed by kissing, hugging, gazing, touching and making love.

The decision/commitment component of love consists of two aspects: the short-term decision that one is in love and the long-term commitment to maintain that love.

Sternberg places the three components of love on the points of a triangle. How much of each is present in a loving relationship determines the shape of the triangle and the type of love one is experiencing.

For example:

Non-love: The absence of all three components. This includes the majority of our personal relationships, which are mainly casual interactions.

Liking: Includes intimacy only; passion and decision/commitment are not present. Friendship is a good example.

Infatuated love: Includes passion with intimacy or decision/commitment.

Empty love: Includes decision/commitment but no passion or intimacy. This type of love does not have emotional involvement and physical attraction. It often occurs in our society at or near the end of a relationship.

Romantic love: A combination of intimacy and passion where the couple is drawn together physically and emotionally. It is difficult to maintain romantic love over a long period of time.

Companionate love: A combination of intimacy and decision/commitment. This often happens when the physical attraction has died down, as in some long-term marriages. It also includes the typical parent-child and sibling relationships.

Fatuous love: A combination of passion and decision/commitment without intimacy (the whirlwind courtship). Commitment is made on the basis of passion without intimacy being developed. It often leads to divorce unless intimacy develops later.

Consummate love: Complete love, a full combination of the three components. Reaching this goal is often easier than maintaining it.

Some things couples can do to keep love alive include:

  1. Avoid stagnation. Change is OK. Different things work for different couples: vacations, developing new mutual interests, experimenting with new behaviours.
  2. Don’t be too predictable. Although people want some predictability, too much leads to boredom.
  3. Analyze each other’s needs, and how they can be met.
  4. Occasionally, do something special with or for the other person.
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