What is love? If we were to all answer this question, we would probably each have a different response. I see love expressed, celebrated, longed for, and even viewed with disdain across the blogosphere. When we speak of love are we speaking the same language?
Before I begin, I owe a debt of gratitude to Sienna (a former lover) for exposing me to several fascinating books that delve into the psychology, philosophy, spirituality of love. My relationship with Sienna is one I will write about in great detail (you can find them here – Sensual Shadows) and one that was incredibly special to me on many levels. Sienna’s spirituality and thoughtfulness about the nature of our relationship was one of the many traits I admired in her.
My blog is a journey for deeper understanding primarily against the backdrop of my relationships with women. I’ve come across fascinating books and articles delving into the psychology, philosophy, and spirituality of love. I’ll admit a lot of it was rather deep and almost inaccessible at times. You know what I mean…hand pressed against your forehead with fingers massaging your temple as you try to wrap your mind around what you just read.
Then, I came across the Triangle Theory of Love. The theory has three components that come together in different degrees to form seven types of love. When I saw them listed, it seemed almost intuitive. I love theoretical models and this one gave me a great framework for organizing and assimilating what I was reading and learning. If you aren’t familiar with this construct, I’d like to share a brief overview here and will build upon it in future posts.
The Triangle of Love
Passion – Intense feelings of physical attraction, romance, and arousal (particularly sexual arousal), and sense of euphoria early in the relationship. Passion tends to develop very quickly in relationships, followed by a gradual deterioration over time.
Intimacy – Intimacy is the feeling of closeness, connectedness, trust, and friendship in the relationship. Passion can lead to intimacy, and intimacy can also develop independently of passion.
Commitment – This includes the shared investment of time, energy, joint decisions, and experiences. It is the “history” of the relationship.
In short, passion is the sharing of emotion, intimacy is the sharing of secrets and dreams, and commitment is the sharing of life and the realization of dreams. The three components of the triangle interact in different degrees to create the seven forms of love.
Seven Forms of Love
Friendship – Intimacy Only (No Passion or Commitment). Can be summed up as having intimacy with one another, feeling close, and trusting one another.
Infatuation – Passion Only (No Intimacy or Commitment). This tends to be a superficial, intoxicating rush of euphoria that cannot sustain itself if not bolstered and fueled by the secrets and dreams of intimacy.
Empty Love – Commitment Only (No Passion or Intimacy). Think of a couple that has been together a long time. Passion’s fire has been snuffed out. The dream factory of intimacy has closed her doors. Now, only the long, strong but dying vines of commitment hold the relationship together. There are no new dreams.
Romantic Love – Intimacy and Passion (No Commitment). A “seemingly” divine but fleeting state of bliss. This is often perceived as and longed for as the ideal love but it isn’t. This will be a central topic of discussion in a separate post.
Companionate Love – Intimacy and Commitment (No Passion). While it is hard to imagine a life void of passion, it isn’t a stretch to see how this type of love (filled with intimacy and commitment) could be very satisfying for some and also long-lasting.
Fantasy Love – Passion and Commitment (No Intimacy). This is a feeling of love because the couple wants to be in love but they have no shared dreams and little in common.
Complete or Consummate Love – Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment (All Sides Present). The best of all types, the “ideal relationship,” that all couples should aspire to.
In my next post in this series, Romantic Love – Hearts on Fire, I dig deeper to explore the construct of Romantic Love and advance the argument that Romantic Love is not ideal love. Romantic Love is but a crossroad to a higher form of love–Consummate Love. How you enter into Romantic Love and your expectations determines the road you will take at this intersection. One road sets you on a course for Consummate Love while the other leads to an endless loop of despair.
I hope you will join me in this journey and share your thoughts along the way. ~ Michael