The Three Elements of Ideal Love - Huxiu.com#
Sometimes the death of a spouse can make a person deeply aware of the intimacy of the relationship. ⤴️ ^7eb76b64
In sexual transactions, there may be great passion but people intentionally reduce intimacy; some people find that emotional intimacy actually inhibits passion. ⤴️ ^8b6bcb52
Passion can not only decrease to zero, but even continue to decrease below zero, leading to depression, pain, and extreme discomfort. After reaching the bottom, with time, it gradually eases and people eventually return to a state of zero. ⤴️ ^4169ee71
When faced with challenges, commitment is the key factor in determining whether a relationship can continue. ⤴️ ^e3472ad1
The Three Elements of Ideal Love#
This article discusses the three elements of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. The author quotes psychologist Sternberg's love triangle theory to explain the meanings and relationships of these three elements. The article also explores different types of love relationships and reminds readers of the complexity and variability of relationships.
• The three elements of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment
• Characteristics and composition of different types of love relationships
• The complexity and variability of relationships
Recently, my friend Yangzi has been troubled by a "relationship" with a colleague that she doesn't know how to define - they have intimate physical relations and often chat, but it stops there.
She feels that they are already lovers, but it seems like something is missing, but in the eyes of the other person, this is the "love" he wants.
Yangzi's dilemma may be less common among the older generation, whose few emotional experiences mostly point to marriage, and there is generally a consensus on what "dating" means.
However, with the development and changes in society, the younger generation's emotional relationships have taken on more diverse forms:
- It could be purely physical, commonly known as "friends with benefits";
- Or it could be Friends With Benefits: a sexual relationship that includes intimacy and affection but does not reach the level of being a couple;
- Or it could be a platonic life partner: two people who are life partners, have an emotional connection, and make commitments, but do not include sex.
- Or it could be considered a couple, but a relationship that does not aim for marriage.
Many times, people in these relationships also feel confused, wondering if our relationship is right? Is it enough? This leads to a more fundamental but always vaguely defined question - what exactly is "love"?
In fact, there has always been a classic definition of love in psychology, the "love triangle theory" proposed by psychologist Sternberg in 1986 - "love is related to the three components of intimacy, passion, and commitment, the amount of love in a relationship depends on the absolute strength of these three components, and the type of love depends on their relative strengths."
What do intimacy, passion, and commitment mean? How does the absence of one component affect love? What forms of love are caused by different combinations of these elements? In this article, we will discuss these topics.
If you are also confused about your current relationship, perhaps you will gain some insights after reading this.
I. Is love just a feeling? What is it composed of?
In Sternberg's view, different types of love can vary greatly, but they all basically include these three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment.
- "Intimacy": You may still feel intimate even before breaking up
Intimacy is a sense of emotional connection, a warm experience brought about by emotional investment, it is what we often call "liking" someone. Intimacy is relatively stable and not easily changed, and it is important in long-term relationships.
But intimacy is not unique to love, it can also be found in family relationships and friendships. For example, research has found that women's intimacy with their loved ones and best friends may be similar, or even greater with their best same-sex friends.
How is "intimacy" formed in a relationship? In the early stages of a relationship, there is a lot of uncertainty, as the two people gradually get to know each other, individuals become "predictable" to each other and rely on each other in these predictable activities - as a result, intimacy gradually increases, and love is a process of reducing uncertainty.
But intimacy has a characteristic that is not easily perceived. When two people know each other very well, it is difficult to distinguish whether they are becoming more intimate or actually drifting apart. Sometimes, people may not even realize the level of intimacy in a relationship until it is about to end.
▷ The two curves below represent the perceived level of intimacy, while the two curves above represent the actual level of intimacy.
One way to distinguish between these two is to create some kind of interruption in the relationship, which can help a person determine how much they still feel for their loved one. For example, being separated from a loved one for a period of time; changing established routines, going on vacation together, etc., so sometimes the death of a spouse can make a person deeply aware of the intimacy of the relationship.
- "Passion": The part of love that is closest to substance addiction
When we say "this person is great, but I don't feel anything," that "feeling" refers to the passion component. It is "a strong desire to unite with another person," sexual satisfaction may dominate, and other needs such as nurturing, belonging, dominance, submission, and self-fulfillment also contribute to the experience of passion.
Passion and intimacy have a high degree of interaction. For example, in some intimate relationships, passion almost develops immediately, but it takes time for the two people to become intimate; or it may be that intimacy develops first and passion gradually follows. But the relationship between passion and intimacy is complex and not always positively correlated, for example, in sexual transactions, there may be great passion but people intentionally reduce intimacy; some people find that emotional intimacy actually inhibits passion.
Passion is relatively unstable and unpredictable, but it is the most noticeable. Generally, in short-term relationships, passion plays a significant role, but its impact on maintaining a long-term relationship decreases.
The initial growth of passion is rapid and can even be experienced instantly. Once the other person responds, it will start to decline or stabilize, eventually reaching a stable level. But if you lose this person, passion can not only decrease to zero, but even continue to decrease below zero, leading to depression, pain, and extreme discomfort. After reaching the bottom, with time, it gradually eases and people eventually return to a state of zero.
This process is very similar to substance addiction, which is why love is often referred to as an addiction.
▷ Graph of passion changes
- "Commitment": When faced with challenges, commitment is the key factor in determining whether a relationship can continue
Many people understand commitment as "promising to do something and actually doing it," so they may feel that commitment is meaningless - after all, even if you promise, you may not be able to do it. In fact, the definition of commitment is "a decision": I decide to love another person, to commit to maintaining our relationship in the long term - it is a rational cognitive decision that affects how you view the relationship and your subsequent actions.
Whether people make commitments largely depends on their satisfaction with the relationship. Marriage is the most externalized expression of commitment. In fact, commitment is not easily perceived, and sometimes people don't know if they have made a commitment until someone or something challenges the relationship.
Commitment is not obvious or necessary in short-term relationships, but it plays a significant role in long-term relationships. It's like two people deciding to climb a mountain at the foot of the mountain, a relationship without commitment is like "we will try to climb to the top, but let's see as we climb," once faced with challenges, it is very likely to turn back halfway. On the other hand, commitment is "we agreed to climb to the top, no matter what happens, we will climb up," which encourages people to persevere when faced with difficulties.
In a relationship, commitment may start gradually and then accelerate. If the relationship lasts a long time, commitment will tend to stabilize. If there are problems in the relationship, commitment will decrease for a period of time and may rise again after successful repair. If the relationship fails, commitment will decrease until it reaches zero.
Even in a successful relationship, there will be ups and downs. Sometimes commitment is everything in a relationship, especially when it comes to overcoming difficult periods and returning to a good state.
▷ Graph of commitment changes
II. Ideal love encompasses intimacy, passion, and commitment, but real relationships have many different forms
Theoretical models often depict ideal love - a large equilateral triangle: highly intimate, passionate, and with sufficient commitment.
But real relationships are rarely like this, which also determines that love can take on various forms.
Some relationships have more love, while others seem to have less.
The composition of the three components in different relationships also varies, resulting in various types of love.
Generally, there may be these types:
- Relationships with no love left: Little intimacy, passion, and commitment, even close to zero.
- Liking: There is intimacy but lacks passion and commitment.
- Infatuation: Love with only passion. It can develop instantly or dissipate quickly, characterized by a high level of psychological and physiological arousal, such as increased heart rate, palpitations, increased hormone secretion, and genital arousal.
- Empty love: A long-term relationship with no intimacy and passion, only commitment. Often the final stage of a long-term relationship or arranged marriage.
- Romantic love: The most typical form of love, full of intimacy and passion, but without commitment, often does not last long.
- Companionate love: Common in marriages where passion has faded, emotionally intimate and characterized by long-term loyal "friendship-like" relationships.
- Blind love: Love with only passion, but quickly makes commitments, such as "flash marriages," but often carries a high risk of failure.
- Complete love: A relationship that includes intimacy, passion, and commitment, which is still possible, such as a few happy long-term relationships or marriages. However, maintaining it is difficult, just like maintaining a good physique, sometimes it requires continuous effort.
Of course, these components are continuous, spectrum-like, and vary in degree, not absolute values of "having" and "not having," "more" and "less," so relationships often go through dynamic changes.
▷ By changing the size and shape of the triangle, different types of intimate relationships and the process of an intimate relationship over time can be represented.
Many times, we have an "ideal framework" for relationships but overlook the complexity of relationships in real life, which may exceed our imagination. Intimacy, passion, and commitment are what we desire, but they may not always appear at the same time or in the quantities we expect - sometimes there is a little less passion, and sometimes it is indeed impossible to make a longer commitment.
Or we are lucky enough to find an ideal relationship, but it will also change - sometimes we are not as intimate as before, sometimes something happens and commitment is withdrawn.
But it doesn't mean that the relationship is beyond repair, or that the other person is "bad." There are not only two states of "no relationship" and "perfect relationship" between people.
Similarly, if your current relationship meets your needs, even if it is not the ideal state in a conventional sense, it may still be a good relationship for you.
Love is not limited to a single triangle, but it can at least provide us with a perspective to observe the current state of our relationship, what it fulfills, what it lacks, and what changes have occurred, so as to adjust our strategies in dealing with the relationship.
In any case, I hope you can be freer and more comfortable in your relationships and explore what you truly want.
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