What is love?
”What is this thing called love? This funny thing called love.” –Cole Porter
For as long as we have existed on this physical and mortal plain, the question of what love is, why love happens, and how we love has been asked repeatedly. Philosophers, poets, and musicians have delved into the emotional joy and turmoil of love as long as we’ve had ideas to share, words to speak, and songs to write. Even scientists have delved deeply into the make-up and intricacies of love, most acknowledging the brain’s inadequacy in revealing loves mystery. Science is the art of observation and data collection, and despite decades of research, has yet to be able to define Love.
Love, after all, is a matter of the heart, soul, and spirit – not quantifiable numbers.
While understanding what love is, how it happens, and how it feels has eluded science to this point, promising theories surrounding the dimensions of love. Among the most complete, compassionate, and concise theories about how we love comes from University of Wyoming professor Robert Sternberg.
Dr. Sternberg established the Triangular Theory of Love, a framework designed to objectively understand the building blocks of love and the types of love that humans experience. The Triangular Theory of Love is visualized with an equilateral triangle, and from that triangle, Dr. Sternberg established the Seven Types of Love.
Each point of the triangle is representative of the three major ingredients of love: Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment. The theory is that based on where one falls on the spectrum determines which type of love one is experiencing. The model also allows for one relationship and one love to morph, mature, change, or deplete. In other words: Love is not a fixed entity.
While a new relationship might burn brightly, passionately, and be considered exclusive – placing it on the bottom center of the triangle, a more mature and older love that might be less passionate, but heavily committed and intensely intimate would find itself further to the middle right of the triangle. One relationship, the Doctor proposed, could theoretically travel through the triangle for the entirety of the lifespan.
Dr. Sternberg identified Seven Types of Love based off of his research and the Triangle.
The Seven Types of Love are identified as these:
1-Consummate Considered the highest form of a relationship, a consummate relationship is identified as being in the exact middle of the triangle, representing high levels of all three points on the triangle.
2-Infatuated High on passion only, infatuated love is intense and primarily physical.
3-Fatuous High on passion and commitment, this is often where exclusive relationships begin. It is a relationship that is passionate and dedicated, but not yet at the point of achieving true intimacy.
4-Empty High on commitment only, Empty love is exemplified by the relationship that continues out of a sense of obligation and little more.
4-Companionate High on intimacy and commitment is often how long lasting marriages and relationships mature into. As the body ages, passion becomes dwarfed by the need for intense intimacy, and a deepening commitment to each other.
6-Romantic High on intimacy and passion, but not necessarily depended on commitment. This type of love is often exemplified during the courting period.
7-Liking/friendship High on intimacy only, this is a real and needed source of love. Absent of the passion or commitment, a Liking/Friendship relationship exudes an intense intimate connection with another human.
It is inevitable, it seems, to be faced with this theory and not self-examine your own love. When faced with clear and easily identifiable love traits, it is natural to want to establish where on the list your love rests.
First, commit to yourself to be honest. Seek to understand the truth rather than mold the data into an outcome that you desire. Do you have incredible sex, but sit in bed with your electronics at night and not communicate? Your love might be Fatuous. Are you filled with a desire to share all of your thoughts with the person you love, but don’t long for their physical expression of love? You might be experiencing Companionate love. Do you long for your lover’s touch, crave to share what is on your mind, and feel a deep and unwavering dedication to your partner? You could be blessed with the rare and beautiful Consummate love. It is also important to understand that this is your personal love that you feel for another, not a statement on your relationship. While you might be experiencing a Romantic love, it is completely possible for your partner to be on another part of the triangle entirely. Open and honest communication is key.
Love is a mysterious, beautiful, and spiritual gift that the universe has given to us. Understanding it might not be clear or simple, but as with all things in the Universe, an open mind and heart will help guide you to personal enlightenment. Once you understand how you love, you can further explore or appreciate those that you bless with your love.
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