Most of us tend to focus on falling in love and use the feeling of love to determine the duration of a relationship. Falling in love is easy to do, almost effortless, but losing that loving feeling is not that hard to do, either.
Of course, when a relationship is new, it is fun and enjoyable courting or being courted. In the beginning, we are constantly thinking about the new person in our life, and wanting to spend all of our time together and share new experiences together. We want to show how we feel by getting cards or flowers or just sending a cute text message.
Feelings, however, can be fleeting. No one seems to want to talk about how those loving feelings can fade, that it takes work to keep the love alive, and that choosing to stay in love is a choice we all must make.
Who we love is as much of a choice as it is a feeling. Staying in love takes a commitment. After the rosy glow of the new relationship wears off, we have to make a decision: Do we want to love this person and commit to a relationship together, or are we going to let this person go?
Once we have made the decision that we have found the person we want to be with and commit to, the work begins. A big part of that work is making many other choices.
It is a choice to see the good in our partner every day, rather than focusing on the negative things that bother us. We have to accept them and love them as they are. If we go into a relationship thinking we can change someone, we are setting our relationship and ourselves up to fail. We all have flaws and quirks and are weird in some ways. Accepting those differences is part of love.
We can choose to ignore the petty, irritating small things our partner may do. If our partner forgets to take out the garbage, or leaves the cap off the toothpaste, we can talk about it with them, but we also can accept that this just might be forgetful, and choose to move on. Trying to change our partner into us is one of the biggest relationship mistakes we can make.
When we are unhappy with how things are in our relationship, it is easy to overfocus on what we are not getting from the relationship. Instead, a healthier response is to see what we could be doing for our partner, rather than focusing on what they are not doing for us. We should always try to be supportive of our partner, because we cannot expect anything from our partner that we are not willing to give ourselves.
Another important choice we can make is to choose to remember the reasons why we committed to this person. Our relationship will not always be pleasant and there will be times for serious discussions and disagreement. There will be trying times and even bad times that we will need to work through together. The key to surviving these times is to remember to be respectful, acknowledge our commitment, and work through whatever is at hand together. During these times it really helps to remind ourselves of why we chose to love them in the first place.
Love is all about choices. We choose to see the good, ignore the petty, look for what we could do for our partner, and remember why we love our partner. Choosing to put in the effort to do these things is what love looks like, and with that work comes the wonderful reward of staying in love.
Happy couple photo available from Shutterstock
Love is complicated, arising in many forms.
Passion, intimacy, and commitment are the three pillars of couple-love, says psychologist, Robert Sternberg in his “triangular theory.” We may love based on intimacy, passion, or commitment, or any combination of the three.
We may also experience different aspects of love at different stages of a relationship, and move in and out of various types of love over time. Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.
Early love is marked by the infatuation of “passion.” Giddy, and intense with longing, the lovebirds feel the heart-thumping arousal of the yearning heart. Can’t eat, can’t sleep. (Why let sleep come between you and the “high” that attaches to thoughts of your beloved?)
These are turbulent times, marked by ecstasy and fulfillment when loved is returned; but sadness and despair when it is not.
Love may also emerge as intimacy, marked by warmth, closeness and connectedness. Each partner wants to give and receive emotional support and share their innermost thoughts and experiences.
If the couple feels intimate, but lacks passion, the relationship is more of a liking/friendship sort than romantic love.
Sometimes partners commit to stay together and maintain love and relationship through thick and thin. But this love is more compassionate than passionate.
When a couple is committed but lack passion and intimacy, their relationship may be stagnant, lacking the emotional involvement and attraction they once had. When nothing but duty keeps them together, this is “empty love.”
But in places where marriages are arranged a couple might start with nothing but commitment, yet over time become intimate or passionate, or both. So sometimes “empty love” can be the beginning rather than the end.
Consummate love: intimacy + passion + commitment
These different sorts of love may arise in various combinations. Romantic love can be full of passion and intimacy yet lack commitment. Companionate love can involve intimacy and commitment but lack passion. Or perhaps a couple experiences passion and commitment, yet still lack deep intimacy.
When all three pillars of love combine into the perfect blend of intimacy, passion, and commitment, “consummate love” arises in what many feel is the best of all worlds.
Few couples who have been together for a long time will experience consummate love every moment. Most often the feeling waxes and wanes. And most couples experience different forms of loving styles throughout long-term relationships.
It could also be that different styles of love are a better fit for different couples, depending upon where they are, and want to be, in life and love.
Regardless of where you are, couples are best matched when they desire similar levels of each sort of love.
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About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
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