What is Love?

It sounds like a strange question. However, through my experience in the therapy room, I noticed that most people have a hard time defining what “Love” means. We all want it. We are not the same without it. Marriages fail, families grow apart, and frankly people are just down right unhappy with out “Love.” In fact, research from many sources including Bowlby would suggest love is more than a want, it is one of our fundamental needs as human beings.

So why is it important to be able to define “Love”?

Simply put, we are better able to get and share “Love” when we can define it. Our skill in developing “Love” will increase as we better understand this elusive term.

  • How do you define “Love”?

I have found there are many ways to define “Love”. However, none of the ways to define “Love” totally capture the entirety of what “Love” is. And yet, I have found that the more one explores and seeks to understand “Love” the better they are at getting and sharing “Love.”

One way to define “Love”

One way to define “Love” that I have picked up along the way is Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, or as I like to call it, the Love Triangle.

Love is made up of three separate parts: Passion, Commitment, and Intimacy.

  • Passion is a strong feeling of arousal or emotional stimulus.

Example: One-night stand

  • Commitment is a conscious decision to stay together.

Example: The classic “old couple” on TV that fights all the time and they really don’t like each other much but stay together out of commitment.

  • Intimacy is the feelings of closeness and attachment that come because of what we share with one another.

Example: Best friends.

The goal is to have a healthy combination of all three, or Consummate Love. The people that can achieve consummate love, have strong feelings of arousal (sexual, emotional, or otherwise), are good friends with one another, and have a strong commitment to the relationship.

Applies to all Relationships

This can be applied to both couples and families. For example, I am passionate about my daughter, and having her around provokes strong emotion in me. I share my time and resources with her and feel close because of it. Also, I am strongly committed to provide and take care of her. These are all part of having a consummate love.

No one is perfect. We can all struggle with developing and maintaining a healthy loving relationship. But by being able to define love as with the Love Triangle, we are better able to steer ourselves back on track.