Passion + Intimacy + Commitment = Consummate Love
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.