The Triangle of Love: Part 2 ~ Getting The Love You Want
In my last article, “The Triangle of Love,” I described Robert Sternberg’s “Triangle Theory of Love,” and how the three components of love (i.e., Passion, Intimacy, & Commitment) combine in different ways to produce eight different types, or triangles, of love. The ultimate form of love, Complete or Consummate Love, while not easily achieved or maintained in relationships, is possible to attain. However, it takes desire and sustained effort on the part of both people in a relationship to do so. In this article, I’ll provide a few tips to help you move your present relationship toward a deeper feeling of love…one where the triangle of love is large, proportionate, and enduring.
In our quest to discover the path to the ultimate type of love, Consummate love, we will begin by first talking a bit about two other forms of love, Passionate and Companionate. As described in the last article, while Passionate love comes on quickly (but inevitably fades), like the euphoric rush of an intoxicating drug, Companionate love grows more slowly over the years as lovers rely upon, care for, and trust each other. If the metaphor for Passionate love is fire, the metaphor for Companionate love is vines growing, intertwining, and gradually binding two people together. In the earlier stages of a relationship, when companionate love is compared to passionate love, companionate love looks weak. This is because companionate love can never attain the intensity, the fire, of passionate love. But if we change the time scale from six months to sixty years, it is passionate love that fails miserably. Passionate love is just a flash in the pan compared to the lifetime durability and satisfaction of companionate love.
True, consummate love, the type of love that underlies strong relationships, is simply strong companionate (intimate) love, with some added passion, between two people who are firmly committed to one another.
In order to develop consummate love, the most important side of the triangle is Intimacy (The friendship aspect of the relationship which includes closeness, connectedness, and trust). Without strong feelings of trust and connectedness, a couple stands little chance of developing and sustaining consummate love. Of the ingredients comprising intimacy, trust is probably the most important ingredient. The essence of building trust (even trust which has been jeopardized in a relationship) can be summed up in one idea: “To create a safe emotional space for your partner to express his or her feelings and opinions.” Here are a few guidelines for creating a safe, emotional space:
1. Be a good listener. Listen not only with your ears, but also with your eyes, body, behavior, and comments.
2. Be positive and give pleasure. We naturally trust people who treat us nicely. It’s very difficult to distrust someone who works hard to please us. A key tool to use here is the “5 to 1 Rule.” This means that the ratio of positive to negative comments made to one’s partner must be at least 5 to 1.
3. Don’t allow issues to go unresolved for too long. When issues don’t get resolved, resentments develop and fester. Resentments undermine trust. Keep the lines of communication open. Develop good problem-solving skills.
4. Learn to fight fairly. If you fight unfairly, you destroy trust. Examples of unfair fighting include name calling, put downs, using absolutes like “you never” or “you always,” and bringing up old stuff from previous difficulties.
5. Say what you are going to do. Communicating your intentions to your partner eliminates the guesswork that often leads to misunderstandings, and undermines trust.
6. Do what you say you’re going to do. The more your actions match your words, the more trust your partner (and others) will have in you.
7. Live in the present moment. Everyday is a new day, a new opportunity to enjoy your relationship and refine your feelings of trust and friendship. Try to never remind your partner of somewhere they’ve failed in the past. This is called “score keeping.” Score keeping only builds stress, magnifies a situation, and interferes with effective communication.
8. Look at yourself first. Before you point your finger at your partner (which undermines trust), take a close look at your motives for doing so. You may find that there’s no reason for bringing the matter up at all, or, at the
very least, you’ll be able to better explain your reason for needing to communicate your feelings.
9. Time, time, and more time. Time plays a major role in the development and strengthening of trust. Make time to make your partner a priority. Go dancing, enjoy a romantic date, take a walk together, turn off the TV and read together.
If you’re looking to deepen your relationship, and develop a consummate or complete love, make the worthwhile investment of following the nine points listed above. The result will be a relationship based on mutual respect and connectedness built on a foundation of trust.
“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” ~ Walter Anderson