Love Demystified

Have you ever tried to answer the question "what is love?"  The concept itself is not necessarily easy to describe and define.  For many, one of the most puzzling and, at times, frustrating aspects of relationships is attempting to make sense of the labyrinthine experience that we call "love".

When a marriage experiences conflict or problems it is somewhat common to evaluate or even question the role and strength of love in the relationship.  In such situations it is helpful to gain a deeper understanding of the various aspects of love.  Love has three basic components: passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Passion involves the drive that leads to physical attraction, romance, and sexual consummation.  Intimacy comprises the feelings of closeness, bondedness, and connectedness.  It is basically synonymous to the "friendship" component of a relationship.  Commitment encompasses the decision and intention to nurture and maintain the relationship.  The amount and type of love in a relationship depends on the absolute strength of these three components relative to one another.

It is important to note that passion, intimacy and commitment all change in level and degree over the course of a long-term relationship.  It is normal for passion to develop rapidly at the beginning only to level off after a short period and eventually drop off significantly.  Intimacy generally rises quickly in conjunction with passion then levels off and develops more gradually.  It is also common for intimacy to be in a flexible state in which couples are closer and more connected at some times and further apart at other times.  Commitment starts slowly and develops gradually in a relationship.  In long-term relationships, the level of commitment will eventually rise to match the level of intimacy.  In lasting relationships commitment continues to grow even as passion drops and intimacy waxes and wanes. 

Thoughts or statements such as "we fell out of love" or "our love has grown cold" are not uncommon.  However, these feelings are often overestimated or misinformed due to a lack of insight regarding the various aspects of love.  In reality, these feelings express the predictable drop in the level of passion or the rising and falling of intimacy that is normal in various phases of a relationship.  However, if the level of commitment continues to be adequate then intimacy will strengthen in time and the marriage is not in jeopardy.
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