C. S. Lewis described love this way: “Love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves and must learn to have about other people.” Robert Sternberg, in his book The Triangle of Love, incorporated Lewis‘ definition into his descriptive definition.
Sternberg’s research on love led him to define love as consisting of three parts: 1) intimacy; 2) passion; and 3) commitment. Pat Love, in her book The Truth About Love, uses her own words to describe her definition of love as consisting of 1) chemistry; 2) compatibility, and 3) commitment. Her triangle of love is similar to Sternberg’s triangle. Let’s look at the three components of love.
As part of love, intimacy can be described as the feelings we have that make us feel close to a spouse, that make us feel connected and bonded to each other. This would be similar to Pat Love’s concept of “compatibility. The building blocks of intimacy include being available to the other person, being responsive, and being accepting. It involves a “knowing” of the other person. The simple definition of intimacy is “into-me-see.” I let you into my life.
King Solomon described the passion of love as being very powerful. He wrote that “love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame” (Song of Solomon 8:6). We often attribute passion to sex, and it applies there, but it also goes beyond just the physical. Pat Love calls it “chemistry,” which limits it to the physical. But passion also included the sense of excitement we have in just being together. Chemistry is certainly present at the beginning of love, but over time it is the caring we feel for the other, and the sense of wonder we have when we are in the presence of the one we love.
It’s interesting that the first two parts of love include both emotion and a decision. When we come to this third component of love, commitment involves basically two decisions. One is the decision to love–to make the commitment, and then the second decision we make is that we are going to maintain and nurture our love. It is this commitment part of love that gets us through the crisis times every marriage will face. It’s the part of the marriage vows that says “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”
Question: Can you think of any other part of love not covered in the triangle?