“Relationships” is always a buzz word in coaching, more so the relationship with our other half. Many of us have a set of wants of how our ideal partner should be like. However, when examining our wants pertaining to the depth of a relationship, people begin to ask questions. Some of us may be facing these unfathomable questions “which of these criteria are more important than the rest?”, “what are the warning signs?” and “is it really about me or the other, or us when we come together?”. We talk about “being on the same page”, but what is on this page? This post will take on the traditional theory of love, added with an eclectic perspective, shedding light on the structure of love and how to improve our relationships.
- Positive signs of a consummate relationship: Intimacy, Passion and Commitment
- Intimacy – emotional closeness and connectedness, as a Secure Base and Safe Haven
- Passion – beyond romance and sex into the energy and drive of the relationship
- Commitment – a shared promise of a future and the vow to contribute consistently
Sternberg postulated that a “consummate” (ideal) love should consists of three components. I will expand each of these facets into factors with my thoughts that has a more encompassing meaning.
1. Intimacy is about emotional closeness and connectedness (emotional factor). As we displace our emotional attachment across age from parents, to friends, to an other half, the common thread is about displacing the target of this emotional space. From a broader view, an intimate relationship is also about other emotional derivatives such as emotional trust, respect and interdependency, which without will come with feelings of taken for granted, abuse and unfairness.
Like the Circle of Security with a child, an intimate relationship should have the Secure Base where each can explore and venture the world, and come back at the end of the day into a Safe Haven to recharge and gather strength.
2. Passion is not only about the romantic attraction and sexual drive (energetic factor). The idea that an ideal love relationship should be defined in terms of romance and sex is myopic and superficial. Albeit they are a driving component at the start of the relationship, it is not feasible to keep them at the same levels all the time. Do we then say the relationship has lost its passion?
In more general psychology terms, passion is about strong interests, energy and drives, associating with “thirst”, “hunger” and “empty if without”. Hence, to place passion in the context of love, it is about maintaining the strong interest being with the other, the energy in the mutual endeavours (e.g., dates, shared goals), driving the relationship with anticipated, exciting and desired experiences for both; rather than going into stagnation and holding at status quo.
3. Commitment (longevity factor). Commitment brings out the idea that both parties express mutual promise of a shared future. However, I will add that it is not just an expression of a long-term interest, it is also about the commitment of being able to work on the relationship at every step of the way. One can express long-term interest but not committed to contribute, that will make a huge difference to the longevity (long-term quality) of the relationship.
So where are you at? If you are in a relationship, use these criteria to evaluate where you are at. Knowing where you are at, use these factors to highlight the areas you would like to work with your partner. Have a meaningful conversation about how both of you would like to revitalise the relationship. If you are not in a relationship, use these criteria as feelers to evaluate whether these qualities will show up when both of you come together. Know that it is ideal for both of you to have some awareness and expression of these qualities at the initial period, in order to be “on the same page”.
Original writings by The Realist, inspired by encounters in professional work in life coaching, physical therapy and PhD research.