Years ago a psychologist by the name of Robert Sternberg came up with a pretty good explanation that is difficult to improve on. What Sternberg did was to break down true love into three parts. I will try to share them so that you can easily apply them to your situation in a simple way. These three parts will help you to determine if what you have in your relationship is true love!
Part 1: Passion
This part includes physical and sexual attraction. It is like “Wow!”… You might hear angels and music…… . You initially cannot get over this person. The attraction is overwhelming. Pheromones abound. Electricity and chemistry are constantly zapping and bubbling in and around you. You feel an obsessive need to have your feelings reciprocated. For most persons, this is the first part of feeling attraction.
Part 2: Intimacy
Intimacy leads to attachment. It creates closeness and connectedness. We call this process becoming bonded with another person. Intimacy grows first by spending much time with another person. Then it grows deeper by sharing with one another every aspect of our lives. Intimacy is built on trust and safety. If you cannot trust and feel safe with a person then intimacy disappears and will degenerate into distrust and suspicion.
Since intimacy takes patience to develop, many are not prepared for such task. It is work. It implies a lot of talking and disclosure. If a person has been hurt in previous relationships, then they will have great difficulty finding closeness due to previously existing walls of distrust. The tendency will be to project past hurts on the present relationship.
Part 3: Commitment
Commitment implies the ability to stay connected no matter what. A mature person is one who can work through misunderstandings and hurts. A key to staying together is believing the best of the other person, not prejudging them with bad motives. It is working positively to resolve issues. For a couple to stay together they must consistently break through the barriers of being hurt while assuming that the other person wants to resolve the issue also.
Commitment involves being conciliatory and pursuing the relationship no matter how you feel. That is why we have social contracts such as engagement and marriage. Sure, these can be broken, but it will make you think twice before breaking them, especially when you have a lot of “equity” invested into the relationship. Commitment is not for the lighthearted. Herein lies the real test. Will you be committed to that person even when they gain some pounds, lose their hair, get sick, change in their economic status, etc.? Commitment does not mean you have to agree with everything, just that you can respect their differences.
True love has all three of these components. Having only a couple will show that the relationship has lost its air and needs help. The famous wise king Solomon once said, that “many waters cannot quench love” True love is like a flame. All the monsoon rains, hurricanes, and floods cannot put out the flame of love. What is your love made of?
Video on true love by the same author:
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 May 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
López De Victoria, S. (2012). True Love: How Do You Know?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/05/24/true-love-how-do-you-know/