Love in Intimacy & Relationships
I have found that many people use the word “love” quite frequently, far too frequently actually, and even to the point where it just doesn’t make any real sense. The challenge this presents is that our understanding and feeling of the word degrades, gets scrambled, or completely forgotten. If language and thought are so tightly linked, then what is someone thinking then they Love their partner, cheeseburgers, or building a Subaru??
Take into account that there are no less than seven kinds of Love, for which the english language has no distinct word. An article in the NY Times did a fine job of actually identifying and labeling 15 different types of love. When you read it, its no wonder why people have such difficulty understanding love in their various relationships.
- Puppy Love – A childish, innocent temporary crush on someone that you don’t know well.
- Eros – a passionate love usually involving sexual feelings for a love interest.
- Infatuation – loving feelings towards a love object that are largely based upon fantasy and idealization (instead of experience). Often when partners get to know each other, infatuation diminishes.
- Romantic Love – An abiding love for a partner with whom you feel passion, attraction, caring and respect.
- Self–Love – This is a positive feeling that you have about who you are and what you deserve. It often is expressed by treating yourself well, respecting yourself, wanting yourself to be happy and expecting others to respect you too.
- Companionate Love – feelings of warmth towards a friend with whom you love to spend time
- Conditional Love – A love that requires specific action or conditions in order to be maintained. For example, at its extreme, a parent who gives very conditional love would only love his child when he gets straight A’s, becomes a surgeon and has two children. The love is based on outside conditions and when they do not occur, the love is withdrawn.
- Unconditional Love – A type of affection and caring that is so strong that you feel it consistently, regardless of what that other person does
- Soul–mate Love – This type of love is described as a love that has survived multiple life times. Not everyone believes in this concept.
- Spiritual/Divine Love – This type of love recognizes the Divine light in everyone and everything. Love is given to everyone as an act of loving God.
- Maternal Love – This term usually connotes love that is nurturing, accepting and protective. In actuality this love can also be given by a father etc.
- Paternal Love – This term connotes love that involves guidance and some authority. Paternal love usually prepares a child to be ready for the outside world. Again, in reality this type of love is not gender specific.
- Tough Love – This term is used to describe a love that is expressed by setting boundaries for the good of the other person. So for example, a parent may send their teenager to rehab if he is drug addicted, even if he does not want to go. They feel that this is an act of love because it stems from a desire for their son’s ultimate good and happiness.
- Love of country or patriotism – This is love for the place you live or the place that were born. It is a type of loyalty and a special feeling of belonging that you attribute to that specific geographic location.
- Altruistic, Brotherly, or Compassionate Love – This term connotes having a feeling of love for your neighbor or the “other”, because all humanity is considered to be part of a larger family of human beings. It involves the sense of caring for the welfare and humanity of another, be they neighbor, friend, community, or society.
I’m not necessarily sure if I agree with all their determinations, but its close enough for practical purposes. I might add another, which is actually a perversion of a greater love. That being:
- Obsessive/Possessive Love (Idoltry) is the assigning of desire for the inanimate by applying human like characteristics to it, or vice versa, dehumanizing another to the point of an object possession (i.e. obsession over the desire for a prize trophy or the obsession over a pop-star)
So, when someone says they love you, you can’t really assume you understand what they mean. You have to employ some sophisticated use of context to determine how they are demonstrating or responding to that “love”. At this point one is likely to just ask “love me, yes, but how?”.
Looking at this with a refreshed perspective, one from a place of relative calm, there are gently probing questions about assumptions regarding wants and desires, limits and tolerances, possibility and options. This also must account for integrating bits and pieces of new information about a trend in relationships, preferences in sexuality, etc.
Example: I read today how, while women enjoy kissing more than men, it seems that men who think themselves attractive enjoy kissing more than other men. Now I never really believed myself to be all that good looking – but I REALLY enjoy kissing. To me its such a sensual experience that can create an amazing high when with a good match.
A Good Match
Of course, the word “Match” in this case does not necessarily mean a good fit personality wise, but rather a good biological match. You can tell something by the taste of someone – such as how well they take care of their bodies, what they eat, and general health. You can breathe in their breath, which will either be a turn off or an ecstatic experience as your brain processes all the pheromone signals of compatibility.
Yes – I am acutely aware of these sensations, their processes, the evolutionary biology and mechanisms clicking and whirling away in our brains, nerves, and blood. Its distracting from purely enjoying the experience at times – it takes discipline to “lock down” the inner narrator who I can characterize as the observer as if listening to David Attenborough or Lenoard Nimoy on PBS science programs. The inner naturalist, anthropologist and scientist is always watching and learning, while the inner sensualist and artist is trying to experience, and the spiritualist thrives on the intensity.
To someone that thoroughly enjoys kissing there is often a rush and high from the experience. Also there is the sense of enhanced experience and connection at a spiritual level, which is less about “sex” than it is about depth, intensity, and the completeness of the experience. Its fully engaged with all the senses, emotion, intellect, spirit; feeling the coordination of a shared moment in congruity and accord, like a dance when one is “in tune” with another and their experience.
I believe that the core of the relationship exists on a multiple levels: Emotional, Intellectual, Spiritual, Physical, and Experiential. The last is probably the hardest to actually define because its about the “meta emotions” – the gestalt of the four preceding pillars. Its about the experience of the shard experience – made up of how one feels, thinks, connects, and engages in concert with another.
To me, a satisfying Experiential relationship therefore requires full engagement, not partial, of all pillars. It demands a certain level of depth, intensity, and completeness. These things are often difficult things to be found in many common relationships, and thus we compensate, sacrifice, or quietly grow distant or resentful of a need not being fulfilled. When the gap becomes palpable, we often seek new relationships in hopes of satisfying that need – all too often without knowing exactly what the need is, and the cost which might follow.
Finding something complete and fulfilling is unquestionably demanding…
You have to be brave enough to be vulnerable and embrace it, open to the feeling of being overwhelmed, and the fear that comes with it. One must then dare your emotional limits, fears and insecurities.. because the experience can dwarf you. That’s where self-discipline comes in.
You also have to make choices to feed the relationship and the other by choosing to extend trust and engage with your partner regularly. Remember that your partner, or partners, also have their own insecurities and battles within, and one must “step up” to meet the challenge of feeding the relationship through the pillars of Connection, Inclusion, and Engagement.
The challenge is identifying clearly your needs, so to improve your chance of finding someone that IS compatible in the Love that you need. Perhaps they need to be a balanced walking contradiction of intellect and creativity, of a foot in both worlds Conventional and Unconventional. Perhaps they are sensual, intelligent, experimental, responsible, alternative, gothy, slutty, classy, feminine, maculine, fit/active, geeky, kinky, spiritual, light/dark, outdoors/homebody, etc…
There is no clear right or wrong, just what is right for you. Therefore, you need to consider what love means to you, how you express love and how you wish to receive love. You need to spend time identifying your own language of love, and then spend the time needed with a potential partner to discuss and experiment to see if they share the same view, principles, choices, etc.
Ultimately, if it can happens, it will happen, and usually in its own good time. There are millions of people out there moving about and bouncing off one another like molecules in a balloon. Its just a matter of chance and time… Unfortunately, we’re all mortal, and time is not unlimited, but we can help ourselves by having a better sense of what we mean by love, and be honest when someone does or does not resonate with the love we need.
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