We argue that “true love” is a metaphor used to help describe special relationships between people and not a real “thing” that can be owned or possessed like a car or pair of shoes. Today we recite that there are three elements of love you could not live without in a healthy relationship.
So, can you have true love, is it for you? Sure! True love, we say, is an experience within the reach of sentient beings – and that includes you!
Metaphors, however, are used in language as sort of a short code. A metaphor is like a convenient package being passed on by the speaker with the expectation that the listener opens the package. However, recipients of the package may leave it unopened and even pass it around as such.
The interpretation of many metaphors is very easy and they are commonly understood in the same way by most people. But the interpretation of the meaning of love, not even to speak of true love, leaves much room for imagination – and therein perhaps lies the true love metaphor’s special appeal. People “love” a good mystery, they not always want to deal with the often harsh realities of life.
Nevertheless, how can we come to terms with the expression of true love? What should we reasonably find when we unpack the metaphor of true love?
To mind comes a pretty good explanation of love by the psychologist Robert Steinberg, an explanation that is difficult to improve on. In his books, Steinberg speaks of three components that comprise love:
Steinberg’s conception has come to be known as the Triangular Theory of Love. The books are a bit on the academic site, so think twice before you buy. You may read this brief explanation for now.
However, we find that this explanation provides a fascinating and useful framework for two singles discussing their burgeoning relationship during courtship and beyond.
What are intimacy, passion and commitment and how are these components related to each other. How do these components operate in people’s lives over time? Well, let’s start by looking at some definitions for intimacy, passion and decision/commitment.
- Intimacy generally refers to the feeling of being in a close personal relationship and belonging together. It is a familiar and very close affective connection with another as a result of a bond that is formed through knowledge and experience of the other. Intimacy encompasses feelings of attachment, closeness, connectedness, and bondedness.
- Passion is a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something. Passion encompasses drives connected to both infatuated love and sexual attraction.
- Commitment often involves a promise to do or give something, a promise to be loyal to someone or something, and the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something. Commitment encompasses, in the short term, the decision to remain with another, and in the long term, plans made with that other.
Steinberg explains that the amount of love one experiences depends on the absolute strength of these three components, and the kind of love one experiences depends on their strengths relative to each other. Interesting, is it not!?
In sum, Steingerg writes, the three elements are all important parts of loving relationships. Their importance may differ from one relationship to another, and their importance may differ over time within a relationship as well.
We will examine these three components of true love and their interactions with each other and over time in subsequent posts. So, come back frequently and check this blog for updates.
We are so excited that there are ways to understand true love between two people and that there are ways to prepare for lasting true love relationships between two people. Yes, true love is for you!
- Sternberg, R. J. (1986) A Triangular Theory of Love. Psychological Review, 93,
- Sternberg, R. J. (1988) The Triangle of Love: Intimacy, Passion, Commitment,
Basic Books (ISBN 0465087469)
- Adapted information on the triangular theory of love available from Wikipedia.