we want to show our love and appreciation to a special someone, or grab this opportunity to tell them how we really feel about them, there are just so many ways to express ourselves this Valentine’s Day. Is it any surprise that some of us are completely stumped?
Valentine’s Day has traditionally been associated with romantic love, and this leads to the giving of cards, chocolate, roses, or even a horrendously off-tune but heartfelt serenade (by the brave few). But today, people express and experience love in so many different ways (which is why we’re having such a hard time figuring this stuff out now!). Moreover, researchers find that happy relationships come from having a good understanding of the types of love that are important to you and your partner. Therefore, before we decide whether our guitar-strumming modus operandi is going to be appreciated at all this year, let’s first talk about the unfathomable topic of love.
Love-talk always sounds a little fishy, but let’s give it a go – So what is love anyway?
According to the psychologist Robert Sternberg, there are three elements of love: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment.
Intimacy involves feelings of closeness and attachment. Passion, of course, refers to sexual and romantic attraction. Once we are willing to create a relationship and have long-term plans to sustain it, we have Commitment.
Sounds simple enough.
Next, different combinations of each element create seven different types of love. The first three are felt when there is only one element involved. Intimacy gives rise to liking and friendship. Infatuation is experienced when there is only passion (crushes might fall here, such as our undying love for senpai who hasn’t noticed us… Yet). Finally, empty love is felt when there is only commitment without intimacy or passion.
When more than one element exists, the other 4 kinds of love emerge.
• Romantic love: Intimacy and passion intertwine where romantic lovers are drawn together emotionally and physically, without commitment.
• Companionate love: A combination of intimacy and commitment, companionate love is frequently seen in marriages which lose their passion over time.
• Fatuous love: A whirlwind of courtship and engagement, commitment is made only on the basis of passion, without intimacy or a strong emotional connection.
• Consummate love: A combination of strong intimacy, passion, and commitment, this kind of love is the “perfect couple” ideal that many people strive for. Maintaining this kind of love is a lot harder than achieving it though!
The combination of intimacy, passion, and commitment tend to change over time as relationships enter new stages and reach new milestones. What type of love do you share with your partner? How much do you and your partner value intimacy, passion, and commitment? Are the both of you aligned?
Alright, now, let’s say the both of you value the same things. Great, everything’s gonna be just peachy! Right?
Nah, hang on just a second.
According to dear Sternberg, whose theory of love you’ve just read, “without expression, even the greatest of loves can die.” So, it’s one thing for you and your partner to treasure the same types of love. However, translating your love into action is unquestionably even more important.
To do that, we first need to understand how you and your partner prefer to give and receive love, which brings us to…
What love language do you speak?
Ponder this: What does your partner do that makes you happiest? And vice versa, what do you do that makes your partner happiest? What do you and your partner request the most from each other?
Relationship counselor, Gary Chapman, believes that there are 5 basic love languages that define how you want to be loved, and how you express love.
1. Receiving and giving gifts: Far from materialism, gifts given or received may not necessarily be expensive, but rather it’s the thought and effort that count. In addition to buying gifts during birthdays and anniversaries, try adding "just because" days to your calendar.
2. Spending Quality Time: Nothing shows more care and concern than listening to your partner with your full, undivided attention and genuine interest. As impressive as your multi-tasking skills are, your partner might be less than amused when you’re asking about their day while texting on the phone, watching TV, and clipping your toenails.
3. Words of Affirmation: Saying words of love, kindness and appreciation. Don’t forget your “I love yous” and “thank yous”. Sometimes words really do speak louder than actions. Conversely, sticks and stones might break bones, but your words can send someone into a downward spiral of despair.
4. Physical Touch: Physical proximity and accessibility are important. Hugging, hand-holding, high-fiving, sitting close, pats on the back, and boops on the nose are various ways to show affection.
5. Acts of Service: Doing things for your partner to ease their burdens makes them feel loved, such as helping with homework, posting parcels, doing the laundry, and other chores. Bonus points if they know that washing the loo gives you the shudders but you got your hands dirty anyway.
You can probably relate to all of these. But most of us have a favorite language or two, and you can almost certainly guess your own pretty accurately. In any case, Chapman offers a 30-question quiz right here [Insert http://www.5lovelanguages.com/] if you’re in any doubt!
In fact, discovering what matters most to you and your partner, and what doesn’t matter, can be a real revelation. Why do they not ‘feel loved’ even though you spend every weekend helping with the household chores that they hate? Why do they insist on piling you with gifts, but seem to be busy all the time and never around as much as you’d like? Perhaps the love languages you speak are currently misaligned? In that case, all it might take is to explore your favorite love languages together. And hopefully, figuring out the love languages you and your partner speak gives you some ideas for Valentine’s Day too.
Now that we’ve figured out that people can experience and express love in very different ways, relationships can certainly seem even more confusing. (Was that surprising?) But don’t go tossing that home-grown and self-assembled bouquet just yet! Why not try speaking a creative combination of all the love languages?
I’m sure you can find a use for that guitar somehow.