On our last post How Are You Two Related, I started talking about how in every marriage we have different and unique ways of connecting with our spouse. And that the important thing was to find your connection points and work from your place of strength as you work to improve other ways to connect with each other.
On this post I want to start taking a look at how we relate to our spouse in three major categories; friendship, partnership, and lovers. As far as I can tell, any connection we have with our spouse will always fit into one or more of these areas. But the challenge we face is understanding how to move in and out of each area and how to find good balance of all three ways of connection.
And for us to move in and out of these three areas of relationship and to find good balance in all three areas we will need to know how to manage each area differently. But to manage each area and to manage a good balance we have to first understand what we are dealing with. Because the truth is, you cannot manage what you do not understand. If you fail to understand something, you will never manage it properly.
Marriages are falling apart from a lack of understanding. Many couples have lots of good intentions to build a strong marriage, but they keep missing the mark because they fail to understand some of the complexities that go in to building a strong marriage. They may start out with a few good ideas and have a picture of what they want their marriage to look like, but because of their lack of understanding how complex love and marriage is they end up finding voids in their relationship in one form or another.
Three types of love
A study on how people love was done by Professor Robert Sternberg, a Yale University psychologist. Through his research he has developed what he calls the “triangular model” of love. In his model love has three sides like a triangle, with each side having a different type of love; commitment, intimacy, and passion. And when couples fail to have balance in all three types of love there will be some form of dis-function in the relationship. So he divided the balanced love and dis-functional loves into four categories; consummate love, romantic love, foolish love, and companionable love.
- Consummate love: is the perfect love triangle where all three sides are equal. A couple has equal amounts of passion, intimacy, and commitment.
- Romantic love: is when a couple is strong in passion and intimacy but lack commitment.
- Foolish love: is when a couple is strong in passion and commitment but weak with intimacy.
- Companionable love: is when a couple is strong with intimacy and commitment but their passion has faded.
Different types of love for different roles
Maybe you have never thought of the different types of love and the different roles you have in your marriage like this. But the truth is, marriage is the most complex relationship we will ever have. And if we are wise we will learn how to move in and out of each role to make our marriage the best it can be.
I don’t want to get into too much detail on this post and make it an extremely long read, so for now let me just summarize these three roles and the love that goes with them as I see it.
To have a good connection as lovers you obviously need passion. For most of us our relationship started out strong with passion, but for some the passion has waned in the busyness of life and the familiarity with one another. But it is a huge mistake to dismiss a lack of passion as something that passes with time. So if this is an area of concern for you stay tuned as I will address this area of connecting more in-depth on a future post.
Then to have a good connection as friends you have to develop deeper levels of intimacy. Just like there are different levels of communication, there are also different levels of intimacy. And these different levels of intimacy are the reason we all have friendships that are on different levels. Again I will focus on this more in-depth on a future post.
Finally, to have a good partnership in your marriage you will both have to rely on your commitment to each other. It is not as romantic or intimate, but it is certainly just as important. But it is also more complex than you may think. For years I thought I had a strong commitment to my marriage simply because I vowed to be married for life. But the truth is all those years I never really understood the real meaning of commitment.
I know we are just scratching the surface on these three areas of relating to your spouse. But I do hope this starts some new ways of thinking and I hope you will stay tuned and read the next few post that will go into more detail and tie all this together.
Image courtesy of Michal Marcol http://www.freedigitalphotos.net