I read a psychology article the other day discussion the components that psychologists have identified that make up this thing we call love. There are three:
- ‘Intimacy’ – this is the knowing-ness part of love: how much you feel comfortable, safe and known by the other person. It increases with time and depth and familiarity: the more you can predict what the other person will do.
- ‘Passion’ – this is the intensity part, the draw, the attraction. It is higher the more unpredictable something is (since dopamine is released in your brain MOST when things are unpredictable).
- ‘Commitment’ – this is loyalty, keeping promises and faithfulness; how confident you are that the other person is going to stick around and do what they say.
Here’s where I think culture gets it wrong: a human relationship is not BETTER when it has all three components. Human relationships weren’t made to have all three perfectly.
The healthiest and most satisfying human love you can have is not when you have all three of those things. The healthiest relationship and the most satisfying human love you’ll experience will be when you maximize the components that a specific relationship offers you.
For example: Often when people find their friendships insufficient, they blame the fact that they don’t have passion and they seek out romantic and passionate relationships. But sometimes your friendships are unsatisfying because you don’t have healthy intimacy, or you have disproportionate intimacy and commitment, (you feel really close, but you also feel like that person might eject on you the minute they get a boyfriend). Instead of seeking out a different type of relationship, work to maximize the components in the ones you have.
Want more intimacy? Learn people. Learn your friends and spend time with them. Invest. Intimacy can’t be rushed and it can’t be faked.
Want more passion? Learn to be surprised by your partner. Learn to know what you don’t know about them. Let them change, let them be inconsistent in their likes/dislikes and ask them questions you don’t know the answers to. The more you let them be the complex being they are, rather than assuming or trying to get ’em pegged, the more attraction you’ll feel.
Want to be a better daughter, son, parent, wife, husband, friend? Make sure you have healthy commitment, valuable in EVERY relationship. Learn to keep your promises. Commit to people and follow through. Be there for them in moments that you know matter. Always show up, and let them know they can call on you anytime. And keep in mind that healthy commitment is proportionate commitment. This means that if you’re the person willing to do what anyone asks you but never ask for help, if your the person who is bound to others with inappropriate boundaries, you might need to pursue healthy commitment by saying no.
Receive the relationships you have today and maximize the components of love they offer without trying to make them something they’re not.
Also – in case you didn’t notice – passion and intimacy are in some ways incompatible. One is higher when things are unpredictable, and one is higher when things are predictable. You know what that means? It’s REALLY unlikely that you can achieve this perfect relationship where all three of these things are consistently present. And you know why? You’re not supposed to. I know you feel like you were made to have that kind of love, and you’re right. But, not with people. People aren’t God. He alone is both predictable and out of your control. He alone is both absolutely loyal and always keeps His promise, open to being known and constantly revealing Himself, but still terrifyingly deep and unknowable.
For Lent activity today, identify where you and Jesus are the weakest:
(Intimacy) – do you feel like you KNOW God? Do you feel like He knows you? How familiar do you feel with all three persons of the trinity? Do you know what God likes? What He doesn’t? What He feels?
(Passion) – do you get why the scriptures talk about God as your husband and your lover, not just your Father and friend? Do you feel that attraction to God? Do you feel a thrill at His glory, at how outside your control He is?
(Loyalty) – God is faithful to you, no question, but do you believe it? And more than that – are you faithful to Him? Are you loyal? Do you keep your promises?
Which of these three areas is God wanting to work on with you?